Torquay’s coastal zoo and aquarium can provide the ideal estuary habitat for the whimbrel, now thought to be the only one in a public zoological collection in the UK.
The adult female bird was found on a roadside in Cornwall by a passing member of the public. She was taken to Rosevean Veterinary Practice in Penzance. Vet Paul Hall, who treated the bird’s potentially life-threatening injuries, said: “The bird was unable to fly because both major and minor metacarpal bones were fractured and one wing tip was attached only by ripped skin.”
These wing bones equate roughly to the wrist and hand in a human arm. The tip of the bird’s right wing had to be amputated. Animal experts believe the bird collided with something – possibly a car or the blade of a wind turbine – or was injured by a predator. Living Coasts Operations Manager Clare Rugg said: “The bird will not be able to fly again so cannot be released back into the wild.”
David Woolcock, from Paradise Park in Cornwall, was the expert who suggested that Living Coasts would be the best home for the bird. Torquay’s coastal zoo and aquarium has a unique waders’ estuary habitat and staff have considerable experience in caring for wading birds.
Clare again: “She would have been on a migration route – they are usually found in Scotland in the summer. We can give her a home in as natural an environment as possible along with other wading birds. She will eat the same diet, including fish, mealworms and any insects she can forage in the enclosure, as well as special wader pellets.”
The whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) is a fairly large migratory wader related to the curlew. It breeds across North America, Asia and Europe as far south as Scotland. For more information go to www.livingcoasts.org.uk or ring 01803 202470.
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