Tern admitted with fishing hook in stomach

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

A royal tern was among the 51 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a burrowing owl, a least bittern, a mottled duck, a ringneck snake, a banded water snake and a Brazilian free-tailed bat.

A Collier County staffer brought the royal tern to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital after finding the bird entangled in fishing line at Barefoot Beach Preserve. After arriving at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, a physical exam was performed to assess the tern’s overall health and identify any damage caused by the line. The exam showed the tern was at a good weight and was in good body condition.

All shorebirds admitted to the hospital have a radiograph taken because there is such a high probability that they have ingested fish hooks and tackle. The radiograph of the tern showed a large fish, and fish hook had been ingested.

The tern received subcutaneous electrolytes and was placed on oxygen in an animal intensive care unit to rest. Surgery to remove the hook was scheduled to be performed once the large fish had been digested. Sadly, the tern passed away overnight.

This tern had a silver band on its leg which meant it was part of a research project coordinated by the United States Geological Survey. Bird banding is a method used to study the movement patterns and behavior of birds.

Reporting the royal tern’s band number to the Bird Banding Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland revealed the tern was banded as a nestling in July 2019 in North Carolina. The cause of death and location of where the tern was found in Florida was reported to the biologists conducting this research project. To learn more about the North American Bird Banding Program visit www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl.

Recent Releases

A great horned owl, a northern parula, two marsh rabbits, three eastern cottontails, two cedar waxwings, a great blue heron, a gopher tortoise, nine brown pelicans, a double-crested cormorant, a roseate spoonbill, a blue jay, a royal tern, a sandhill crane, and a raccoon were released this past week.

Several releases were especially exciting this past week. A dear friend of the Conservancy Wildlife Hospital allowed us on her property in rural north Naples to release the sandhill crane. The exciting part of the release was that a small flock of cranes was present when we arrived with “our” crane. The flock of cranes and “our” crane carefully worked their way around the lake toward each other. There was no aggressive behavior exhibited which was encouraging. A follow up two days later revealed “our” crane seemed to have assimilated into the flock which is exactly what we had hoped for.

The roseate spoonbill release was fantastic. The spoonbill was released in an area where spoonbills are often seen foraging. The bird burst out of the transport crate and took flight over the marsh.

Opportunities to Help

Take action, visit the Conservancy website at www.conservancy.org and get involved. There are many opportunities for you to help the Conservancy of Southwest Florida protect our water, land, wildlife and future.

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