Thursday, February 16, 2012

Snowy Owl, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Patient Updates, Golden Hawk Canoes

We have two new patients to introduce you to.

We admitted a Snowy Owl last evening with a fairly uncommon illness for an owl. This female Snowy has Trichomonas gallinae, a protozoan (single-celled) parasite. "Trich" (pronounced 'trick'), as it is referred to, is a parasite that typically infects pigeons, doves, turkeys, and chickens. It can infect raptors (hawks, eagles, owls, falcons, and the like) after consuming a bird infected with trich. This parasite divides and multiplies, usually in the back of the mouth and throat of the birds, causing cheesy-looking lesions. It can ulcerate these delicate tissues and spread to other organs. Without treatment, infected birds usually won't survive.

Trich can be spread between song birds through infected feed and water. Bird feeders must be sanitized frequently to prevent the spread of trich through your backyard birds. Infected birds may have a hard time swallowing and breathing or may be puffed up and generally look unwell.

Photo above: This snowy owl was found in the barnyard of a farm in Nekoosa, WI. She was weak and unable to fly.

Photo above: During her examination, the rehabilitators discovered the cause of her illness; trich. The brownish-yellow cheese-like "gunk" you see in the back of her throat are lesions; a classic symptom of the parasite Trichomonas gallinae. Another symptom which she exhibits is putrid odor.

Photo above: The lesions can make swallowing food very painful or even impossible. As a result, she is in very low weight. The rehabilitators carefully tube-feed her a liquid diet. So far, she has been handling her tube-feedings very well with no adverse reactions. In addition to tube-feeding, she is receiving treatments to kill the protozoan organism.

While the rehabilitators were doing her examintion, I took the opportunity to snap a few photos to give you all a look at some amazing Snowy Owl characteristics.

Photo above: In this photo you can get a look at her large, heavily-feathered feet. These dense feathers protect their feet from brisk arctic temperatures, and give the owls the appearance of wearing big fuzzy slippers. Normally snow-white, this owl's feathers are stained, probably while she was in the barnyard. You can also see her lovely coloration; white with brown bars. She is more heavily barred than a male, but more lightly barred than a juvenile.

Photo above: This photo may be a little confusing, but what you're looking at is a Snowy Owl ear! Part of a normal examination includes checking the ears for abnormalities, blood, parasites, etc. The ears of a Snowy Owl are enormous openings just below and to the side of their equally enormous eyes. The owl's eye in this photo is gently covered by Alberta's index finger. When looking into an owl's ear, you can actually see the back side of the owl's eye inside the skull! The pink wall that you see inside the ear is in fact the back of her eye.

Photo above: This Red-breasted Nuthatch was brought to us early this afternoon. The bird was found in Marathon Park in Wausau, WI. The kind woman who found him wasted no time getting him to us, and we are grateful for her quick action and kindness. When he looks around he has a slight head twitch which may be indicative of a head injury. He spends most of the time with his head firmly tucked under his wing, as shown. He is in great weight and looks physically healthy over all. We hope some quiet time will help his headache go away.

Everyone from the recent blogs are alive and well in the clinic. Eagle #008 is on a break from his lead chelation shots, and things are looking very good for him! We will test his blood lead level again soon. He may not need another round of treatments which has us all excited! Juliet got a mouse treat fresh out of the mouse trap this morning, so she is in good spirits.

We would also like to send a thank you to Golden Hawk Canoes out of Merrill, WI. They recently volunteered to replace our decrepit basement utility sink with an amazing new larger utility sink. They worked so quickly that we weren't able to get a photo of them in action! Before we knew it they were already done! They have more projects up their sleeves for us, and we appreciate their hard work. Thank you everyone from Golden Hawk Canoes!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator

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