Pied-billed Grebe #19-3094

October 17, 2019
Rescue Location
Albemarle County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Stranded on road; fractured skull
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On October 17, a man found a juvenile Pied-billed Grebe sitting in the middle of the road in Albemarle County, Virginia. He was able to capture the small waterbird and brought it to the Wildlife Center that same afternoon for treatment.

Pied-billed Grebes are aquatic diving birds with legs that are positioned far back on their bodies. While their leg placement is ideal for moving through water, it is more difficult for grebes to move on land. Grebes require a large body of water from which to take off; it’s not uncommon to find these birds stranded on or beside the road, particularly after heavy rains or ice storms. Sometimes, these birds simply need to be moved to a body of water; other times, they are injured in the impact of landing on a road or struggling to move off of the road.

In the case of grebe 19-3094, the veterinary team found that the bird had a fracture of the right orbit of its skull – the bony socket surrounding the eye. Dr. Claire, the Center’s veterinary intern, started treating the grebe with anti-inflammatories, fluids, and medicated eye drops. Due to the swollen tissue around the eye, it was difficult to assess the grebe’s vision; another set of radiographs and eye examination are scheduled for October 24.

The rehabilitation staff is swimming the grebe each day to assess and improve the grebe’s waterproofing. On October 22, the rehab team took the grebe to the A3 flight enclosure, where a large inflatable pool is set up. The grebe was unable to stay in the water very long; wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey noted that the grebe’s feathers became wet quickly.

The rehab staff will plan to swim the grebe three times a day and will offer fish during the swimming sessions to see if the grebe will hunt for itself. Keep an eye on Critter Cam 1 to see if you can catch one of these short swimming sessions!

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Your donation will help provide specialized medical care to this injured waterbird and approximately 4,000 other patients that the Wildlife Center will help this year.


Patient Updates

Throughout the weekend, the staff continued to mist and care for Pied-billed Grebe #19-3094, including hand-feeding the bird since it showed no ability to find food in its enclosure and feed itself. On Monday, October 28, the veterinary team critically evaluated the grebe and found that the bird was still avisual – while the grebe may have been slightly responsive in its right eye, it appeared entirely blind in the left eye. This issue continues to support the theory that the bird sustained damage to its optic nerve. Sadly, since there was no indication of healing, the staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the grebe.

Pied-billed Grebe #19-3094 had a follow-up examination, radiographs, and ophthalmic examination on October 24. Dr. Ernesto, the Center’s hospital director, believes that the grebe is having vision issues in both of its eyes, likely due to the compression from the grebe’s fractured skull. It may be that the head trauma and subsequent swelling of the brain damaged the grebe’s optic nerve; at this point, prognosis is poor though there’s still a small chance that as the fracture heals, the swelling around the brain decreases and the grebe may regain vision.

The staff are hand-feeding the grebe, since it’s not eating on its own. For now, the swimming sessions have ceased in the pool in the A3 enclosure, and instead, the grebe is being heavily misted three times a day to encourage preening.