Newport - A Western snowy plover undergoing treatment at the Oregon Coast Aquarium lost its left foot. The plover arrived at the Aquarium March 19 with a swollen left foot as a result of a fine threadlike material wrapped around the ankle of her left leg, which severely compromised circulation to the animal's foot. A substantial amount of dead tissue came off the injured leg upon the removal of the thread.
"The damage to the tissue surrounding her ankle was just too severe," said Karen Anderson, curator of birds for the Aquarium. "We tried treating the wound with a cellular graft, but the injuries were just too extensive. The bird is recovering nicely, and we expect her to make a full recovery." The remaining portion of the plover's leg is being treated with liquid bandage, and she remains on antibiotics to prevent any further infection.
The plover was brought to the Aquarium after wildlife biologists spotted her along the south jetty of Humboldt Bay, Calif. The plover was released Saturday, where it was found. "She immediately flew off and was in the company of other birds," said Hugh Dolly from the Aquarium.
"She has successfully bred in the past, and we are confident she'll be fine back in the wild,"Anderson said.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service records, the snowy plover hatched July 3, 2000 on an Eel River gravel bar in Humboldt County, Calif. She had one sibling, who later joined the Oregon Coast breeding population. In July 2001, she brooded her own chick at a site not far from where she was born. She spends the winters on Humboldt County beaches and returns to the Eel River to nest. In 2002, she had three nests; two were successful and hatched a total of five chicks. In 2003, she again had three nests, finally succeeding on her third attempt, producing two chicks.
This is the second Western snowy plover Oregon Coast Aquarium aviculturists have treated for an injured leg this year. The first injured bird arrived at the Aquarium on the afternoon of Feb. 19 after representatives of the Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center's Snowy Plover field team spotted the plover with a swollen right leg and foot at the Siltcoos River estuary. The plover had a fracture of the tarsometatarsus, the long part of the leg between the hock and the foot.
Unfortunately, the damage was too severe and the leg had to be amputated just below the fracture.Following the amputation, the remaining portion of the plover's leg was treated with liquid bandage, and she remained on antibiotics for another three days to prevent any further infection. She was released back into the wild March 1.
The Western snowy plover was listed in 1993 as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Western snowy plovers are small, pale-colored shorebirds with dark patches on either side of the upper breast. The coastal population, of which only about 107 individual birds remain in Oregon, breeds along the Pacific coast from southern Washington to southern Baja California, Mexico. They are now absent from most of their historic breeding areas.
Adults typically lay three well-camouflaged eggs on bare sand. Newly hatched chicks are the size of a small cotton ball and are difficult to see, making them vulnerable to trampling. Human and animal disturbances can also result in nest abandonment or in parent-chick separation. Other dangers to nesting plovers include the loss of habitat due to beach grass onto its preferred bare-sand nesting area, predators such as crows and ravens, blowing sand and severe weather.
Once the eggs have hatched, the male does the rearing while the female leaves to find another mate and nest again. The female can produce up to four nests with eggs per season, depending on the success of the nests. Males stay with the chicks for about a month or until they have sufficient foraging skills and grow their flight feathers.
As an American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) accredited institution, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors and a better future for all living things. With more than 200 accredited members, the AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation and a link to helping animals in their native habitats. For information, visit (www.aza.org)
The Oregon Coast Aquarium has rehabilitated and released (when possible) injured seabirds, endangered fur seals, harbor seal pups, tropical sea turtles and marine mammals including various endangered species. The Oregon Coast Aquarium does not receive any additional funding for the care of animals brought to the facility for rehabilitation. Funding for these projects comes directly out of the money budgeted for the care of the Aquarium's 15,000 marine animals. If you would like to help support the Aquarium's rehabilitation efforts, call (541) 867-3474 ext. 5228.