Royal Tern Recovering After Fishing Hook Injury

A bald eagle and a royal tern were among the 66 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a marsh rabbit, a black vulture, a green heron, two eastern screech owls and a yellow-bellied turtle.

Royal tern admitted to von Arx Wildlife Hospital

The royal tern was found on Marco Island with a large fishing lure and three treble hooks embedded in its wing. One of the nine hooks came within a millimeter of severing a tendon in the tern’s wing. The wing was swollen and bloody where the hooks had pierced the soft tissue. The tern was sedated in order to take a radiograph, remove the hooks and clean the wounds. Electrolytes, pain medications, an antibiotic, a vitamin supplement and Chinese herbs were administered. Diagnostic tests revealed the tern needed treatment for internal parasites as well. Five days in and the tern is recovering yet struggling from being in a captive setting.

Radiograph image of injured royal tern

The suffering and stress the tern has endured could have been prevented. Please, if you participate in angling activities, be aware of your surroundings; never cast your line if birds are flying nearby. Do not cut the line if you accidentally hook a bird. Reel the bird in carefully but quickly. A bird struggling against a taut line may cause the monofilament line to break and allow the bird to fly off entangled in the hook and line.

If you do hook a bird, use a towel or t-shirt to cover the bird’s head while you are working to remove a hook. The darkness will help calm the bird and make handling easier. If the hook is not deeply embedded, gently push the hook through until the barb is exposed and then clip the barb off. Once the barb is removed, the hook is easily backed out. After the hook has been removed, step away and allow the bird time to gain its bearings; the bird will fly off once it has had a chance to rest; if it doesn’t fly off it needs to be brought to the wildlife hospital for medical attention. Of course, if the hook is deeply embedded, as was the case with this royal tern, or if the hook has been ingested, the bird should be contained and brought to the wildlife hospital for immediate medical attention.

Special Thanks

Our outdoor recovery enclosures accommodate a wide variety of species needing time to heal, grow and recover. Last week staff had an unexpected window of time open up to work on a project that would allow us to move the group of young black-bellied whistling ducklings to a larger recovery space. Staff planned a delivery of mulch from Naples Fertilizer for the project for the following week. With an open window of time, we called Naples Fertilizer to see about the possibility of changing the delivery to that afternoon.

Naples Fertilizer staff were amazing. They adjusted their schedule, made the delivery in record time and they gave the von Arx Wildlife Hospital a discounted rate. Community support such as this is vital to our success and very much appreciated.

Recent Releases

A chicken turtle, two Florida softshell turtles, a gopher tortoise, five eastern cottontails, a chuck-will’s-widow, a black-and-white warbler, a red-bellied woodpecker, three peninsula cooters, a barred owl and ten grey squirrels were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

There are many ways to remain engaged and support the Conservancy. The holidays are right around the corner. If you are shopping online, use the AmazonSmile website operated by AmazonSmile has the same shopping features, products and prices as When you choose the Conservancy of Southwest Florida as your charitable organization, 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products is donated to the Conservancy. Every donation supports the Conservancy’s work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future. To learn more about the mission of the Conservancy visit our website at

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, Florida 34102. Call 239–262–2273 or see



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