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Incredible Feather Transplant Saves Unlucky Bird Trapped In Barbed Wire Fence

A Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) was found in a rather tricky predicament involving a barbed wire fence in Queensland, Australia. Happily, thanks to a string of fortuitous coincidences and the expertise of staff at Brisbane Bird and Exotics Veterinary Services, he lived to see another day.

The bird was found with his wing stuck in the wiring of a 1.8-meter (6-foot) fence by a resident of Jimboomba, a town 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Brisbane. Tawny Frogmouths are nocturnal creatures endemic to Australia and Tasmania that feast on insects as well as small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Wildlife experts suspect he flew into the fence during a nighttime hunt. 

The incident was reported and attended to by the aptly-named president of Reptile Rehabilitation Queensland (and senior wildlife carer), Anette Bird.

“I could see it was in a lot of trouble, and initially I thought it would have to be euthanized,” Bird told Australian Geographic.

“Animals that get stuck in fences tend to struggle and make things worse for themselves, wrapping the wire tighter and tangling themselves further. It was also impaled by barbed wire in its chest at the base of the wing – the poor thing got a double whammy.”

Fortunately, the Tawny Frogmouth (now called Kouro) had suffered no fractures, but the feathers on the wing were so badly damaged, he was unable to fly. To get him back in the air, an avian veterinarian had to perform an imping procedure – or, in plain English, a feather transplant.

This was only possible because not two minutes down the road, Bird received a second call involving a second Tawny Frogmouth. In most cases, she would say she was already in the middle of a rescue but this time, something “nagged” at her to “go get the other one”. 

“And that was the best decision I could have made,” she said.

Sadly, this particular bird was the victim of a hit-and-run job and been left with serious injuries to the head and wings. This meant it had to be put down.

Fortunately for Kouro, veterinarian Hamish Baron was able to reclaim its feathers to help save him. 

First, his damaged feathers had to be removed.

Brisbane Bird and Exotics Veterinary Services/Facebook

Then, a lightweight support rod made from bamboo could be inserted into the hollow feather shaft left in Kouro’s wing and into the donor feather – a bit like a bridge. This was repeated again and again until each of the damaged feathers had been replaced. 

Brisbane Bird and Exotics Veterinary Services/Facebook

Metal, not bamboo, rods were used when the feathers needed extra strength.

Brisbane Bird and Exotics Veterinary Services/Facebook

Baron used a piece of card to separate the feathers from one another so the glue that held the shaft in place would not harm any of the healthy feathers.

Brisbane Bird and Exotics Veterinary Services/Facebook

At the joint, glue and bicarbonate of soda was applied to strengthen the bond.

Brisbane Bird and Exotics Veterinary Services/Facebook

After some time spent resting, Kouro fully recovered and the lucky bird was re-released into the wild.

This isn’t the first time we’ve reported on this incredible procedure carried out in Australia. Last year Perth Zoo did the same for a rare black cockatoo that got singed perching on a power line, whose surgery was equally as successful. 

[H/T: Science Alert]

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