On 29 February, the CCF staff was having a normal lunch at the “Hot Spot,” our cafeteria and meal location. Niki, one of the ecologists, noted a recently fledged hornbill chick on the ground in distress. Gaby, the CCF veterinarian, rushed over to its aid, discovering it was stuck in the sap of the tree which had dripped on the ground. The feathers were covered in sap and the poor sticky bird could not escape. Together Gaby and Erina, CCF’s research veterinarian who has years of experience treating birds and other native wildlife in Australia, transported the bird to the CCF clinic for triage and treatment. “Gooey,” as he is now called, was anaesthetised and a tiny IV catheter was use as a breathing tube to give him oxygen and anaesthetic. He was tenderly washed in warm soapy water, removing all the sap from his feathers. Then he was thoroughly dried using a hairdryer to preserve his feathers, essential for flight. He was given warm fluids to keep him hydrated and stayed in a bird condo (a box with branches and leaves) in the clinic overnight.
The following morning Erina released Gooey at the nest site with his parents and siblings present. Contrary to popular belief, bird parents will take back their young even after handling by humans. Gooey flew into a nearby tree and started calling; and his mother immediately flew over to him and the family was reunited! Gooey has been seen at the nest box repeatedly since the incident and is doing fine! We covered the site on the ground where the sap had dripped to avoid a repeat problem, and Gaby’s cutlery from lunch the day before was still lying on the ground next to the place where Gooey had been rescued.
Gabriella Flacke, DVM, MVSc