Canada geese treated for 'angel wing' at Atlantic Wildlife Institute

Five birds have been brought to the institute to date with the increasingly common condition known as 'angel wing,' which can be treated in young birds, but can be permanent - and fatal - in older animals.

Institute director says condition, typically caused by poor diet, is becoming increasingly common

The Atlantic Wildlife Institute is trying to help five Canada geese brought to the facility with a condition known as angel wing. (Submitted)

A number of geese are being treated at the Atlantic Wildlife Institute in Sackville, N.B., for an increasingly common affliction known as angel wing. 

Director Pam Novak says while many people may not recognize the condition, it's becoming more common in waterfowl.

Novak said angel wing is a developmental issue typically caused by a poor diet. 

"As we have more and more like especially Canada geese and especially of the subspecies, the giant Canada goose that is breeding in our area, we are going to end up seeing more of that over the coming years," she said.  

To date, AWI has received five Canada geese with the angel wing ailment. 

Novak said most people mistakenly believe a bird with the condition has broken its wing because the wing flips outwards at the wrist joint.

"So you're seeing what would be the primaries on the wing actually flipped upside down and sticking out almost perpendicular to the body." 

More cases this year

Novak said the institute has seen the most cases this year she's ever known. 

"Just in the last couple of weeks we've gotten in four new ones," she said. 

Novak said the birds are goslings and wouldn't survive the fall or winter if not treated. 

"It causes non-flight. These birds literally cannot get up off the ground because of this." 

If caught early enough, Novak said a change in diet can correct the problem and the wing can be manipulated with a series of bandages to help put it back in place. 

"As they are growing, I can keep the feathers and the wing structure growing at the same rate," she said. 

In older birds, Novak said the angel wing is usually permanent because the birds are fully grown.

"This is the situation we are in," she said. "We're not quite sure what to do because a lot of times you are looking at cases that it's beyond the fact of helping from a rehabilitative stand point." 

Novak said some birds have to be euthanized while others that can adjust to a semi-captive life remain at AWI and help surrogate orphaned goslings. 

With files from Shift New Brunswick