If you just glance at this pigeon patient in WildCare's Wildlife Hospital, it looks like he is missing the top part of his beak. However, with a closer look you can see that the top beak section is not actually missing! It has been forcibly folded inward and down past the bottom beak, becoming painfully lodged inside the pigeon’s throat.
Why was only the top part of the beak injured? As with so many of WildCare's patients, we'll never know. Unlike with domestic animals brought to the veterinarian's office, our wildlife patients don't usually arrive with a human who can explain what happened to them. Sometimes a rescuer knows the full story, but most often patients are found already injured and we have to piece together the story from the presented symptoms.
We can assume that this injury happened due to a collision of some sort, but the fact that the bottom part of the beak is intact makes it a mystery.
Whatever the cause, this situation was dire, not only because it completely prevented the helpless bird from eating or drinking, but also because a dangerous abscess was already growing where the hard tip of the beak pushed against the soft tissue inside.
This bird's rescuer tried to capture him for three days before they finally caught him and brought him to WildCare.
Upon intake in WildCare’s Wildlife Hospital, as expected, this pigeon was found to be exhausted, underweight, and severely dehydrated. Our veterinarian, Dr. Juliana Sorem, got right to work!
With the pigeon fully sedated, Dr. Sorem, assisted by Hospital Manager, Lucy Stevenot, was able to safely dislodge the upper beak section from the oral cavity, essentially by unfolding it. The beak wasn't broken, just bent.
With the beak back in its normal position, Dr. Sorem made the decision to let the bird regain some weight before performing another surgery to clean and close the small abscess where the tip of the upper beak had punctured through skin. She gave the bird subcutaneous fluids to rehydrate him and kept him warm while he slowly regained consciousness.
Almost as soon as the pigeon woke up in the ICU, seeds were flying! Much to our delight, this hungry bird was devouring seeds with gusto, quickly making up for so many days without a single bite to eat. Watch him in the video below!
The team allowed the bird a few days to rest and regain strength before doing the second surgery to address the abscess. Meanwhile, he was given antibiotics and an all-you-can-eat seed buffet to put him on the road to recovery. The follow-up surgery was a success, and the bird soon graduated from the ICU to a larger cage and then an outdoor aviary to allow him to build strength before release.
Finally, after a month in care, this pigeon was plump, healthy and ready to go! We released him back with his flock-mates in Hayward, California.
Not all wildlife hospitals treat pigeons, but WildCare does, and we're very proud of the care we give these hardy (and charming!) birds.