Our Wellington

News | 7 December 2020

Little ruru gets a new tail

An injured ruru which lost its feathers has been given a new tail thanks to the vet team at Wellington Zoo.

Wellington Zoo vet team affix new tail feathers to a little ruru at The Nest Te Kōhanga.

The little ruru was hit by a car recently and had its injuries treated by the Wellington Zoo vet team at The Nest Te Kōhanga

However, the bird then damaged his tail feathers while recovering in one of the incubators. 

Tail feathers help birds to steer and brake while flying and play a very important role for birds of prey. 

In order to release the bird back into the wild, he needed a perfect set of tail feathers, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to fly, hunt, or catch prey.  

The Wellington Zoo team had two options, either wait for the feathers to slowly grow back, or do a feather transplant, a process called imping. 

Tail feathers were donated from a deceased ruru by the team at Wildbase in Palmerston North, with the feathers numbered so the vet team knew exactly where each one went. 

The Zoo vets carefully trimmed the bird's damaged feathers, placed tiny needles into the feather shaft, and glued the new feathers in place. 

The recovered and re-feathered ruru was successfully released back to where it was found. 

Imping is possible to do in any bird, as long as you have the appropriate gear. You need feathers from the same species (or even a similarly sized species), and little splints to go into the feather shafts.  

The size of the splints can vary in size, so a big bird may need splints the size of wooden chopsticks, whereas this ruru needed really small metal needles to hold the donor feathers in place. 

Wellington Zoo is a Council-controlled organisation.

Read more about the great work happening at the Zoo's award-winning animal hospital and centre for native wildlife here.