Rare patients admitted to the hospital, debilitated adult blue jay kept in home

June 6, 2024

Two gray kingbirds and a blue jay were among the seventy-four animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a limpkin, a mottled duck, a Pileated woodpecker, a downy woodpecker, a white-winged dove and a nine-banded armadillo.

A Marco Island resident arrived just as the von Arx Wildlife Hospital was opening with two nestling gray kingbirds that he had found the previous evening in a restaurant parking lot. The rescuer was clearly upset by the situation, especially because there was a third nestling that hadn’t survived the fall from the nest.

The two nestlings were exhibiting signs that indicated that they were in pain – both had increased respiratory effort, were quiet, eyes were dull, and neither were attempting to move. Hospital staff administered pain medication and electrolytes and placed the nestlings in a warmed animal intensive care unit on oxygen. A check on the birds a short time later showed one nestling was slightly more active and both were begging to be fed. Due to their young age, the kingbirds required feeding every hour.

Gray kingbird nestlings

The next morning the kingbirds were vocal, active, and moving around the animal intensive care unit. Hospital staff decided it was worth trying to renest the babies. The kingbirds came from a nest in a busy restaurant parking lot but a less busy area with good tree coverage across the street from the restaurant provided a good option for renesting. Staff hoped to draw the parents back to the area where their nest had been by letting them hear and see their babies then lead them to the trees across the street.

It took quite a while but finally, an adult kingbird flew to the area where staff waited with the two nestlings. While staff waited and allowed the parent time to see the babies were back, the nestlings both attempted their first flight and flew in opposite directions across the parking lot. Hospital staff scrambled to capture both nestlings. Even though the parent kingbird had flown to the parking lot, it only stayed a few seconds before flying off. After that, neither adult kingbird returned.

Although the renesting was unsuccessful, it was a learning opportunity for hospital staff. Gray kingbirds are a rare admission to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital with only eight admitted over the past 25 years. Each situation provides knowledge for staff to build upon. No matter what, there is peace of mind that comes with knowing we did all we could to reunite the family.

Since the nestlings have fledged, they are now being housed in a small indoor flight enclosure as they gain muscle strength while learning to fly. Once well-flighted, they will move to a large, outdoor flight recovery enclosure until they are old enough to fend for themselves and be released.

An adult blue jay was admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital after it was found injured in a yard. The people who found the blue jay kept it for four days; they said they thought the jay was just stunned and would get better after a few hours. By the fourth day, they decided the jay wasn’t getting better and brought it to our facility for care.

The condition the jay was in was heartbreaking. The jay was covered in its own feces, was lying on its side unable to stand, had increased respiratory effort, and was dehydrated. A radiograph showed the blue jay had a fractured spine.

Adult blue jay

While the people showed compassion when they initially rescued the jay, keeping the debilitated bird for four days without seeking professional help was tragic. To be very clear, wild animals suffer just as a dog or cat suffers when injured or sick. Ignoring or discounting an animal’s suffering is misguided and inhumane. Wild animals may mask their pain as a survival tactic but that doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing pain.

Please, always err on the side of caution – assume an animal that is hurt or injured is in pain and get it to our facility, or another licensed wildlife rehabilitation center, for immediate professional medical treatment. Also, be mindful that it is illegal to care for injured and orphaned native wildlife without appropriate state and federal permits.

If you don’t have the time or means to transport an injured, sick, or orphaned animal to our facility, reach out to friends, neighbors, or family; someone may be able to help. Arranging for Lyft or an Uber may also be an option. While the Conservancy doesn’t have an official rescue service, we may be able to find a volunteer who can assist with transport. Ensuring an animal’s well-being is always our focus and top priority.

Recent Releases

A mourning dove, two double-crested cormorants, two anhingas, three eastern cottontails, a purple martin, four northern mockingbirds, a blue jay, a loggerhead shrike, a brown thrasher, thirteen mottled ducks, an eastern screech owl, and two raccoons were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Support the Conservancy’s mission to protect native wildlife. The von Arx Wildlife Hospital hosted a virtual Wildlife Hospital Baby Shower on June 1 to support the hospital’s youngest patients. The 98 people who attended the baby shower donated 181 items. Hospital staff are incredibly grateful to everyone who has already donated items in support of our work. Baby Shower gifts can be donated online through through the month of June. Visit conservancy.org/wishlist. Every donation makes an impact!

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.