Photo by Ben Kitzler
On September 16, 2020, an immature (hatch-year) turkey vulture was admitted to the Raptor Center. The finder reported that the vulture had been lying on his porch for three days before admission. On exam, the young vulture was unable to stand or fly. The bird showed a pain response when the left wing was examined, but no fracture or obvious injury was detected. Since the bird was unable to stand, the rehabilitators were concerned that the bird could have a spinal injury. After the bird was stabilized, it was taken to Dr. Ann Manharth, DVM, for examination and radiographs. The x-rays showed a very concerning spinal lesion. Only time would tell if the spinal injury would result in permanent damage.
The turkey vulture was returned to the Raptor Center and treated with fluids, nutritional supplementation, and anti-inflammatory medication. After five days of rest and tender loving care, the bird miraculously began to stand. A few days later, it was well enough to be moved outside to the flight enclosures, where it was able to make short, low flights. Over the next two weeks, the bird rapidly improved with no permanent damage from the spinal lesion and was soon flying the length of the 100-foot flight enclosure and perching on the 13-foot high perch. This vulture was ready for release!
The young vulture was returned to its home territory, where it joined a flock of other turkey vultures and soared high on the rising thermals.