Beachgoers Rescue Injured Tern

A sandwich tern and a grey squirrel were among the 67 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a northern parula, a black skimmer, two brown pelicans, a common gallinule, a marsh rabbit and a Florida red bellied turtle.

A couple from out of state was visiting a Marco Island beach when they witnessed a peregrine falcon capture the sandwich tern. The tern struggled and vocalized as the falcon took flight. A second tern flew in and attacked the falcon causing it to drop the sandwich tern in the water. These good Samaritans swam out, retrieved the floundering tern and brought it to our facility for care.

The tern was alert, defensive and frantic when admitted. There were multiple lacerations on the tern’s body from the falcon’s talons and the tern showed significant lameness when trying to stand on its left leg. The tern’s feathers were bloody. Overall, the physical exam showed the tern was in good body condition and good health prior to the attack.

A sandwich tern receiving care at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

The tern received pain medication and a sedative upon admission. Once stabilized, the tern was anesthetized so our vet could debride and suture the tern’s wounds. Laser therapy was performed and an antibiotic and additional pain medications were administered.

Daily supportive care was provided along with wound treatments; the morning of the third day at the hospital, the tern began to eat on its own. Subsequent days have showed an improvement in the tern’s condition as the tern continues to recover in the bird room at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital.

Kudos to the two good Samaritans who saved the tern. So many people call the hospital and are afraid or unwilling to assist animals that are obviously suffering and need help. These two people took action without hesitation, which is commendable.

Please, if you see an injured, sick or orphaned animal, offer assistance. If you are unsure of how to help, call the wildlife hospital for guidance. I guarantee you, the joy, pride and sense of accomplishment experienced when you save a life is beyond compare.

Recent Releases

A common yellowthroat, two marsh rabbits, two grey squirrels and a white ibis were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website at to view all of the wonderful work done at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Your memberships and donations enable us continue our efforts to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239–262–2273 or see



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store