Bird on mend after dart in head

By Amy Shanks

RECOVERING: If not claimed, Lucky the cockatiel will be adopted by her foster carer. PHOTO/DUNCAN BROWN HBT140034-03
RECOVERING: If not claimed, Lucky the cockatiel will be adopted by her foster carer. PHOTO/DUNCAN BROWN HBT140034-03

A young cockatiel named "Lucky" had a 10cm blow dart removed from its head following what was described by SPCA staff as a "malicious" attack.

The bird was handed in to CareVets in Onekawa by a member of the public last week, where the long, pointed object lodged beneath her left eye was carefully cut out under local anaesthetic.

Veterinary surgeon Gabriel Young, who carried out the operation, initially thought it may have pierced the eye, but on closer inspection realised it was a narrow miss.

"I had never seen this in a cockatiel before, I've seen ducks, but the cockatiel was a first for me," he said. "I'd say this is a very lucky bird."

The weapon used was fairly unusual and, if caught, the perpetrator could potentially face a charge of ill treatment, SPCA manager Bruce Wills said.

"It was almost certainly a deliberate act, it could have been someone seeing if they could kill a bird with a blow dart, I can't imagine anything other than malicious intent.

"There's no way [she] would have been any bother or a pest, it's just somebody being an airhead, really."

After a couple of days to rest and recover the cockatiel was sent to a foster home where she could thrive in the company of other birds.

"[She] felt pretty sorry for a few days but after that [she] perked up - we thought [she] would be happier in an environment with other cockatiels, they are quite social creatures and don't like being in a cage by themselves."

Birds are easily stressed, making this brave little cockatiel's tale of survival even more incredible.

"They can die at the drop of a hat so you have to be very careful, we were actually surprised [she] recovered so well."

The Bird, dubbed "Lucky" by the 5-year-old daughter of her foster carer, showed improvement every day and was becoming less cautious around humans.

"She was very scared at first, if you walked, she would just freeze, now she's in with another 13 cockatiels," Sarah Nukunuku said. "We are now at the point where if I walk into the aviary, she just sits and watches me."

While shy and not tame enough to touch, Lucky seemed happy, and was learning quickly from her new feathered friends.

"I suppose she's getting more cheeky, she's picking up off the others' naughty little tricks; she's very lucky she didn't lose her eyesight and that it missed her brain."

For now, Lucky looked a little scruffier than the others but was expected to make a full recovery. If not claimed by anyone tomorrow she would become the 54th bird at Ms Nukunuku's Hastings residence.

It's not the first time local authorities have dealt with this kind of animal cruelty. In 2011, several seagulls were shot with blow darts, while in the previous year a duck in Georges Drive creek was discovered with a 6cm dart through its neck, and another four found in Marewa Stream with darts in their necks and faces.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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