Hurdle of Health Checks
From Field Journal by Joe
Duff, Operation Migration
Hooded for the health check
Photo Richard van Heuvelen, Operation
up for Health Checks Panels
from our travel pen are used to create a visual barrier and a portable
shade shelter for the examinations. These items, along with a table,
weigh scales, and all the vet equipment, are hauled out onto the runway
Handling the Birds
costumed handler stays in the pen. One at a time and in numerical order,
birds are ushered through the front gate into the waiting arms of
two aviculturists, who pick up the crane. To pick up
a crane you extend one arm over the bird’s back letting
its head and neck extend under your arm and out the back. With that
same arm you hold the wings from extending, and clasp the legs between
fingers just above the hock. It sounds easy, but I can assure you it
is not. The bird will rake with its feet, poke with its beak and squirm.
You have to restrain
squeezing, calm it without talking, and avoid straining muscles, twisting
joints, or damaging feathers, all the while under the watchful eye
of the vets and other crane experts — ever mindful that you
are holding one of the rarest birds in North America, in which several
and an equal number of hours have already been invested.
Exam, Banding, and Weighing
Photo Richard van Heuvelen, Operation Migration
Once the bird is in hand, the other aviculturist examines the eyes,
beak and throat before placing a hood over its head. This allows
of the team to work on the bird behind the visual barrier without
having to wear the cumbersome costume head gear.
medical examination is complete each bird is fitted with identification
bands and a snap-on tracking device.
Richard van Heuvelen, Operation Migration
is weighed, measured, and returned to the pen. It takes an average
of 9 minutes to do it all. Back in the pen, the birds are watched
for signs of stress. They also get some sympathy
treats for the ordeal they just endured.
Some birds take this capture and handling in stride. Most are sore, but
some are indignant. It might take a few days before they are again greeting
the gate. Even then, the extra band on the other leg causes them
a cat with tape on its foot.
The examinations for all the birds usually go without surprises, just
as you would expect from a team of expert crane handlers. But
our relief. It's another hurdle cleared!
This! Journal Questions
- Describe how the bird is being weighed in the photo above. How does
the vet know how much the crane weighs? How is it helpful to weigh
the cranes this way?
- Why do you think the team feels relief when the exams are done and the
birds safely back in the pen? Click
here to read about a time when it
didn't turn out that way.