Every day our medical team is astonished at the toughness and resilience of the White Ibis. It is no wonder they are the University of Miami’s mascot and incredible stories are told about their hurricane hardiness. So, when a White Ibis was admitted over the holidays due to some unsteadiness on its feet, our hospital staff wasn’t too alarmed. However, this patient’s physical exam revealed a lot of swelling and bruising over its hip and, sure enough, X-rays showed a severe pelvic fracture. Incredibly, however, the patient did not seem too debilitated and was able to stand without assistance in its hospital enclosure.
Even though this patient was in good spirits and showing only minor discomfort, SFWC Medical Director Dr. Antonia Gardner was very concerned. If the bird was female and eventually released with this recovered injury, Dr. Gardner was confident that she would ultimately become egg-bound because the egg would not be able to pass through the damaged pelvis; this would mean a slow, painful death for even the toughest of species.
White ibises are generally not considered sexually dimorphic—meaning the males and females exhibit distinct characteristics—so we did not know the patient’s gender. Fortunately, through collaboration with scientists studying the White Ibis at the University of Georgia, we were able to send a blood sample up for DNA sexing.
There was no creative, internet-viral gender reveal for our White Ibis patient, but our medical team did celebrate the news—it was a male! After weeks of stabilizing rehabilitation, this hardy patient was released!