Von Arx Wildlife Hospital admits 94 animals this past week

April 4, 2024

A prothonotary warbler and a loggerhead shrike were among the ninety-four animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include two black skimmers, three fledgling ospreys, a chuck-will’s widow, a common ground dove, a white-tailed deer fawn, a big brown bat, and a Florida red-bellied turtle.

Prothonotary Warbler, Hooded Warbler and Palm Warbler Admitted

The prothonotary warbler is one species of neotropical migratory birds passing through our area on their migration north for the summer. A hooded warbler and palm warbler were also admitted. The hooded warbler and the palm warbler suffered injuries from collisions with windows. The prothonotary warbler’s cause of injury and admission was less clear.

The initial report received regarding cause of injury was that a bucket fell on the prothonotary warbler. “Falling bucket” is a novel cause of injury for a warbler for our facility and it led to many questions, one being whether the warbler was incapacitated prior to the bucket falling on it.

Unfortunately, after getting injured by the bucket, the warbler was kept for several days before being brought to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. While the person who brought the bird to our facility swears they didn’t cut the prothonotary warbler’s flight feathers, the warbler’s feathers were cut on both wings leaving the warbler unable to fly.

An physical exam performed on admission shows a prothonotary warbler with cut feathers on both wings leaving the bird unable to fly.

Aside from the cut feathers, the warbler was alert, reactive and had increased respiratory effort. Staff placed the warbler on oxygen in an animal intensive care unit to rest. The following day, staff moved the warbler to a recovery space in the bird room and provided an insect diet. The goal was to minimize stress and handling by providing a quiet space to recover.

Colliding with windows is a leading cause of bird mortality in the United States. Conservative estimates state that, in the United States, up to 975 million birds die annually from collisions with buildings and windows. Collisions can occur both at night and during the day. Many of the warblers we see in our area this time of year will fly in mixed flocks at night and then rest and forage amongst the tree foliage during the day.

At night, lights on high-rise office buildings draw migratory birds in close to buildings where they may become disoriented and exhausted causing them to collide with buildings. Many cities across the United States are working to save migratory birds by initiating “lights out” programs during peak migration times. The “lights out” program is similar to sea turtle protection regulations implemented during the summer turtle nesting season. If you live or work in a high-rise condo or office building, encourage others to keep shades drawn and lights out at night during spring and fall migration. 

Collisions during the day occur because birds can’t perceive clear or reflective glass. Windows reflect the sky and trees. Birds perceive the reflection as an open flyway and collide with the glass. 

The key to preventing window strikes is to make birds aware of expanses of glass. There are many options to prevent birds from colliding with both residential and commercial windows. For information on proven solutions to prevent bird strikes, visit www.abcbirds.org.

If you find a bird injured in a window strike, do not delay in bringing the bird to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. Neurological injuries require medical attention. Immediate professional veterinary care greatly increases an animal’s chance of survival. It is important to know that keeping native birds without the proper state and federal permits is illegal. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects birds, eggs, nests, feathers, etc. If you find an injured or sick animal or know someone who is in possession of a native bird, make them aware of the laws to ensure the bird is taken to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation clinic.

Nestling Loggerhead Shrike Blown From Nest

A nestling loggerhead shrike was admitted early evening after its nest was blown from the tree.

The shrike was vocal, in good body condition, showed increased respiratory effort even while resting, and was intermittently closing its eyes. All indications that the shrike was injured when it hit the ground.

Staff administered pain medication and placed the nestling in an animal intensive care unit to rest for the night. The following morning, the shrike showed a slight improvement in behavior, but it was apparent the shrike was still in pain.

A fledgling loggerhead shrike begs to be fed while recovering at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. The shrike was admitted as a nestling and was injured when its nest was blown down in high winds.

Staff continued with the pain medication, administered electrolytes and began hand feeding the nestling every hour. The third day at the wildlife hospital brought significant improvement. The shrike was alert, active and eager to eat at every feeding. The shrike will continue to receive care at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital until grown and able to fend for itself.  

Breeding season has begun in our area, along with the shrike, a northern mockingbird, a common grackle and a boat-tailed grackle nestling were also admitted last week. Understanding whether a baby bird found on the ground is a nestling or fledgling is the first step in determining if the bird needs assistance or is exhibiting normal behavior. 

Nestlings, like the shrike, are still developing and too young to be out of the nest. Nestlings can’t fly and need to be fed by their parents. Often times when a nestling is on the ground, it has sustained an injury in the fall because their feathers aren’t developed and they can’t fly. Fledglings are young birds with developed feathers, are active enough to be out of the nest and are strong enough to grip small branches. Most fledglings learn to fly from the ground by making short hopping flights – gaining strength and coordination with each flight. The parent birds will continue to care for their fledglings by following their calls.

Unless a young bird is in eminent danger of injury or death, please take a moment to observe the situation and call the wildlife hospital before taking action. Technology makes it easy to text or email a photo/video of a bird, so trained professional rehabilitators can determine if the bird is healthy or injured and needs assistance. 

The best chance a baby has for survival is to be raised by its parents who will teach it how to find food, what predators are, and other life skills necessary to survive in the wild. Never hesitate to call if you have questions or concerns at 239-262-2273.

Recent Releases

Six eastern cottontails, two Florida softshell turtles, two Eastern screech owls, a Chuck-will’s-widow, two marsh rabbits, a mourning dove, a laughing gull, two white ibis, a royal tern, a black-and-white warbler, and a grey squirrel were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit our website to learn about volunteer opportunities at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. As a volunteer, you can put your interest in wildlife and the environment into action. Many of our seasonal volunteers are headed north for summer and that is the busiest time of year at the hospital. If you can give four hours a week, please become a volunteer. Go to our website and fill out our volunteer application. We desperately need your help.

If you are unable to donate your time, become a member and consider supporting our work with a monthly donation. 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 conservancy.org.