It’s not every day that our vet team are given the opportunity to give new wings to the fastest bird in level flight!
"Taylor" was swift number 32, this season, and whilst his overall condition was ok, he had, unfortunately, arrived with two snapped primary feathers, as well as a third one showing signs of malnutrition. Spouts of malnutrition in swifts can be seen throughout the developments of their feathers, and for Taylor, the third primary had a slight indent, also known as a stress bar, this bar indicates that during the development of the feather, Taylor suffered a period of low nutrition.
These bars ultimately weaken the strength of the feather, and so we suspect the two snapped primaries may have also shown signs of low nutrition.
On arrival, Taylor also only weighed 28g, which is a little light for a bird that's got to migrate all the way to Africa!
Needing to address Taylor's weight first, he was placed into the very capable hands of one of our swift foster team, where he was fed a diet of crickets, locusts, and wax worms, all with added vitamins and minerals, every 2 hours. Over the next two weeks, Taylor gained a hefty and healthy 15g, so it was now time to address his feather issues, or their lack of!
Swifts travel incredible distances, so, unlike other birds, they simply can't afford to have anything less than perfection, when it comes to flight feathers.
With our vet team having previous experience of "Imping", the procedure in which damaged feathers are replaced with healthy feathers from a deceased donor bird, they hadn't yet had the opportunity to perform this little magic trick on a smaller, much more delicate, bird.
But, as ever, Marco, one of our super vets, was a star, and Taylor was fitted with two new feathers, giving him a complete symmetrical set.
With time, Taylor will moult the donor feathers as, he grows his own replacements for the two damaged feathers. The procedure allows birds to get back to the wild sooner, something vitally important for swifts, who have a rather tight schedule.
Waiting for the weather to be good enough for release was the next challenge, but finally Monday the 7th of August was the day! So at the foot of the South Downs, Taylor finally got to take back to the skies, in a condition that will see him migrate all the way to Africa!