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"Our" American Avocet

photo by Gail Storey

Unusual Avocet Rescue
John Kennington

Tulsa World Covers the Rescue!  Part 2

For those not following the story on the OKBirds listserve, an American Avocet had been seen hanging around a small pond at the corner of 121st St. and 129 E. Ave. in Broken Arrow, just north of the Bixby Sod Farms. It was in this same spot for at least a week, and observers suspected the bird could be injured.

"Our" Avocet on edge of pond

photo by John Kennington

On April 15, I contacted Gail Storey, TAS Vice-President and a wildlife rehabber in Tulsa, and she went to check on the bird. I live only 3 miles away and was working from home that day, so met her out there to help. The bird indeed could not fly, but our attempts to capture it were unsuccessful.

At this time a neighbor, Rocky Lewis, approached to ask about our suspicious behavior. I explained the situation, and he said he had also noticed the bird. Being a sportsman and Ducks Unlimited member he had recognized it as an Avocet. Seeing that we could not capture the bird, he said his Black Lab Zoe could easily retrieve the bird.

Zoe with Rockey Lewis

photo by John Kennington

Also at this time another neighbor, Kelly Huckaby and her son arrived and explained they had also been watching the bird. Fortunately Kelly had her camera and got some wonderful photos of the rescue, shown below.

Rocky then told Zoe to retrieve the bird, and she jumped in the pond and swam after the Avocet. She pursued it for a few moments (did you know that Avocets could dive!) and soon caught up with it, gently grasping it in her mouth. Gail had been on the far side of the pond, and had not heard my conversation with Rocky, and you could see the fear on her face - she was certain that the dog would eat the Avocet!

Of course, Zoe treated the Avocet with kid gloves, and swam back to shore and presented the bird to us with hardly a feather ruffled. The bird had no obvious injuries to explain why it could not fly, and Gail placed it in her carrier to end a successful rescue.

Gail then transported the Avocet to Dr. Paul Welch, a wonderful vet in Tulsa (Forest Trails Animal Hospital) who works with area rehabbers, donating his services. Dr. Welch reported that after an x-ray he found it had a fracture in the wing. There are two bones there and one bone was fine and would act as a natural splint. He said that if the bird were placed on a pond in relative safety, that it would heal in a few weeks.

Gail did not want to take the bird back to where we found it, as it was too exposed and out of it's natural migration path. She called Ron Shepherd at the Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Oklahoma (3 hrs west of Tulsa) and he offered to help. It was April 17, just two days after rescuing the bird, and Gail immediately drove out there, arriving about 5:00 p.m. Ron took them to a non-public area with a pond that was perfect, and there was even another avocet nearby. Just over a small dike was a large lake that had about 200 avocets, many of which nest there. Gail released the bird at the edge of the pond. She reports "He was so happy. He drank and started to feed. I think that this was the best thing to do. I was concerned about how the bird would fare in captivity. I really appreciated Ron's help. He said that he was happy to help a bird in need."

Thank you the real hero of this story, Zoe, and to everyone involved in what turned out to be a successful team effort!

        Zoe swimming to shore with the Avocet

 photo by Kelly Huckaby

              Zoe presenting the Avocet to Rocky and Gail.       

photo by Kelly Huckaby

                      Rocky, John, Zoe and Gail

photo by Kelly Huckaby

                  Avocets are beautiful birds!

photo by Kelly Huckaby

          Ron Shephard from the Great Salt Plains NWR.

photo by Gail Storey

            The Avocet taking its first drink after being released!

photo by Gail Storey

                              The Real Hero, Zoe!

photo by John Kennington




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Copyright 2013 Tulsa Audubon Society
Last modified: January 28, 2014




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