Burrowing Owl #19-1866

Burrowing Owl #19-1866
May 14 2019Jul 03 2019

Burrowing owl nesting season typically runs from the middle of February through the middle of July. As the young owls emerge from the burrow, they spend a few weeks mastering flying skills. During this period, they can be susceptible to predator attacks and being struck by vehicles.

On May 14, a juvenile burrowing owl was admitted from Cape Coral. It suffered a fractured leg and fractured wing as the result of a trauma, likely an impact from a vehicle. Surgeries will be required to stabilize the fractures.

Status Updates

Surgery Plan - May 15 2019 9:16 am

Veterinarians planned to perform surgery on the broken leg first as it needed the most attention and would be most critical for this species to heal. The surgery will be performed this morning and depending on how the owl does with the first surgery, a second one will be planned to address the fractured wing.


Leg Surgery - May 15 2019 2:53 pm

Veterinarians were able to successfully place three pins (one IM pin and two crosspins) with an external fixation to stabilize the bone. In a few days, the IM pin will be removed and the crosspins left in place. Veterinarians are also hopeful that a second surgery to repair the injured wing will not be necessary because only one of the two bones (birds have a radius and ulna in their wing similar to a human forearm) is fractured. With the other bone intact to stabilize it, the fracture should heal with time and keeping the wing immobilized in a wrap. They will closely monitor both injuries to ensure they heal properly. The owl's prognosis is guarded at this time.


Post-Surgery Care - May 16 2019 4:00 pm

Following surgery to pin the broken leg, veterinarians placed a catheter to be able to deliver fluid therapy to help the owl recover. It continued to receive fluids today and also received a bandage change. The team noted that its leg was still swollen, which was to be expected after surgery, but that it was otherwise bright and alert. Its wing wrap remains in place.


Bandage Change - May 21 2019 2:44 pm

The young owl received a bandage change for the surgery leg earlier today. Veterinarians noted that the swelling had reduced and that the skin looked much better than it did at the last bandage change, which have occurred daily since its surgery. Veterinary staff have also been regularly changing the figure-8 bandage that is immobilizing the injured wing along with performing physical therapy for the injuries. The young owl was observed eating mealworms in its enclosure, but has yet to graduate to more sustaining food items. Assisted feeds are used to help it maintain its weight.


Staged Removal of Hardware - May 30 2019 3:44 pm

Veterinarians have began a "staged removal" of the hardware used to stabilize the fractured leg. The first piece of hardware to be removed was the pin that goes through the bone. The cross pins and external piece will remain in place for about another week.


Remaining Hardware Removed - Jun 06 2019 11:18 am

The remaining cross pins and external fixator were removed today. Veterinarians reported that the bone felt structurally sound and that the owl was observed standing on both legs after the hardware was removed.


More Bandage Changes - Jun 11 2019 11:44 am

Over the last week, the owl has continued to receive bandage changes as the wounds on its leg from the pin sites has healed. It has also been eating well on its own and having "casts" which is where they regurgitate undigested food bits such as fur and bones from their food, also known as an owl pellet. Veterinarians say that wounds are healing and that the owl may be evaluated to be moved outside soon.


Moved Outside - Jun 15 2019 11:44 am

The young burrowing owl was moved outside to a flight enclosure that has a couple other burrowing owls which are also recovering from injuries. Rehabilitation staff reported that it integrated well and there were no issues with its new enclosure mates.


Flying - Jun 17 2019 10:14 am

Rehabilitation staff reported that the owl is flying well around the outdoor enclosure. A check on its weight showed that the owl has been eating well and is gaining weight. The owl has been perching well using both legs, but staff continue to monitor the owl's use of the injured leg.


Radiograph Check - Jul 03 2019 12:46 pm

Earlier today, the owl was brought inside the hospital for veterinarians to perform a radiograph check on its leg. The bone has not healed entirely straight, but it is stable and veterinarians were not able to see any signs of arthritis in the joints which can be a cause of concern with a less than perfect bone. They also noted that the wing fracture had healed well and that the owl has great range of motion. Since everything checked out good for the owl on the radiographs, veterinarians were able to clear it for release!