Small heron found injured on Fergus road released back into wetland

A Least bittern - a small heron - was found with a bruised wing, parasites and was underweight when it was taken to the Guelph Humane Society on May 19.

Bird had bruised wing, parasites and was underweight when taken to Guelph Humane Society

This least bittern, which is a type of heron, was found with a bruised wing on a road in Fergus in mid-May. It was taken to the Guelph Humane Society, then transferred to the Hobbitstee Wildlife Refuge in Jarvis where it was nursed back to health. Last week, it was released into a local wetland. (Hobbitstee Wildlife Refuge)

A Least bittern — the smallest member of the heron family — that was taken to the Guelph Humane Society last month has been nursed back to health and released.

The Guelph Humane Society received the bird on May 19 after someone found it on the road in Fergus.

Chantal Theijn, an authorized wildlife custodian at the Hobbitstee Wildlife Refuge in Jarvis, said the bird was unable to fly because it had a bruised left wing. She said it was unclear how exactly the bird was injured, but it may have been caught in a slipstream from a truck while in flight "and had a tumble."

The bird was also extremely underweight and had parasites when it was brought into the Guelph Humane Society, then transferred to the refuge.

The heron was given fluids and pain medication.

"We put him through a rehydration protocol to get him ready for solid food. We also gave him anti-parasitical  medication," Theijn said.

Least bittern nursed back to health

It wasn't an easy case for staff at the refuge or the bird itself.

"Least bitterns are high stress birds and captivity stresses them out and sometimes they refuse to eat, so unfortunately we had to force feed him over the next couple of days as he regained strength and his bruises subsided," Theijn said.

By May 25, the Least bittern showed it could use its left wing and it had built up its strength and gained weight.

Staff at the refuge were confident the bird could care for itself and released it into a local wetland where other Least bitterns had been spotted in the past and where there's an abundance of food sources, Theijn said.

Least bitterns are found in wetland habitats throughout southern Ontario. It is considered a threatened species in Ontario, which means it's not endangered, but it's at risk of becoming endangered if action isn't taken to protect wetlands from development and invasive species. It was added to the threatened list in 2008.


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