As you know, we have always stated that we would not attempt to capture any bird, adult or juvenile that seemed to be injured or ill. But if found on the ground or elsewhere unable to fly, we would do our best for such a bird, for example by returning a juvenile to the top of the tower. That position has been tested this last week, and the situation is still unfolding, and our stance may yet change.
The next day Nick B. collected 010 from the animal sanctuary and brought her back to Derby to release her. Although 010 had eaten well and looked bright eyed, the sanctuary owner expressed some concerns about the bird’s wings and so Nick B asked our local falconer Colin P. to check the bird over before she was released.
At it happened a number of people, including Colin, had noticed that this juvenile had been reluctant to fly on the tower over the previous couple of days. This indicated some sort of problem and so, armed with this knowledge, it was decided to get some expert opinion about her condition. Colin agreed to look after her meanwhile and he reported back that 010 had adapted to captivity quickly, continue to eat lustily and was very calm, making her an ideal patient.
It also turned out that the RSPCA were involved with a BBC TV programme called Animal Rescue 24:7 which focuses on animal welfare incidents. The programmers had asked if they could film the story to be broadcast sometime next year. We agreed and a film crew turned up to film the bird at the sanctuary and her return to Derby, though by then we had decided she should not be released.
What these pellets are made of is of great concern. It's most likely that they will be standard lead pellets, in which case there is a considerable risk that, if they don't pass though her body naturally (or after giving her an enema to attempt to flush the lead out), they could be digested and enter her tissues. This would eventually result in lead poisoning. Blood tests have been taken and we await the results of these later in the week. If at any stage she exhibits signs of lead poisoning it seems inevitable that 010 will have to be put down at some stage before she deteriorates and suffers further. But so far she appears healthy and well and is a very gentle-natured bird, and is certainly being very well looked after.
If it turns out that there is no lead poisoning – just a weak left wing - the vet’s opinion is that it would probably still be wrong to keep her penned up for the rest of her life, unable to fly. By contrast and depending how she progresses, Colin thinks it might still be possible to exercise her sufficiently such that she could fly a little, even if she can never hunt for herself.
So what do we do? The answer is we don't yet know. We have to think of the bird's welfare first, and what is the best course of action to take. It could be a hard decision to make to put down a wild bird that could face the rest of its long life in captivity; but it would be almost as hard for us to decide that she should remain alive, knowing she might never fly wild again, and certainly not hunt for herself. 010 will be returning to the specialist vet during the week for the results of the blood test. We will probably also try and retrieve and bring you the x-ray which clearly shows the injury she has experienced.
However, in view of recent unwelcome comments left on this blog when falcon 009 flew into a glass panel and died a week ago, we do not want to see a recurrence of inflammatory remarks being left about 010 which then deteriorate into an unhelpful and aggressive slanging match.
We think all readers of this blog - including children - deserve better. So for a short period all new comments to this post will require pre-moderation by a project member.