Detroit Zoo Rescues Sandhill Crane With Broken Beak Caused by Rubber Band

December 21, 2021

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

As part of the Detroit Zoological Society’s (DZS’s) commitment to wildlife conservation and animal welfare, a sandhill crane has found sanctuary at the Detroit Zoo after being rescued and rehabilitated.

A crane, suffering from an injury, was recently found in Commerce Township. DZS staff rescued the bird and made an unfortunate discovery. A piece of rubber band was wrapped tightly around his lower beak, which had constricted and cut off blood supply to the area and caused the beak to crack and break off. This is one of the harmful effects of human-created pollution in these birds’ natural habitat.

Unable to eat on his own, it was determined the sandhill crane would die if returned to the wild. Dedicated DZS staff plan to develop a prosthetic beak for the bird. In the meantime, he has learned a new way to eat his special diet, something that he wouldn’t be able to do if released back into the wild.

DZS veterinarians also discovered buckshot in one of the bird’s legs. Sandhill cranes were once at risk of extinction due to hunting, habitat loss and low reproduction rates. The DZS opposes a proposed recreational hunting season of cranes in Michigan because it could jeopardize the continued recovery of these birds, which are part of the natural ecosystem and popular with birdwatchers.

“From his rescue in September, he has made such a transformation. He represents an iconic, native Michigan species and we can’t wait to see him join the two other sandhill cranes here at the Zoo,” said DZS Associate Curator of Birds Bonnie Van Dam.

One of the previously rescued cranes was found as a chick in 2002 with a wing problem. Rescuers determined he would not survive in the wild. The second crane was rescued in 2015 with a badly injured wing. His injuries required amputation of the wing tip, leaving him unable to fly.

The three cranes will be visible in the American Grasslands habitat near Buddy’s Pizza, when weather permits.