Patient of the Week: Common Loon

Photo of Common Loon treated at International Bird Rescue
Following toe surgery this beautiful Common Loon is out swimming in our pools at the San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue
Radiograph shows hook puncturing foot of Common Loon.
Radiograph: Fish hook fragment embedded in bird’s toe prior to surgery.

A Common Loon, our patient of the week, was rescued with a fish hook injury and is in care at our San Francisco Bay Center.

The Loon was found stranded in Fort Ord near Monterey, CA on May 1st. It was captured by our colleagues at the SPCA for Monterey County. The underweight but alert and active bird was transferred to us for further care and management of its fishing hook injuries.

This week our staff veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, performed surgery to remove infected tissue from the bird’s foot. Normally she prefers to wait until a bird’s plumage is fully waterproof before performing foot surgery, but this bird’s toe was already very badly infected so she opted to do the procedure right away.

Fish hook injuries often seem innocuous, but unfortunately, this is something we see far too often. A simple poke with a dirty fish hook may skewer tendons or joints and lead to terrible infections like in this bird. As shown in the photographs, fish hooks that puncture toes often cause osteomyelitis (bone infections) and cause adjacent bone to be eaten away by bacteria. Fish hook infections may also lead to systemic infections affecting the entire bird.

As of today this beautiful bird is mostly waterproof and out swimming in our pools. Current therapy includes antibiotics, pain medication, and lots of tasty fish.

adopt-bird-button-transNote: International Bird Rescue treats 5,000 injured and sick aquatic birds each year. We rely on the generosity of the public to help fund our bird care at both California centers. Please Adopt-a-Loon

Photo of Common Loon's infected foot before surgery at International Bird Rescue
Common Loon’s left foot prior to removal of a hook fragment and infected tissue. Photo by Michelle Bellizzi – International Bird Rescue

2 thoughts on “Patient of the Week: Common Loon”

  1. Aug. 8, 2015
    Walking on the south end of Ocean Beach, San Francisco – I saw about 10 dead Common Loons (I think) and 1 live bird standing on the shore – by itself. Is something going on that is affecting this particular species?

    • Sarah,

      Thanks for your question on why you are seeing dead seabirds at Ocean Beach. There has been higher number of hungry seabirds affected by the warming of Pacific Ocean waters. This drives fish to deeper depths in search of cooler waters – making diving seabirds unable to reach needed food. We have also had a lot of baby Common Murres coming into our San Francisco Center.

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