Broken wings are not always fatal

A broken wing would normally be a death sentence for a bird in the wild.

Friday, 26th October 2018, 12:54 pm
Swan with a broken wing
Swan with a broken wing

At the trust, it’s often still touch and go whether or not they survive, but at least the birds that come into the Rollo Centre have a chance of recovery.

For some, however, all of the treatment and care is not enough, as with the beautiful short-eared owl we had in over the summer.

Despite keeping him rested in a cage in the recovery room for several weeks, his broken wing did not heal and the kindest thing was for him to be put to sleep.

Recently, though, we’ve had some good news about another bird with a broken wing.

A large cygnet was brought in from Kelso about a month ago, his left wing hanging uselessly by his side.

The vet pinned it, it’s since been checked and appears to be healing successfully.

Hopefully, once the healing process is complete and the pins are removed, he’ll be able to join Harry and the other cygnets on the big pond.

Despite his injury, the cygnet is still proving to be very feisty, hissing and raising his one good wing whenever someone enters his enclosure.

When Jackie asked me to help bring him in for checking, I was quite relieved that my job simply entailed opening and closing gates and not handling him.

He’s just about adult-sized, with only his grey colouring the obvious giveaway that he is still a juvenile.

I watched as Jackie approached him slowly, gently taking hold of his neck and then swiftly dropping a towel over his back and lifting him so that his wings were tucked safely into his sides.

Once she had him in her arms, he became totally calm and taking him out of the enclosure was relatively easy – for me anyway, closing the gate behind them.

I doubt lugging a fully grown swan about is one of Jackie’s favourite jobs.

Hotchi Mews, our ‘housing estate’ of outdoor hedgehog hutches, is now filling up with hogs that have reached a healthy enough weight to be outside, but need to overwinter with us.

They still need to be cleaned out and fed with wet food every day until they go into hibernation. Some of them have already started missing the odd overnight meal if the temperatures fall close to freezing.

My hedgehog Milligan – I keep him in our completely enclosed garden at home because he couldn’t be released into the wild due to a lung condition – has taught me that hibernation is far more nuanced than just shutting down the body’s systems one day and not waking up until spring.

He’s already started sleeping right through the odd chilly night instead of toddling over to the back door for his bowl of meaty pet food.

Last winter the number of nights he slept through without eating gradually increased until by mid-December he finally went into his deep sleep.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens this year.