sick feral homer
I am new here - have been reading many of the posts on the forum - and would really appreciate your opinions, since so many of you are so very knowledgeable, experienced, kind and willing to help. I apologize for the overly long post and hope it doesn’t seem arrogant or gratuitous - it’s not just that I am not very good at condensing, but I also don’t want to leave out something potentially telling. Thank you in advance for your advice and your time.
This concerns a pigeon that I have been feeding since 2008 as part of my feral flock in NYC. He has been eating almost daily out of my hand at my window ledge. He’s a male racing homer – banded. About a year ago I caught him to remove thread on his feet and read his band. It's a 2007 band from Foy’s: IPB B 219. Did not contact Foy’s to seek owner since he has a mate and is well established with his flock, that he's been a part of since at least early 2008, which is when I fist saw him.
One day in the mid Jan when I was feeding the pj's at my window, instead of taking off with the others when they all suddenly took off, he came into my living room. He had acted normally the previous days, and it was very cold, so I thought he just wants to warm himself. Sometimes some pj's do that. After a few hours I caught him and put him back out. He’s always been a reticent bird - usually eats and leaves, doesn't hang around. In the next few days, he didn’t come to eat – I could see him just lying on window ledges. I began regretting having put him out. Couple of days later, he came with the others & did exactly the same – did not take off, but in a panic came inside. I thought he must have had a close call with a hawk (there are so many around) and is traumatized, he seemed to be afraid of the open window. So anyway, the pigeon, which I’ve been calling Champion, settled right in in a corner of the room, very alert but calm. I brought him food and water. He immediately drank quite a lot, ate a little, looked perfectly normal, not ruffled or lethargic, the only thing that was off, was that I had noticed him sort of not walking right these past few days. He showed no desire to leave & a phobia of the open window. Over the next few days it became clear that his walking is getting worse. After reading a lot of information on the net, including this forum, I examined him and it seemed like a pretty typical case of salmonellosis. I started looking for help. I tried posting to this forum, but couldn’t, and neither could I get hold of the bird rehabbers. I had to find somebody to borrow money to take him to a vet as I’m currently unemployed. By the time I got an appointment with an avian vet, it was Tuesday January 24 – a full week since he had come in to stay. By then he could barely walk, was lying down all the time, couldn’t fly and was hardly eating, so I was handfeeding him.
I saw an avian vet who sees pigeons. He said pigeon is in good condition in terms of body fat –he weighed 460. He sees no canker, the wing joint is inflamed and swollen. He said it’s salmonella, and prescribed a 14 day course of TMS suspension because they’ve been seeing a lot of resistance with Baytryl.
I had also made an appointment at the NYC Wild Bird Fund, to see a rehabber - Gloria. I told her about my vet visit. She strongly disagreed about the TMS, and insisted on Baytril, saying they are not seeing resistance in ferals. She wanted to start him on Baytril right away with an injection. She seemed very knowledgeable so I consented. She gave me Baytril for 14 days, 2x day. She also gave Champion a shot of vitamin B and a drop of Metacam for the inflammation. She looked at his poop under a microscope and said it had yeast, so she also gave him Nystatin, which I was to give for 14 days 2 x day. She thought his crop was a bit full, as did the vet, but that was probably because I had just fed him before leaving. She also gave me Metacam – for 5 days and a daily B complex pill. She taught me how to administer the medicines into his crop and took an X-ray of his wing. Everything looked fine on the X-ray.
He almost started improving the next day. Two days after his appointment he would get out of his cardboard house to go to his food, not very far, but still. Over the next few days his legs continued to improve, and by the end of the first week on antibiotics he was walking normally. He still couldn’t fly. Hated being given his meds, to which I also added cod liver oil every other day for a few days. Champion would start trembling whenever he’d see me, even if I only peered through the glass door of the room. My voice too would trigger a major trembling attack. He was never confined to a cage, but had a small cardboard box laying on it’s side – kind of like a dog house where he’d go to lie down. His wing was gradually improving. He couldn’t outstretch it, but was constantly trying. He became very lively and would call out to his mate constantly. Poor thing didn’t know that she had found someone else and was already sitting on eggs. Soon enough he regained his flying ability and would strut and coo on the window ledge all day for the pigeons, which were on the other side of the glass or screen. He was really, really ready and eager to leave. What bothered me was that even as he was rapidly improving in every other way, his droppings seemed to be getting worse and fewer and he simply wasn’t eating as much as he should. Actually, when he first came in, before his treatment, his droppings looked a lot better, much firmer. Now they were green and watery. His appetite had not improved to normal levels, and I was afraid he was loosing weight. He was totally obsessed with the other pigeons, and with getting out, & I have seen males loose interest in food when it is the courting season, so it didn’t bother me that much. I was afraid that the antibiotics were wrecking havoc on his gut, so I stopped them one day earlier than prescribed – he was on them for 13 instead of 14 days. I gave him probiotics instead on the 14th day as well as on the following day.
On day 15, I took him back to the rehabber. She checked his wing which had a just little bit of swelling left, and he now weighed 440 instead of the 460 of two weeks ago. She said that he is ready for release, and that I should let him go and not stress him further. She gave me one pill Avertex for coccidia and 1/4 pill Drontal for worms. She also looked at some poop under the microscope and said his gut flora looks fine.
I released him that very day hoping that he would still come to eat at the window, but not really expecting him to after all the torture that he suffered at my hands. I watched him all day, and he didn’t do much besides call to his mate, who couldn’t care less about him.
He came the following morning with the other pj's and ate out of my hand, but again quite little. The following day, he not only came to eat, but came inside, ran to his food, took a few pecks, drank and immediately went to his cardboard house. He stayed for a few hours and left at dusk to sleep on one of the window ledges nearby. He has been doing this ever since his release, every day without fail, he comes in, stays sometimes a few hours, sometimes the whole day and leaves at dusk. This gives me an opportunity to monitor his poop and his food intake, and both really worry me, and are the reason I am writing. Last Sunday, when he came in I gave him the Avertex & Drontal, Prime vitamins, and probiotic. I took pictures of his poop which had bubbles in it. On Tuesday Feb 14 – one week after his release - I took him back to Gloria. I was worried about canker. She looked at his throat, said she saw nothing, palpated his crop, and felt nothing. Did a crop swab for yeast, said there was none, but didn’t look for canker. Gave him one Spartrix pill. She also gave him a shot of Reglan (I don’t know why since his crop was empty), a shot of vitamin B, and an iron shot for anemia, as said he looked pale around the mouth, and also gave me quinine for Malaria – for 7 days. She really didn't know what was going on but said that maybe we discontinued the antibiotic too soon, so she recommended to continue Baytril for another week, and give Nystatin for a week. She looked at his droppings under the microscope, and said there was yeast in his intestines and there are no negative bacteria. I asked shouldn’t we try the TMS as it seems to throw a wider net, but she said no, since he had responded so well to the Baytryl.
So far I haven’t given him any of the medications she suggested on the last visit and my questions are:
- since he was on Baytril and Nystatin while this intestinal thing was getting worse, why go back to the same meds.
- Could this be coccidia, canker?
- Is the Nystatin going to help for yeast that’s in the intestines.
- What do you think of the Malaria suggestion – in NYC in the winter?
- I now notice him swallowing repeatedly, especially after he eats but not only, not adjusting his crop, just swallowing. Yesterday he sneezed once and today he also sneezed once or twice. Should I be worried?
- He seems to run to the food with appetite, but then he doesn’t eat a lot. He picks out his favorite – but still just a few sunflower seeds and peanuts. Could he have some kind of blockage?
- His behavior is almost normal – since I released him Feb 7th I have seen him strutting about, mating with one female who came to him! But sometimes when the whole flock takes off as one, he stays behind, and sometimes comes inside instead. What does it mean when it’s a sunny day to come inside and sit in a semi-dark cardboard box or room? Is this a sign of a bird feeling unwell or is this just something that homing pigeons do – come back to the place where they’ve spent three weeks.
Thanks for any and all feedback, or for just taking the time to read through all this.
Will post pictures of bird and poop tonight as soon as I figure out how.
|feral homer, feral racing pigeon|