Eye injuries in wild birds

Wild birds come in to us with a wide variety of injuries and illnesses, some of which are treatable and some of which aren’t.

In recent weeks, we have had 2 different species of bird brought in with eye injuries. Visual impairment can be devastating for a bird, especially those that hunt for their food such as diving sea birds and birds of prey, and those affected can often be found in a weak and emaciated state due to starvation. Some eye injuries are obvious on first examination, but some are harder to see and require careful examination by a vet.

4 weeks ago our driver was called by a member of the public to collect a sparrow hawk that had flown into a door. Sparrow hawks hunt birds to eat, and flying into obstacles such as window and doors whilst in hot pursuit of their next meal is a fairly common occurrence. Sadly, some suffer fatal head or neck injuries as a result, but in this case, the bird had no obvious injury other than discoloration of its’ right eye. On closer examination, this was found to be due to haemorrhage into the eye which, as well as being visible in the front of the eye, was filling the back of the eye meaning the bird had no vision on this side. After rest and treatment for 2 weeks, the haemorrhage had cleared and the sparrow hawk was considered to have recovered her vision in this eye. She was successfully released.

Not all birds are so lucky. 2 weeks ago, we collected a grounded gannet from St Ouen that had been found at the side of the road. The bird was underweight and had a heavy burden of feather lice indicating that whatever the underlying problem was, it had been affecting the bird for at least a few days. On close examination, there was a penetrating injury to one eye that as well as being extremely painful, meant the gannet was unable to see well enough to locate and catch fish to eat. Under normal circumstance, gannets do not come into contact with people as the live way out at sea and they do very poorly in captivity, often refusing to eat which makes treatment challenging. Unfortunately, this injury was irreparable and the only option was to humanely euthanase this bird.

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