Finally Fully Feathered!
Animal Care Coordinator Jennifer Taylor
Featured Photo • Kerry Reid
In mid August we received a call from Provincetown about a duck in need of care. It was found stranded on the beach off of Commercial Street by a very concerned family. They had already correctly identified it as a Surf Scoter when they called Wild Care. It was a sad little duck, thin and frightened. Somehow all of its flight feathers and tail feathers had been broken. It was such an odd situation. There were no wounds or fractures. We gave him fluids and warmth and proceeded with some research. We looked up molting times for this species, in hopes that nature would take its course of shedding and replacing these feathers, without us intervening. Surf Scoters naturally molt all of their flight late July to mid-August.
Well, we treated the bird for dehydration and emaciation and built up his strength. The rescuers called frequently for updates. As time passed, the broken feathers remained, and it was clear they needed to be removed in order to grow back immediately – a practice that is challenging to do, but very effective.
Dr. John Kelley, DVM and his assistant Emelie of Eastham Veterinary Hospital did the deed in early September with the bird under anesthesia. They pulled out the scoter’s broken wing and tail feathers. It took what seemed like forever, but after the first pin feathers began growing, everything snowballed! He molted completely! We swam him every day and held him to flap his wings before and after every swim. Every day his flapping was stronger and stronger.
This little duck was the perfect patient and stayed with us for almost 12 weeks. The time limit for birds in rehab in the State of Massachusetts is 90 days. At that point we must justify to Fish and Wildlife the reasons to continue rehabilitation. I am sure we would have gotten the nod for another week of feather growth, but it was a relief when our plan all panned out.
The release was perfect! Mark Faherty and Bob Prescott of Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary confirmed to us where Surf Scoters were being seen in large numbers. We chose Cape Cod Bay off Eastham and within minutes our Scoter was joined by other scoters after he flew out away from us. We left them in a peaceful sunset.
Watch The Release Video Here Photos By Leo Seletsky
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Wild Care has a state-of-the-art seabird therapy pool, which allows seabirds and waterfowl to exercise on running water. This will help our bird friends recover more quickly so they can get back to their watery habitats!