CROW Healing Yellowbilled Cucko


An adult yellow-billed cuckoo was admitted to CROW from Cape Coral after being found unable to fly. During an exam, the bird was severely dehydrated and emaciated with depressed mental activity, general weakness, eye swelling and feather loss on the head.

“Although we don’t know for sure what happened, we can assume the injuries were caused by blunt force trauma such as being hit by a vehicle or flying into a window,” said Dr. Robin Bast, CROW staff veterinarian. X-rays revealed a right clavicle fracture and some lung bruising.

“Luckily for this bird, this type of fracture doesn’t require surgery. If the wing can be held in a normal position, it can heal just with strict cage rest,” said Dr. Bast. “If the bird has a significant wing droop or is very active, we can place a body wrap, which keeps the wing on the affected side resting against the body, preventing movement in the shoulder girdle and allowing the clavicle fracture to heal.” An update on the patient’s other injuries was also provided. “This patient is quiet but alert… some improvement from intake where it had a dull ‘stunned’ mentation,” said Dr. Bast. “The swelling around the eye has decreased with anti-inflammatory medication. Feathers on the top of the head will take a while to grow back, but due to their location aren’t required to be fully grown back in prior to release like wing or tail feathers would.”

The patient’s bruised lungs appear to be improving. “Pulmonary contusions are a common sequela to blunt force trauma, and it is slow bleeding into the lungs as a result of the impact. Like any contusion or bruise, they tend to get worse over the first couple days before they start to resolve,” Dr. Bast said. “We support these patients with supplemental oxygen and pain medication, and monitor to ensure no secondary infections develop.” The patient was given medications and will continue to be closely monitored under supportive care. “It is cage-resting while its fracture heals, and it is receiving pain medications to keep it comfortable. It is also receiving nutritional support through tube-feedings as needed to supplement calories as this bird isn’t eating well on its own yet,” said Dr. Bast. “In a small bird like this and with a relatively simple fracture, the bone itself should be callused around two and a half to three weeks. At that point, the bird will be moved to a small outdoor enclosure to do its own physical therapy and recondition its flight muscles. “If there are no complications, we expect this bird to be released within the next four to five weeks.”