Found listless on the ground, this particular bird came to us on January 30th. We found a wing fracture and treated the fracture with a wing wrap to immobilize it in the correct position for healing. With his wing now healed, we are beginning physical therapy (PT) to get him into tip top flying condition so he can continue his long flight south.
The first step in PT is to immobilize the wing and perform gentle extensions to improve range of motion. When we did this, we discovered a patagial knot which is now requiring massage therapy. The patagium is the stretch of skin on the leading edge of a bird's wing extending from the shoulder to the wrist. The knot was likely caused by the wing's lack of motion during the healing process. The massage therapy is similar to what we humans might enjoy from a favorite masseuse!
Once this initial phase of PT is done, we will need to begin flight conditioning and evaluation. This is critical due to the long and potentially arduous migration still ahead.
The biggest challenge in treating these birds is being able to orchestrate their release. If their flock has moved on while in care with us, it poses a serious problem. Since they travel in groups and depend on each other during their journey, we can't release a single Waxwing to journey alone. Even releasing a pair is concerning.
So what to do? Reconnaissance! Volunteers go into the field to listen for their distinctive, high-pitched calls. We also reach out to a network of birders and even use birding software to try and find flock hotspots. When these steps fail, we've resorted to "Wanted" posters to locate another group of migrators for them to join!
We're hoping none of the above will be necessary for this little guy, but as is always the case at BRC, we'll do whatever is necessary to ensure he gets his second chance at life in the wild!