Successful femur fracture repair

Patient #18311 was admitted yesterday after being found on the side of the interstate in south Charlotte.  The finder’s brought him to us immediately, which is always helpful, and he was diagnosed with a midshaft femur fracture.

Surgery went smoothly this afternoon.  The bird has a straight leg again!

It’s a merlin! 

Patient #18286 is only the thirtieth merlin admitted to CRC since 1982. He was diagnosed with an ulna fracture, severe emaciation, and a toe fracture.  His injury was caused by gunshot, as shown from the metallic foreign bodies in the radiograph.   

Merlins are cool little falcons.  They may be small but they are fierce. Like many other falcons, they typically catch their prey, smaller birds, while in the air.  They don’t stoop over prey like peregrine falcons, instead they tend to attack at high speed or even from below.

In flight, merlins are very maneuverable and can reach speeds of 30 mph or greater, but they flap their wings much faster than other falcons. Because of this, they look somewhat like pigeons when flying, which is why they used to be called “pigeon hawks.”  In fact, their species name,columbarius, is also a reference to pigeonsThis is also a reason why they are confused with doves and fall victim to gunshot.  

 Although we rarely admit merlins at our clinic, the wild population is stable.  There was a significant drop in the population in the 60’s due to the use of DDT but they have recovered.   

Wound Care and Insulin

The Cooper’s hawk shown above, #18239, is one of our first patients to receive a new wound care treatment that involves using topical insulin.  It is used in human and veterinary medicine, but not commonly. 

For wound management, our typical protocol is to use either triple antibiotic ointment or silver sulfadiazine cream, depending on the wound. [Silver sulfadiazine (which we call SSD) is a topical cream with antibacterial properties that was originally developed for human use on burns.]  

So why not just keep using these ointments if they are working?  Well, we are always looking for something better.  And sometimes there are particular wounds that refuse to heal.  Or heal very slowly.  

So why insulin?  Dr. Wendell Belfield published a paper in 1970 about the use of topical insulin in open-wound healing. The overall purpose of the study was to demonstrate that insulin is required for cell regeneration in devitalized tissue.  In that paper he suggested that insulin is the growth-promoting substance that is released by injured cells or leukocytes when tissues are destroyed.  Whether or not that is the case, clinical evidence supported his theory.  More recent studies in human medicine have also shown that topical insulin does accelerate wound healing.  These studies suggest that insulin regulates the wound inflammatory response.

[In order to apply insulin to wounds, we have to combine it with a base substance, which for us has been SSD.]

We have used it on 5 patients so far and have great results.  The sample size is a little small to proclaim it a “miracle” cream, but we are pleased.

[The patient shown above is an interesting case, or at least an interesting injury cause: collision with a tree branch.  I’d love to hear her side of the story, but according to the people that found her, she was impaled by a twig and stuck in a tree.  Oops.]

Dr. Scott has been busy in the OR this week.  

Yesterday we repaired a humerus fracture in an Eastern screech owl (patient #18280) and today we repaired a tibiotarsus fracture in a broad-winged hawk (patient #18201).

 [Unfortunately this means that the broad-winged hawk will not make the migration this year…but he has a straight leg again!]

2014 REHAB VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR: STEF POCIASK
True story.  When we started our re-nesting program this past spring, Stef was on a mission.  He decided that he was going to build replacement nests better than the hawk parents could themselves.  He came to CRC one afternoon, disappeared into the forest with no tools and no plan, and emerged three hours later with his masterpiece.  It was beautiful.  And he went on to make many more nests.  The re-nesting program would not have been as successful without him.  No doubt.
Stef is a thinker.  He is extremely observant.  He is constantly looking for ways to improve things.  His career is in research and design, so it is only natural for him to push the boundaries.  He has provided a lot of input into our operations that has proven to be useful in making needed changes. 
The birds, and us, are very lucky to have him.
Here are some fun facts provided by the man himself:
When did you start: December 2011
How did you get interested in CRC:  I’ve been a Wildlife Research Volunteer for over ten years, specializing in Endangered Species. When I moved to NC, I looked for a worthy wildlife project to apply my passion to. As luck would have it, CRC happened to be only 3 miles from my house. Once I researched what CRC was all about, it was really a no-brainer. I couldn’t imagine a more exciting and worthwhile organization to devote my time to.
 
What do you do at CRC: My main responsibility is feeding nocturnals and treating patients on Wednesday nights. But I’m a problem solver by nature (and by occupation), so I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to make things easier, or to enrich the lives of the birds entrusted to our care.
 
Best part of being a volunteer at CRC: The patience the staff has shown me, regarding my multitude of hare-brained schemes, and the wide latitude they’ve given me in trying new things. And, of course, the indescribable satisfaction we all get when a raptor that was once on death’s door finally gets released again to live a full life in the wild. It’s very emotional.
 
If you were reincarnated as a raptor, which one would you be and why: The answer is the Osprey. Ospreys are the master fishermen of the raptor world. For some reason, they remind me of my uncle Ronnie, who was also a master fisherman and outdoorsman. He played a large part in raising me, and is the one who instilled a love of all wildlife into me at a young age. I feel closer to him when I work with Ospreys. I know that’s what he would be if he were reincarnated as a raptor.
 
Favorite raptor memory: Last spring I was given a Red Tailed Hawk to release. I found the perfect meadow and woods, but within seconds of releasing him, he was attacked by a large murder of crows. He put up a good fight, but they were relentless and I was very worried for his safety. But ten minutes later, a second Red Tail came from an adjoining forest and joined the fight. The two hawks fought literally side by side for twenty minutes, and the tide turned. The aerial maneuvers of this dogfight were incredible to watch, and I felt so fortunate to be able to witness this amazing scene. When the battle was over, the two hawks flew off together. My respect for the emotions these birds possess reached a whole new level that day. I’ll never forget it.
 
One word to describe you: Passionate.
 

Tell me something remarkable that you have done in your life:  Having had the good fortune to be among the first to work with wild jaguars in Southern Arizona, and working toward reestablishing a population that has gone extinct in our country over a hundred years ago.

2014 REHAB VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR: STEF POCIASK

True story.  When we started our re-nesting program this past spring, Stef was on a mission.  He decided that he was going to build replacement nests better than the hawk parents could themselves.  He came to CRC one afternoon, disappeared into the forest with no tools and no plan, and emerged three hours later with his masterpiece.  It was beautiful.  And he went on to make many more nests.  The re-nesting program would not have been as successful without him.  No doubt.

Stef is a thinker.  He is extremely observant.  He is constantly looking for ways to improve things.  His career is in research and design, so it is only natural for him to push the boundaries.  He has provided a lot of input into our operations that has proven to be useful in making needed changes. 

The birds, and us, are very lucky to have him.

Here are some fun facts provided by the man himself:

When did you start: December 2011

How did you get interested in CRC:  I’ve been a Wildlife Research Volunteer for over ten years, specializing in Endangered Species. When I moved to NC, I looked for a worthy wildlife project to apply my passion to. As luck would have it, CRC happened to be only 3 miles from my house. Once I researched what CRC was all about, it was really a no-brainer. I couldn’t imagine a more exciting and worthwhile organization to devote my time to.

 

What do you do at CRC: My main responsibility is feeding nocturnals and treating patients on Wednesday nights. But I’m a problem solver by nature (and by occupation), so I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to make things easier, or to enrich the lives of the birds entrusted to our care.

 

Best part of being a volunteer at CRC: The patience the staff has shown me, regarding my multitude of hare-brained schemes, and the wide latitude they’ve given me in trying new things. And, of course, the indescribable satisfaction we all get when a raptor that was once on death’s door finally gets released again to live a full life in the wild. It’s very emotional.

 

If you were reincarnated as a raptor, which one would you be and why: The answer is the Osprey. Ospreys are the master fishermen of the raptor world. For some reason, they remind me of my uncle Ronnie, who was also a master fisherman and outdoorsman. He played a large part in raising me, and is the one who instilled a love of all wildlife into me at a young age. I feel closer to him when I work with Ospreys. I know that’s what he would be if he were reincarnated as a raptor.

 

Favorite raptor memory: Last spring I was given a Red Tailed Hawk to release. I found the perfect meadow and woods, but within seconds of releasing him, he was attacked by a large murder of crows. He put up a good fight, but they were relentless and I was very worried for his safety. But ten minutes later, a second Red Tail came from an adjoining forest and joined the fight. The two hawks fought literally side by side for twenty minutes, and the tide turned. The aerial maneuvers of this dogfight were incredible to watch, and I felt so fortunate to be able to witness this amazing scene. When the battle was over, the two hawks flew off together. My respect for the emotions these birds possess reached a whole new level that day. I’ll never forget it.

 

One word to describe you: Passionate.

 

Tell me something remarkable that you have done in your life:  Having had the good fortune to be among the first to work with wild jaguars in Southern Arizona, and working toward reestablishing a population that has gone extinct in our country over a hundred years ago.

Broad winged hawk, patient #17449, was released on Saturday at the Hummingbird Festival in Charlotte.  This bird had been with us for 302 days.  He was admitted with severe feather damage and had to wait to molt new feathers.

Thanks to Phil Fowler for sharing these great photos. 

Mississippi Kites!

We currently have two MIKIs (the acronym for the species) being treated in our medical center.  This is pretty cool because they are one of our more rare species.  Since 1988, we have admitted 51 total.  The numbers are increasing (with a random spike in 2007), but we still typically admit 4 or less a year.  This year we are already at 5.  

Both birds were transferred from the Columbia, SC area, where they are more common.  The adult was admitted with an ulna fracture and the juvenile with a humerus fracture.  The radiograph of the adult showed a metal foreign body (indicating gunshot).  

Mississippi kites are migratory.  They spend most of the year in South America, only venturing up north from late March/early April to late August/early September.  Their breeding range includes the Gulf Coast, Central Great Plains, and up the Atlantic coast into the Carolinas.  They normally don’t travel as far north as the foothills of North Carolina, where we are located, but isolated pairs have been spotted (this summer a pair was identified in south Charlotte).  

One of the MIKIs is an adult and the other is a juvenile, which is indicated by the plumage difference.  The adult is dark grey with a long black tail.  The juvenile has heavy brown streaks on its underparts.  

MIKIs are a challenge to feed because they are insect eaters.  Not only are they insect eaters, but they prefer to catch their prey in flight and consume midair.  We have learned that they will eat reliably if their food is placed on a feeding platform at eye level near their favorite perch.  They are also quite messy eaters, so their food must be cut up tiny.  

We admitted a beautiful, pale red-shouldered hawk over the weekend.  The top two photos are this patient, #18187, and the bottom is another adult red-shouldered hawk with their typical plumage coloration.  

His body is bright red, which is normal for red-shouldered hawks in this area, but the head is almost bleached white.  Is it from the sun?  Or is it just his morph?  We aren’t really sure.  We do know that he is a gorgeous bird and he really needs to heal from the head trauma so that we can release him.