Jul 12, 2018

Lead poisoning in a turkey vulture

By Deanna Barth

On the evening of May 31st, Dee Kramer noticed this turkey vulture standing on the side of the road. She listened to her intuition as she drove by, turned around and went back. 

There was no obvious injury but it appeared hunched over which told her something was wrong. She waited nearby and called me for help. 

Upon arrival, I quickly agreed that the bird appeared sick.

It was fairly easy to collect with a long-handled net.

I provided supportive care including warmth and fluid therapy that night and transported it to the SPCA for Monterey County wildlife center the next morning. 

Blood results showed that the bird was suffering from lead toxicity. Thanks to their amazing care, he recovered.

Today, I was able to return him to the location found this afternoon. He walked around, took time to stretch his wings and even posed for us on the fence post before taking flight. While turkey vultures may not be admired by most who see them, it’s important to note that they serve a crucial purpose in our ecosystem. Disposing of carrion helps prevent the spread of disease. So the next time you see them flying overhead, be thankful for “Nature’s Clean-up Crew.”

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