In May, TRC admitted an injured adult Swainson’s hawk that was most likely struck by a vehicle. The bird came in with mild head trauma but no other issues and was swiftly moved from the ICU (intensive care unit) to the PCU (patient care unit) after only a couple of days. PCU enclosures are equipped with cameras which allow staff to remotely monitor patients’ progress. When the bird first moved in, he flew up to the highest perch to look out the window to take in his new surroundings. He was seen flying between two different perches when all of a sudden, a single erratic movement left him on the ground with a severe wing droop. Staff swiftly x-rayed the wing and confirmed that he had luxated (dislocated) his shoulder in that quick moment.
Shoulder luxations are typically fatal for raptors since shoulders can pop in and out of a joint easily – rendering a wild bird unable to fly and susceptible to starvation on the ground. These delicate injuries need to be treated extremely quickly in order for a bird to be able to fly again. In fact, leading raptor veterinarians usually recommend humane euthanasia since the success rate of correcting a shoulder luxation is so low. However, since this injury was noted almost immediately, staff decided to try and fix it. While the bird was under anesthesia, staff realigned the shoulder back into the joint and then wrapped his wing to immobilize his shoulder from moving. After two weeks, his wrap was removed and then he remained in the ICU for another two weeks in order to prevent him from stretching out his wings and causing any further damage to the shoulder joint. After one month of cage rest, staff were delighted to see new x-rays which confirmed that the shoulder was still in place! He soon began flight conditioning and the shoulder miraculously stayed in the joint when he flapped his wings. He was released back to the wild on June 29 in Victor, ID where he returned to his mate. This patient marks the first successful shoulder luxation repair and release in TRC history.