Pied-Billed Grebe: SB Wildlife Care Network's Patient of the Week
Source: Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network
Patient: Pied-Billed Grebe Patient #3001
Status: Released back to the wild
On July 10, young Pied-billed grebe patient #3001 was brought to the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network from Lompoc. The grebe had a broken tibiotarsus (leg bone). The unique anatomy of this bone in diving bird species made it difficult to operate on, but the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network's veterinarian, Dr. Avery Berkowitz, managed to successfully pin the grebe's tiny leg. A product to help waterproof the incision and pin sites was applied to make sure the bird would be able to swim with the pins still in. The bird slowly woke up from anesthesia, then chowed down on fish and shrimp. He ate a lot over the next few days and regained enough strength to swim.
Staff and volunteers at the Wildlife Care Center created a special swimming pool just for him so he could practice swimming while his leg healed. He seemed to enjoy swimming, and began to gain strength in his mending leg. On August 1, he was anesthetized so Dr. Berkowitz could remove the pins from his leg. The incision site healed well, and his swim sessions continued. He quickly outgrew his small swimming pool, so the Center purchased a large pool that was retrofitted to be perfect for pelagic birds like him. The grebe seemed very comfortable in his larger pool, and continued to eat lots of fish.
On August 19, the grebe was ready for release. Staff caught the grebe and put him in a carrier, then boarded a boat on Lake Cachuma, home to many healthy grebes. He was released into the water near other pied-billed grebes. He swam around the boat before joining more grebes off in the distance.
This is a historic recovery/release story for the pied-billed grebe species; it is uncommon for this species to successfully recover from this kind of leg fracture over many necessary weeks in a rehabilitation setting and enjoy life in the wild once again. The Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network is honored to offer this grebe a second chance at life.
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