2021 Rehabilitation Success Stories

By VINS Staff

This year for #givingtuesday2021, we are spotlighting the amazing work by our Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation staff. Consider donating to VINS on Giving Tuesday (November 30, 2021) to help support the care of injured and orphaned wild birds.

VINS Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation is experiencing a banner year of patient admissions. This number has risen steadily over the past few years and staff expects the growth to continue due to public awareness of our services and the fact that more people are spending time outdoors and finding injured or orphaned wild birds.

In 2021, we were able to rehabilitate and release many birds whose stories left an impact on our hearts and the hearts of our community. Here are a few of their stories:


Intake: June 19, 2021

Renested: July 6, 2021

This nestling osprey was found on the ground. The nest had been destroyed by a storm and the parents were nowhere in sight. Upon arrival, rehab staff did a full exam to assess the bird for injuries. The osprey was emaciated and was covered in maggots. The bird was very weak and lethargic due to starvation. Rehabilitation staff put a treatment plan together to treat the bird for maggots and put a feeding schedule in place. After copious amounts of fluids to rehydrate the bird, staff began introducing food slowly. Osprey are hard to care for in a rehab setting due to their behavior and lifestyle. Rehabilitation staff decided to try putting the nestling in a pre-existing Osprey nest so it could be raised by Osprey parents and live with Osprey siblings.

After coordinating with Green Mountain Power and Vermont Fish and Wildlife we were able to find a nest that could work. On July 6, the osprey nestling was placed in a nest with two other siblings. The nestling had more than doubled its weight in the care of rehab staff. We were so excited to be able to give this bird a second chance out in the wild.

Rehabilitation staff could not be happier to hear that the nestling is thriving and has fledged out of its new nest with its adopted siblings.

Bald Eagle

Intake: June 9, 2021

Released: August 24, 2021

VINS received this fledgling Bald Eagle on June 9 after it had fallen out of its nest located on the grounds of Lochearn Camp For Girls. A game warden and camp staff were able to get the eagle safely contained and transported to us shortly after it had fallen.

Upon arrival, an intake exam was performed to check for injuries. VINS Rehabilitation staff found the eagle suffered a left clavicle fracture due to the fall and had maggots in one ear (a semi-common occurrence in the area). The eagle was treated for the maggots and the wing was wrapped for ~two weeks. Once the fracture had stabilized the eagle was progressively moved to larger stalls until staff was confident the wing was ready to be exercised. The eagle spent 20 days in a large flight cage and was exercised three times a day to be sure to build up muscle strength before release.

After 76 days in care on August 24, the eagle was released near its nest location at Lake Fairlee.
The eagle flew out of its carrier and banked over the lake before landing in a nearby pine tree. Just after the eagle landed, an adult eagle was seen flying over the lake with a fish in its talons heading towards the nest. Shortly after that, the rehabilitated eagle’s sibling was seen flying over the water following its parent to the nest, begging for fish the whole time.

VINS staff is thrilled that this (not so little) fledgling eagle was able to be released back where it came from and are hopeful the parents and siblings will continue to teach the bird all it needs to know about living out in the wild.

Photos by Leigh Scott.

Great Horned Owl

Intake: April 7, 2021

Renested: April 10, 2021

A young great-horned owl fell roughly 60 ft from its nest on April 7. VINS staff performed an exam and found the owl surprisingly had no injuries. After speaking with the finders, we were able to locate the nest and see that the parents were still active at the nest site.

The nest was too far up the tree for staff to safely try renesting ourselves, so we called for help. A very special thank you to Ted Knox Tree Service for donating their time, equipment, and expertise to place this little owl back in its nest. The thoughtful and careful handling of this baby owl by Ted and his crew, and the swift response and cooperation from the homeowner allowed VINS to quickly and safely return the owlet to the nest.

We are happy to report that the owlet had a sibling waiting for them in the nest and the mother Great-Horned was flying around the area watching her baby be returned to the nest.

Common Loon

Intake: October 13, 2021

Released: November 7, 2021

This Common Loon was captured by loon biologist Eric Hansen (Vermont Center for Ecostudies), at Lake St. Catherine on October 13. At least five barbed hooks on a large lure had penetrated both feet, tethering them together and causing major damage to the webbing and at least two toes.

After a short stay at the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences, the loon was transported to Avian Haven on October 15 by Eric, plus volunteer transporter Dawn Wood. It was clear that the loon would lose significant portions of both feet – perhaps as much as half of the left foot, perhaps only a quarter or less of the right. What was not clear was whether a loon could survive in the wild with such significant compromises. But the decision was made to schedule surgery with Dr. Judy Herman (Animal Wellness Center, Augusta), which took place on October 18. With Dr. Mark Pokras consulting remotely, Dr. Herman skillfully removed necrotic portions of the loon’s toes and webbing, leaving as much viable tissue as possible.

Foot bandages remained in place with the loon on dry housing until October 20, when she went into the water for the first time. Subsequently, we bandaged the feet overnight for a few more days, but she made certain we knew that she did not like being out of the water overnight. By the end of the month, she was in the water 24/7, continuing to dive as well as we’d seen any loon dive in our largest pool!

On November 5, Dr. Pokras was onsite. He examined the loon’s feet and pronounced them well on their way toward healing as much as they were going to heal. By that time, the loon was very restless, pacing the edge of the pool closest to the windows, telling us clearly that she needed to go! Lucas Savoy (Biodiversity Research Institute) banded the loon the next day, and off she went into Penobscot Bay on November 7. After being released into the water, she turned and lunged at Diane! But then she quickly left the shore behind, circling the cove close to shore before heading out into the bay. Diane and Terry watched her for nearly an hour, but she showed no sign that she was considering beaching, and when they finally lost sight of her, she was headed for open water.

This story was written by Avian Haven. Rescue photo by Mary Jo Teeterrehab/release photos by Terry Heitz, Avian Haven

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