Multiple raptors rushed to the wildlife hospital

July 13, 2023

An osprey and a burrowing owl were among the 76 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a downy woodpecker, two common gallinules, two brown thrashers, a Florida softshell turtle and a grey squirrel.

Osprey Fledging Found in Estero

The young osprey was rescued in Estero after it was found clinging to a fence just before dark one evening. The recent fledge was dull, but responsive to handling and was emaciated. Staff placed the osprey on supplemental oxygen in an animal intensive care unit after administering pain medication.

Within an hour, the osprey seemed restless so staff transferred the young bird to a slightly larger recovery enclosure to rest overnight; immediately the osprey settled on its perch and seemed calmer. The following morning, staff administered oral electrolytes and Chinese herbs and also ran diagnostic blood work that showed a decent packed cell volume and total protein. Staff continued with the treatment plan established the prior evening and assist fed fish. The osprey was offered fish ad-lib with the hope that she would eat on her own.

Over the course of five days, staff continued to offer various types and sizes of fish to encourage the osprey to eat on her own, but she showed no interest requiring she be assist fed twice a day to maintain her weight.

On the sixth day at the hospital, staff moved the osprey into a larger indoor recovery space with an adult osprey who was also in our care recovering from wing injuries. 

Fledgling osprey introduced to a rehabbing adult osprey

The first day the two osprey were together, the fledgling continued to ignore her fish diet. The second day, staff heard the ospreys vocalizing back and forth to each other. Several minutes later, the adult osprey flew to the fledgling’s perch, lifted his wings over the fledgling in a “shielding” almost protective position, and within a few minutes both birds began to eat the fish.

Two ospreys settle in their recovery enclosure after receiving their morning medical treatments at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. One osprey would not eat on its own until placed with the other osprey, now both are eating on their own and have voracious appetites.

From that point on, the fledgling osprey has been eating on her own. At times, she is perched by herself and other times she is sitting on the same perch with the adult. When the young osprey began to eat on her own, handling was minimized to reduce stress.

The two osprey will continue to rehabilitate together until they have recovered.

The stress of being in a captive situation is very real and can have harmful consequences. In the case of the osprey, even though staff did everything they could to reduce stress, being in captivity was difficult and quite possibly prevented her from eating on her own. Often times allowing wild animals time with conspecifics helps them adapt to their rehabilitation setting. Having another osprey to bond with clearly reduced the stress the young osprey was experiencing allowing her to exhibit normal behavior and eat on her own.

Please, if you find an injured animal, do not attempt to care for it at your home. Bring the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for professional care. Wildlife Rehabilitators have the state and federal permits, knowledge, skills and access to medical and husbandry supplies required to help wild animals in need of care.

Four Burrowing Owls from Marco Island

The burrowing owl was found on Marco Island unable to fly. The young owl was thin, fell to the right when attempting to stand and was drooping its right wing. A radiograph confirmed the right humerus was fractured.

Burrowing owl in von Arx Wildlife Hospital enclosure

Staff provided pain medications and placed the owl in an intensive care unit to rest. The following day only a slight wing droop was noticeable and the owl had eaten the rodent diet staff offered the previous night. At that point, a hands-off approach was taken – staff set the owl up in an enclosure that can be cleaned every day without needing to catch and handle the owl. Minimal handling is essential to ensure the fractured wing heals properly.

This burrowing owl is one of four currently in our care. All four owls were found on Marco Island. Three were victims of vehicle strikes. Marco Island is unique because it has a large population of burrowing owls and gopher tortoises whose natural habitats are significantly fragmented by roads thus putting them in harm’s way. 

Joanna Fitzgerald, von arx wildlife hospital director

Many animals (opossums, raccoon, and bobcats) are nocturnal (active at night). Reducing your speed and increasing awareness of your surroundings, especially when traveling through areas that provide good habitat for wildlife may improve your reaction time and allow you to avoid hitting an animal. Other species such as deer, foxes and rabbits tend to be more active at dawn and dusk (crepuscular). Staying focused on the road when driving may save the life of an unsuspecting animal.

Recent Releases

A loggerhead sea turtle, a mourning dove, an eastern cottontail, a common grackle, a blue jay, three northern mockingbirds, a laughing gull, a loggerhead shrike, a royal tern and two raccoons were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Visit our website to learn about opportunities to get involved. Please consider volunteering. If you are unable to give your time as a volunteer, become a member or donate. Your support will help the Conservancy continue to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future. 

Joanna Fitzgerald is the 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