A rehabilitation technique helps speed up the muscle building process of an injured falcon By Senior Hospital Technician Jenn Guess
Peregrine Falcons are sleek and powerful birds that hunt prey from above, diving from perches or high in the sky in aerial strikes. They are the fastest member of the animal kingdom, able to reach diving speeds of over 200 miles per hour. So it is no surprise that a broken wing would be detrimental to the survival of a Peregrine Falcon.
On the afternoon of November 9th, 2015 a member of the public came to California Wildlife Center with an injured Peregrine Falcon that they had found in Van Nuys. The initial exam revealed that the falcon had a broken left wing. The falcon had hit something so hard that one of the main bones in the left wing (the ulna) was broken in multiple places and there was an open wound at the fracture site with severe swelling and bruising around the injury. Our technicians stabilized the wing with a wing wrap, hydrated the bird, and started it on various medications in order to help with pain management and ward off any potential infection.
The next day Dr. Barbosa took radiographs of the wing to get a better look at the injury. After analyzing the fracture in the radiographs, it was decided that the best course of action would be to continue stabilizing the wing with a wing wrap and continue providing pain management and antibiotics.
On November 15th, 2015, it was determined that the wing was strong enough to begin gentle physical therapy. The swelling was starting to go down and the bruising was mostly resolved. Over the next few weeks the falcon received periodic gentle physical therapy. On December 10th, 2015, one month after its original intake, it was decided by Dr. Barbosa that the falcon’s injury had healed enough for it to move to one of CWC’s large outdoor aviaries. Out in the aviary the falcon would have more room to move around and could start to build up its flight muscles again.
On January 1st, 2016, Dr. Tom assessed the patient and decided that it was time to creance the Peregrine Falcon. When a patient is creanced, a long thin line with a weight on one end is attached to anklets on the bird. The patient flies into the air and pulls the weight. This process helps to quickly build up flight muscles and speeds up the recovery process. The falcon was creanced four times over the course of two weeks, and each time it got stronger and stronger. Eventually the Peregrine Falcon was pulling the same weight a Red-Tailed Hawk would pull, and Red-Tailed Hawks are about twice as big as Peregrine Falcons.
On January 15th, 2016, more than two months after the original intake, the Peregrine Falcon was released back to its home in Van Nuys.