Peregrine Falcon #14-1319

Admission Date: 
June 20, 2014
Location of Rescue: 
Richmond, Virginia
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Flew into a building
Patient Status: 
Current Patient

On June 19, the Wildlife Center received a call about one of the two female falcons hatched on cam in downtown Richmond on May 1, 2014. On June 17, the two birds fledged from their roost; volunteers with “FledgeWatch” looked on as the birds took their first flights. Two days after fledging from the nest, one of the birds flew into a building in downtown Richmond, damaging her left eye and beak. The bird was rescued and taken to the Cary Street Veterinary Hospital. The falcon was transported to the Wildlife Center the following morning.

Dr. Rich Sim, the Center’s veterinary fellow, examined the bird when she arrived. The examination of the falcon’s left eye revealed hemorrhage [bleeding] and inflammation within the eye and a significantly swollen third eyelid. Dr. Rich was unable to fully examine the back of the bird’s eye due to the presence of blood in the eye; a follow-up eye examination will be needed after several days to truly determine the prognosis of the eye. If the peregrine is visually compromised due to permanent eye injuries, she will be non-releasable. Dr. Rich and licensed veterinary technician Leigh-Ann took radiographs of the bird; no fractures were found, but Dr. Rich did find a ruptured air sac. The Peregrine Falcon is not having difficulty breathing; this rupture should heal within the next few days. The end of the bird’s beak was also fractured, though after consulting radiographs, Dr. Rich thinks the bone of the beak appears unharmed. He anticipates that the keratin of the beak will grow back within the next two to three months, with some re-shaping through beak trims.

The Peregrine Falcon was started on a course of anti-inflammatories and pain medication; the veterinary team also gave the bird fluids. The falcon was placed in the Center’s holding room; she will receive a follow-up eye examination on Monday, June 23.

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Peregrine in the news:

Richmond falcon's injured eye might keep it from being released, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Injured falcon is alert, but evaluation will take more time, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Wildlife Center of VA continues care of injured peregrine falcon, WTVR-TV


July 23, 2014

On the afternoon of July 22, veterinary intern Dr. Meghan Feeney took Peregrine Falcon #14-1319 to surgery to remove the bird’s left eye. Dr. Dave McRuer, the Center’s veterinary director, was present to assist.

The falcon underwent what’s known as an eye “evisceration” – the contents of the eye were surgically removed. This is different from an “enucleation”, where the entire globe is removed. This means the basic shape of the falcon’s face will stay more symmetrical, and the missing eye will likely be less noticeable. The advantages of this surgery are that the bird’s face is better balanced, the surgery is shorter, and there is a decreased risk of affecting the sight in the remaining eye.

The surgery went well, though was a little more difficult than anticipated, due to the extensive damage in the bird’s eye. A moderately sized piece of scar tissue was removed, causing additional bleeding. After surgery, the falcon recovered from anesthesia well, though the surgical site continued to bleed. The bleeding eventually slowed, and the falcon was placed back in the Center’s holding room overnight. The Peregrine Falcon will be on a course of pain medications and antibiotics for the next several days; the veterinary staff will monitor the surgical site daily.


July 21, 2014

During the past week, Peregrine Falcon #14-1319 received several more eye assessments. Dr. Dave McRuer, the Center’s veterinary director, noted that additional scar tissue was visible in the falcon’s injured eye on Thursday, July 17; on Saturday, Dr. Meghan Feeney, the Center’s veterinary intern, noted additional changes in the eye. On Monday, July 21, the falcon’s eye had visibly changed; the eye was atrophied and the falcon seemed to be reacting more to light [possibly indicating pain].

Given the changes in the eye, the falcon’s eye will need to be removed. Surgery has been scheduled for Tuesday, July 22. Once the falcon fully heals from the surgery in August, the outreach staff will begin glove-training the falcon to be an educational ambassador.

July 9, 2014

Peregrine Falcon #14-1319 continues to eat well and gain weight at the Wildlife Center. On July 7, Dr. Rich re-examined the falcon’s injured left eye. Last week, there was a large blood clot present in the bird’s eye, which prevented a full evaluation of all of the structures in the back of the eye. This week, the clot has developed into a band of connective tissue in the middle portion of the bird’s eye. With so much damage sustained to the eye, the Peregrine Falcon has been deemed non-releasable.

The Center veterinarians will continue to monitor the falcon’s injury in the coming weeks. If the injured eye deteriorates, the bird's eye might need to be surgically removed. After the veterinary staff determine the course of treatment required and the bird is medically stable, the Center staff will begin working with the bird as an educational ambassador candidate. 


June 30, 2014

Dr. Rich examined the injured eye of Peregrine Falcon #14-1319 again this morning. He found that while the blood in the front portion of the eye has cleared, there is still a large blood clot in the middle part of the bird’s eye. This means that the falcon did sustain some damage to her iris and surrounding structures, but Dr. Rich still cannot see all of the structures in the back of the eye to see the extent of the injuries and assess any permanent damage. At this point, it is very likely that the Peregrine Falcon is non-releasable.

The bird is eating well, and the rehabilitation staff will be increasing the amount of food to keep up with the falcon’s high metabolism. Dr. Rich and the veterinary team will continue to periodically monitor the peregrine’s eye. If the bird is non-releasable, once the injury is medically stable, the Wildlife Center outreach team will assess the bird’s suitability to become an education ambassador at the Wildlife Center of Virginia.


June 23, 2014

Dr. Rich re-checked the injured eye of Peregrine Falcon #14-1319 on the morning of June 23. The inflammation of the bird’s eye has improved, but the blood in the bird’s eye has not yet resolved enough for a complete evaluation. Dr. Rich will re-check the falcon’s eye in another week; at that point he should be able to fully see all the structures of the eye and determine if there is a permanent visual deficit. The falcon continues to receive pain medication for the eye injury.

Otherwise, the peregrine is bright, alert, and feisty. The rehabilitation staff has been offering the bird a diet of chopped mice and chicks due to the beak injury. The peregrine is still adapting to this captive diet; she’s eaten a small amount of chopped mice.