A Rescued Owl and Magnificent Frigatebird

September 8, 2022

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is located and part of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Located at 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, FL 34102. We are open 365 days a year from 8am to 8pm. Call 239-262-2273 for any wildlife assistance.

A magnificent frigatebird and an eastern screech owl were among the 84 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a limpkin, a sanderling, a green heron, an ovenbird, a semipalmated plover, a ruddy turnstone, a gopher tortoise and twelve grey squirrels.

Magnificent Frigatebird Rescued

Von arx hospital staff received a phone call late in the afternoon from a concerned citizen about a magnificent frigatebird perched on the seawall at the Collier Boulevard Boat Ramp. The caller had already left the boat ramp, but wanted to report the sighting because the bird looked distressed. He said he had called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) and they were unable to help. The caller hoped the Conservancy could respond. Since the von Arx Wildlife Hospital doesn’t have an official rescue service, the best staff could do was contact a volunteer in the area and see if they could stop by the location, assess the situation and capture the bird if necessary.

Picture taken of frigatebird on seawall

Staff couldn’t reach the volunteer, so had to leave a message. While waiting for a call back, an officer with FWC called the wildlife hospital. He had been patrolling local boat ramps and was at the Collier Boulevard Boat Ramp where the frigatebird was located. The officer already had the frigatebird contained and wanted to let us know he was on his way to our facility. 

When speaking with the FWC officer about the situation, he mentioned the frigatebird jumped off the seawall into the water when approached. The officer had to pull the floundering bird from the water. It was obvious that the bird was injured and needed professional care.

A physical exam showed the frigatebird had dried blood in its mouth and its right wing was drooping, was weak, soaking wet, shivering and audible raspy sounds were heard when the bird exhaled.

Magnificent frigatebird at the wildlife hospital

Staff placed the frigate in a large recovery space with a heat lamp to rest, dry off and warm up. The following day, the frigatebird was alert but appeared to be in pain.

Staff provided pain medication and an antibiotic. We also offered the frigatebird fish, but he showed no real interest in eating. Staff worked with the bird throughout the day and managed to assist feed one finger mullet but after that, the frigatebird was uninterested. 

There was an improvement in the frigatebird’s behavior the very next day. Staff assist fed a finger mullet, returned the bird to its recovery enclosure and once the bird settled on a perch, staff tossed several finger mullet on the towel in front of the frigatebird’s perch.  

When staff peeked in the enclosure a few minutes later, the frigatebird had eaten the fish from the towel. From that point on, the frigatebird has continued to eat on his own. We are providing supportive care with minimal handling. 

It was fortuitous the FWC officer happened along at that particular boat ramp and knew how to help when he saw the frigatebird. If you encounter an animal in distress and are unsure how to help, please call the wildlife hospital for guidance. Many times staff can offer simple suggestions that will lead to a successful rescue. Public involvement is vital to the work done at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital.

Eastern Screech Owl with Neurological Trauma

A Naples resident found an eastern screech owl on the grass along the side of the road and noted the owl didn’t try to fly when picked up. When hospital staff performed a physical exam, the owl was hyper-alert, clacking and using its talons to defend itself. The diminutive owl had an intermittent head tilt indicating possible neurological trauma. 

Eastern Screech Owl in the animal intensive care unit

Staff placed the owl on supplemental oxygen in an animal intensive care unit after providing pain medications. Later that afternoon, the owl was less reactive and appeared calmer. Chinese herbs and a vitamin supplement were added to the owl’s treatment plan.

The following day the owl was standing upright with its head tilted to the right at a 90 degree angle. Even with the significant head tilt, the owl eagerly hand fed the rodent diet offered by staff.

By the fourth day, the owl’s condition had stabilized; although the head tilt had not resolved, the owl was able to eat on its own. The owl continues to recover in the bird room.

Eastern Screech Owl being fed by wildlife hospital volunteer

Eastern screech owls are nocturnal and are often the victims of vehicle strikes. Slow down when driving at night and stay focused – attentive driving may help you avoid hitting an animal. If you hit an animal, please stop and offer assistance. If the animal is still alive, contain it in a box and call the wildlife hospital for guidance.

The wildlife hospital is open from 8am to 8pm every day. If you find an animal after business hours, keep the animal in a quiet, dark area of your home and do not offer any food or water. Bring the animal to the wildlife hospital at 8am the next day.

Recent Releases

Two mourning doves, a Florida box turtle, a red-bellied woodpecker, an eastern cottontail, two Florida softshell turtles, two marsh rabbits, a blue jay, an eastern screech owl, two gopher tortoises, six brown pelicans, a gray squirrel, a mottled duck and three raccoons were released this past week. 

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website to view our Amazon Wish List. The list is frequently updated with our most current needs. If you’re signed up with Amazon Smile with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida as your beneficiary, your donation of supplies will support us twice. Your donation, no matter how big or small, makes a difference in injured animals’ lives and helps us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, Florida 34102. Call 239-262-2273 or see conservancy.org.