Squeaky the Scrub Jay

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California Scrub-Jay – Spunky Little Bird Undergoes Many Treatments by Wildlife Rehab and Release

by Kathleen Willis and Linda Adams
After receiving medication, the torticollis resolved and the bird was able to stand
After receiving medication, the torticollis resolved and the bird was able to stand

Sometimes, wildlife rehabilitators have a special case that involves a bird with a will to live in spite of setbacks in its recovery. In July of 2018, a California Scrub-Jay nestling was brought to our Intake Center after being found on the ground, fallen from the nest. It was suffering from severe dehydration, was stuporous, unable to stand, and very thin.

The nestling was also unable to hold up its head, a condition called torticollis that involves the muscles in the neck. There are many causes for torticollis including congenital, injury or disease. A cervical collar was fashioned from gauze and vetwrap to help support its head in the proper alignment. Kathleen Willis, Director of the Intake Center consulted with Wildlife Biologist Linda Adams. Considerable research was conducted.

Jay with cervical collar being fed
Jay with cervical collar being fed

After 72 hours of measured hydration, food and medication, the little nestling began to show signs of improvement. Additional treatment with vitamins, homeopathic remedies, and physical therapy, proved helpful. The cervical collar was removed within a short time as the bird was able to hold its head up.

Except for some residual neurological symptoms that causes him to twirl and flip at times, the little jay now looks and acts like he should for his age. We are still hoping for release but he will need to be overwintered in a flight cage. Birds in captivity sometimes suffer from feather damage. In this case, the bird had suffered nutritional deficiencies while his flight feathers were growing. When baby birds have missed meals, this can show up in their flight feathers as fault bars. These are weak areas in the feather that can cause the feather to break. A bird cannot be released until their feathers are grown out again.

The young jay will remain in Lisa Landrie’s large flight cage until he goes through a complete molt in the spring. We normally do not give our patients a name, but this little guy is fondly nicknamed “Squeaky” due to the quiet squeak sounds he makes when he seems content.

A much improved Squeaky, the California Scrub-Jay, looks at himself in a mirror in the flight cage.
A much improved Squeaky, the California Scrub-Jay, looks at himself in a mirror in the flight cage.

photos by Ann Westling

Your contributions to WR&R during Giving Tuesday (Nov 27th) will help other birds like this young jay. To donate, see WR&R’s webpage: www.cawildlife911.org/givingtuesday/

Thank you for your continual support!