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Oscar the Variable Oystercatcher

Meet Oscar (named by Vet Kirsty-Anne Holtzhausen)

I got a call that an oystercatcher was injured after it was hit by a car. I asked the caller to drop it at the vets and said that I would call in there soon to see what could be done.

X-rays needed to be taken to asses the damage on the left wing. It revealed a humerus fracture (equivalent to a human upper arm).

Vet Kirsty was willing to give this bird a chance and operated the next day. A pin was inserted to keep the bone stable and the wing was bandaged to the body to stop it from moving - much like a sling, but tied to the body.

Now that is, in fact, a relatively common procedure in other animals and humans, but in birds the humerus bone is pneumatic. That means that the bone is hollow and is connected to the respiratory system of the bird. That makes bird anesthesia very tricky. It was a relief to all, to see Oscar wake up without complications.

I took him home and made sure he was comfortable.  Keeping a wild bird in captivity isn't an easy job and we have to consider quite a lot of issues. Getting the diet, and housing, right, and stress levels low. Any wild bird doesn't like to be handled and easily stresses without showing it.

But Oscar needed medication twice a day and needed to be tube fed initially, so we couldn't avoid catching him each time. Once he was nicely wrapped up in a towel he usually just let it all happen.

Getting the diet right is the most challenging job of a rehabilitator, and we had made the food up in a liquid to start with so it would pass through a small feeding tube. A mixture of high protein food was blended with insect powder and we could also mix in the antibiotics and pain relief Oscar was on.

After a week we gave him some more space in the aviary and encouraged him to feed himself, but he still needed to be caught for medication twice a day. Week two and unfortunately the pin was showing sticking out of the bandage, so it had moved.

Back for an X-ray at the vets, and followed by another operation to insert a bigger surgical pin as well as some wire for stabilization over the fracture, Oscar again woke up happily and came back home with me.

This time I decided to restrict his space to reduce complications. Smaller space can also mean more stress, so it was decided to put him on an antifungal drug to prevent the common stress-related disease Aspergillosis which could kill him in the end. Challenging to reduce such a drug to a dose small enough for a 600-gram bird. 

So far so good and all seems well. Oscar is an easy patient and eats constantly. Finding suitable food for him isn't easy. In the wild, they eat mainly insects and crustaceans and eat all day. I had to buy him frozen marina mix with scrimps and mussels in it and find earthworms from the garden. Our mealworm farm was soon empty as Oscar ate them all.

Kuaotunu Bird rescue is now registered to do banding, so a identification band was put on Oscar's leg and the number will be registered at the National Banding office. Before Oscar can be released the pin and wire have to come out again so fingers crossed. Another check up in a week and hopefully once the pin and wires are out he can finally stretch both his wings and meet up with his partner again in Whitianga.



 

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