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Delmar Animal Hospital

910 Delaware Ave.

Delmar, NY 12054

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Great Blue Heron Found in Ditch 11-9-17

Heron feed
Heron xray

It is unfortunately far too common for birds of all types to be struck by a passing car. In the case of larger birds it is often because they are slow to gain altitude. So that when they take off in flight from the side of the road they don’t get high enough, fast enough to miss the passing vehicle. We believe this is what happened to a Great Blue Heron brought to us recently. The bird was found in a roadside ditch near the Bethlehem Town Park.

On initial examination, it had a swollen hock (ankle) with a small wound and it was weak and could not stand on its own. Radiographs (x-rays) showed a possible broken back.

We gave it several days of treatment to see if it would show improvement. Treatments included fluid replacement, pain medications and antibiotics. We offered it some live fish (feeder gold fish) but it wasn’t eating on its own, so we had to tube feed it. Great Blue Herons have a very strong, very sharp beak that can literally poke your eye out (I once heard of a veterinarian who was killed by one). So, the first thing you need to do when handling a heron is to get control of its beak. Once you have the beak in control, the bird is fairly easy to handle. In order to pass a feeding tube, a mouth gag (or in this case, beak gag) is placed to hold the beak open. The tube is passed down, as far as possible, then liquefied diet is injected down the tube.

Unfortunately, after several days it was getting weaker, instead of stronger, and the decision was made to humanely euthanize it. This is, sadly, a common outcome with herons, as they are difficult birds to rehabilitate.