How to Heal a Broken Wing

Birds in flight are strikingly beautiful, whether you have your own pet birds or just enjoy watching wild birds in nature. However, if you ever come across a bird with a broken wing, you may find yourself outside of your comfort zone in terms of bird care knowledge. Broken wings require careful treatment, but they can often be healed, and many birds can return to the skies again.

Canadian Goose with Broken Wing
How to Heal a Broken Wing
credit: Bastiaan Slabbers/iStock/GettyImages

Legal ramifications

It's only natural to want to help an injured bird, but if you find a wild bird in need of help, taking the bird home to care for it could be asking for trouble. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, it is illegal to take or possess any migratory bird without a federal permit. This means you could land in legal trouble if you take a wild bird home to care for it, even though you mean well.

If you come across a wild bird in need of help, it's best to contact a local wildlife rehabilitation center. The staff members in these centers are trained and knowledgeable in how best to handle and care for wild birds. If you need help finding a local center, you can try calling your local veterinarian's office. Many vets have contact lists and resources for when these situations occur and can help connect you to someone who can help the bird.

Getting veterinary help

If one of your own birds suffers a broken wing and needs help, it's always a good idea to take the bird to your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to assess the severity of the broken wing. X-rays can help to pinpoint the exact location of a fracture, and you can better tailor your treatment to the bird's specific injuries. If the bird has been attacked by another animal, your vet can also treat any other punctures or injuries that may be present.

Sometimes you won't be able to get your bird to the vet right away, though. In these cases, understanding how to stabilize a broken wing can allow you to provide some temporary treatment until you can get professional help.

Initial handling

You need to be very careful and gentle when handling a bird with a broken wing so that you don't cause additional injury. If you need to transport the bird to a wildlife center or vet, you can contain most smaller birds in boxes as long as you cut sufficient air holes into the box. You can also wrap a towel around the bird's body to help prevent injury when you do need to move the bird.

If you come across an injured bird, it may be in shock. For instance, if you've found a bird with a broken wing in your garden, the bird may be weak and in need of immediate help. Placing a hot water bottle into the box with the bird can give supplementary heat, but make sure the bird can move away from the heat if he needs to. If the bird pants, immediately remove the water bottle.

When you know that you'll be able to get the bird into the hands of a professional quickly, then you don't need to worry about feeding the bird or giving the bird water. Never force feed birds because it's easy to drown them if you don't have experience in this technique.

Healing a broken wing

The first step to a bird broken wing fix is to identify the location and type of fracture. In some cases, the area around the fracture may be swollen. You will need to manually palpate how the bones in the injured wing feel in comparison to the bones in the uninjured wing. Abnormal angles or movement will indicate the presence of a fracture.

You will need to treat a broken wing by wrapping the wing so that it is immobile. This immobilization is what will allow the fracture to heal. You can use a self-adhering bandage like Coflex and apply the wrap so that the bones are correctly aligned, and the bird is not able to move the wing out of alignment. It's a delicate balance between providing adequate support and the wrap being too restrictive, so it's best if someone experienced with wrapping wings can help guide you.

Bird broken wing healing time

You will need to leave the wrap in place until the wing is fully healed. The good news is that broken wings heal quickly, with simple fractures taking just two weeks to heal. Fractures that have resulted in multiple fragments take between three and six weeks to fully heal.