A concerned woman called Burge Bird Rescue about a cage full of birds she saw on her neighbor's deck. The weather in our area had been turning colder, dropping into the 40's at night, and the birds were outside 24/7 with no protection from the elements. She asked if we would be able to take them if she could get the owner to surrender them to her. It turned out he put them outside because he was afraid they would draw roaches, and he was trying to sell them. He refused to give them away, forcing her to pay him $80 for the 7 Zebra Finches and their cage. She brought them straight to our office, where we found them to be in remarkably good shape, other than being underweight, considering the conditions they were forced to live in. A cut up plastic milk jug held their food dish, so they had to fly down inside it in order to eat, and of course their droppings fouled the dish and food.
We can't even begin to guess why someone would get finches and then decide to put them outside so there wouldn't be a seed or feather or poop on the floor. Did they think birds are zero maintenance like stuffed animals? Thank goodness for decent people who care enough about animals to actually take action.
"The Marshfield Miracle Birds"
A 95 year old woman lived alone in a small town in south central Missouri. Her two children lived in other states, so she had no family to check on her except by phone. Neighbors tried to help her by doing yard work, but she would never let anyone inside her house. After one of her daughters was unable to reach her mother by phone for 3 days, she called a neighbor, who discovered the lady collapsed on the floor, and she was taken to the hospital, unlikely to ever be able to return home. It was found that she had a bird cage in the garage with several cockatiels inside, huddled in the darkness, partially covered by a filthy tattered blanket. None of the light fixtures in the garage were working, so the only light came from the small, filthy windows in the garage door at the other end of the room. The cage was surrounded by a massive debris pile that resembled a mountain made up of seed hulls and feces and feathers and dust. Several other cages scattered around the garage were equally filthy, but contained no birds.
Using a flashlight, we saw there were several pearl cockatiels, a pearl pied, and a lutino pearl (pearl markings are beautiful little white or yellow scallops on each feather down the back and wings). They were placed into carriers with heating pads and driven the 2.5 hours back to our hospital. After getting them out for treatment, we discovered they were not pearls at all, but were actually all covered with clumps of feces and stains from the droppings that had fallen from birds on the single perch in the top of the cage. They were all emaciated (skeletal) and would have been dead within the next 24 to 48 hours had we not managed to get to them when we did. Three birds started eating immediately, and the other two started eating an hour later after they calmed down from their stressful trip.
*****THE REST OF THE STORY: WARNING FOR GRAPHIC CONTENT*****
On the bottom of the cage where the 5 birds were found were the bodies of 27 deceased cockatiels, some of which had apparently been dead for months, others only a day or two. A total of 32 birds had been housed in a cage we usually consider adequate for 4 to 6 cockatiels. The bodies were brought back with us to be cremated, and their ashes buried at a pet cemetery.
"Cages That Were Never Cleaned"
These 16 birds, including 1 Eclectus Parrot, 2 Cockatiels, 1 Budgie, and 12 Canaries, arrived at Burge Bird Rescue after being confiscated by animal control from an alleged neglect situation. The canaries were in cages that had obviously not been cleaned in months! They have been with us for 5 months while the legal battle drags out, and it looks like we are not going to be reimbursed for their care. Most of them are finally available for adoption. This is the second time this owner has had all of her animals removed, and we had to provide months of care for them with no payment last time either.
"Baby Duck Dying"
We rarely get to work on a baby bird the same day it hatches! This tiny baby duck came to us weak from blood loss after his umbilical cord was torn as he tried to escape his egg shell. We gave him oxygen, heat, and fluids, gently removed him from the still attached shell, and did surgery to repair his umbilical hernia. Only 4 days later he was a cute, sassy little dude ready to go to a new home where he found a new BFF, a baby goose the same age that was all alone.
"Poor Little Chicken"
This sweet, pretty girl was donated to our rescue after a raccoon tore off half of her wing. We did surgery, and she is going great with only one wing and went to a new home with better security so the monsters can never hurt her again.
"A numbered list of problems"
Sometimes a bird comes to see us with so many things wrong that I actually start a numbered list on the chart to keep it all straight. So, what was wrong with this male cockatiel?
1. Nostrils almost completely clogged with dust and debris
2. On the cheapest possible seed diet from Walmart, and never ate anything else
3. Body score about 1.8 out of 5.0 (1.0 is a skeleton, 3.0 is normal, 5.0 is obese)
4. Mass over the right metacarpus (wing tip) almost 1 inch diameter, probable xanthoma (fatty cholesterol growths that are not cancerous, but will invade the muscles and can only be removed by amputation of the wing, sometimes a result of a fatty diet with too many sunflower seeds)
5. Mass over the left metacarpus almost 1.5 inches diameter with an ulcerated bleeding surface (probable xanthoma, since this is the most common location for these growths in cockatiels)
6. Left foot and some toes swollen with Grade 1 to 2 (out of 5) pododermatitis (like bed sores, seen in the feet of birds that are old, overweight, always sitting on the same size hard perches, or on a diet low in vitamin A)
7. Right distal tibiotarsus (lower leg just above the ankle) nonunion fracture of about 2 weeks duration (meaning the bones weren't healing together and possibly never will) so he was trying to move around in the cage with a broken leg for 14 days!!!
The owner donated the poor little bird to us so we were able to help him. We bandaged his leg, started him on antibiotics, vitamins, and mineral supplements. We bandaged the wing with the bleeding mass to keep it protected from further trauma. He was moved to a cage with low, soft, padded perches and platforms to help his swollen foot heal.
To top it all off, he didn't even have a name despite being with his last owner for about 5 years. At least his cage and dishes were clean and he had some toys, so he was not in the worst circumstances we might have seen.
In the spring we took in four macaws from a sanctuary that was closing that also housed tigers, wolves, emus, and a variety of other exotic animals. They did not have records on any of their birds, and they were overcrowded with some in cages that were too small. Most of them had no names. Seven other macaws went to another rescue, and between the birds they took and the ones we got, there were multiple undiagnosed serious health issues. Obviously the birds had received no veterinary care in a very long time. Both rescues spent hundreds to thousands of dollars trying to care for these birds, some of which will never be healthy.
"The African Grey with 3 Nostrils"
Meet Teka! She came into our rescue when her 93 year old owner was no longer able to care for her. She obviously had a sinus infection for years (decades?) causing her right nostril to enlarge and the bone to become so deformed that she has a permanent large hole in her head. There is a smaller second hole in the tissue so you can see right thru her head! Once we cleaned out some of the contents we could see into the sinuses inside her skull! This could have been prevented if she had ever been taken to an experienced avian veterinarian, who could have diagnosed and treated the sinus infection before it turned into this disaster. She now needs preventative treatment for the rest of her life to keep more debris from building up inside the gaping hole. She is a sweet girl, and she was quickly adopted into a special home with someone who will keep a close eye on her condition and medicate her as needed.
"Harry the Australian Black Swan"
Many species of pet birds bred to live outside, such as most breeds of ducks, were bred to be unable to fly. In Harry's case, his ability to fly was destroyed by the fact that one of his wings had been partially removed by a surgery called pinioning, which involves amputation of the tip of the wing when the bird is a couple of days old. We have never performed this surgery on a bird, as we prefer to see owners set up a safe living space with adequate fencing and netting to keep their outdoor birds safe. Harry was rescued in January from a pond in a townhouse complex, where he and his mate (who had died months earlier) had been living since the spring with no shelter and no regular feedings. He is very happy to have been saved from starving and freezing, and he took over our "wild bird room". Since this species usually costs $500 to $1000 per bird, it is hard to understand why someone bought a pair and left them in such an inappropriate place! Harry was sent to a sanctuary where he is now bonded with a lonely female who fell in love with him at first sight.
"It Is Just A Pigeon"
Even pigeons deserve to be cared for and not abused. This year a pigeon (a wild one, not the one shown in the picture, because his pictures are too graphic to show on Facebook) was brought into Burge Bird Rescue by a good Samaritan who found him unable to fly, with gross smelling crust on his chest and one wing. We put him under anesthesia to clean up the crust and found two holes in his crop and a large wound on his wing. His radius and ulna (middle section of the wing) bones were broken. When cleaning out the wounds, we could see that something deep inside the wound was grey. I took a look, grasped the piece in question, and pulled out a pellet gun pellet! It was the same diameter as the ulna, so it looked and felt like bone. We debated whether a single shot went into the crop, exited, and then hit the wing, but the pellet would have had to change direction when it hit the bone to land in the position it did. Our little buddy healed very well from his crop wounds, but unfortunately his wing bones were too badly infected and that wing had to be amputated. He found a new homea few weeks later with someone who was looking for a pet pigeon. Despite the two long surgeries, antibiotics, and hospitalization, his adoption fee was only $5.00. Turns out this animal rescue business is not exactly profitable!
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