Barred Owl with Wing Fractures

An adult barred owl (Strix varia) was brought to Tufts Wildlife Clinic after being found by the side of a road unable to fly. On physical examination, veterinarians found that the bird had fractures of the radius and ulna (equivalent to the bones of the forearm) of the right wing. The owl was administered fluids and pain medication, and wing was bandaged. The following day, when veterinarians felt that the owl’s condition was stable, it was placed under anesthesia in order for radiographs (x-rays) of the wing to be taken and for surgical repair of the fractured bones to be performed. The radiographs confirmed mid-shaft fractures of the right radius and ulna (Figure 1).

Owl radiograph
Figure 1. Radiograph of barred owl with mid-shaft fractures of the right radius and ulnar.

In order to repair the fractured bones, an intramedullary (IM) pin was placed in the radius, and an external skeletal fixator-IM pin tie-in, or hybrid fixator, was placed on the ulna (Figure 2). Post-operatively the owl was treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication for pain. The owl maintained an excellent appetite during its recovery. Three weeks after surgery, the fixator was partially removed, with the remainder of the pins removed one week later. The fracture was well healed, and the range of motion in the elbow and wrist joints was normal (Figure 3).

Owl radiographOwl radiograph
Figure 2 (Left). Radiograph of surgically repaired right radial and ulnar fractures. Figure 3 (Right). Radiograph of right radial and ulnar fracture following removal of all fixation pins.

After an additional week of cage rest, the owl was moved to a medium-sized aviary to allow use of the wing. After two weeks in this aviary, the bird was placed in a large flight cage (100 feet x 40 feet x 20 feet), which allowed evaluation of the owl’s flight and provided a large enough space for the owl to be reconditioned. Due both to the injury and to the several weeks of recovery time, exercise and active physical therapy was necessary before the owl could be released. The bird’s form in flight was excellent, and its strength and conditioning quickly improved. Following two weeks in the large flight cage, the owl was fitted with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife leg band and released in the town in which it was found (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Barred owl just prior to (left) and following (right) release after recovery from fractures of the right radius and ulna.

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