We are heartbroken - "Mum" maggie has been euthanased

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Brumby's picture
We are heartbroken - "Mum" maggie has been euthanased

We have had a pair of magpies visit us regularly for 6 years or so and we have taken great comfort in having earned their trust to the point we can hand feed them.  We take care to not make them dependent and ensure what we offer is appropriate.  We have had the joy of seeing some of their offspring (including triplets one year) for a time before they find their own way - but Mum and Dad (as we call them) have been our wild companions.  We also have a handful of other native species visit as well as the Indian Mynah - which do NOT get the welcome mat.

From the food being taken away, it is clear they currently have a nest with young mouths - our guess is at least two.

Several days ago we started noticing Mum wasn't her usual self, becoming a bit lethargic and hanging around our yard for long periods. Dad was doing the food runs back to the nest. Mum started getting crusy around one eye and we became concerned. We contacted WIRES and, in consultation with them, eventually caught Mum.  Up until this point, she had never been touched by anyone, but was now wrapped up in a towel in my arms. After a couple of minutes of playing possum, she stirred, but wasn't aggressive. I was speaking softly and stroking her back gently through the towel.

WIRES was contacted and we were given a vet to take her to, which we did.  Mum was quiet during all this until she was handed over to the vet.  She then objected very vocally to being handled by this stranger. This was the last time she was seen.

Later that day, the vet was called to find out how she was, but the staff were very abrupt. We did get some information that apparently they didn't have the right avian antibiotic, but would give her a general one. We were not pleased to hear that.

The next morning we called once again and, again abrupt, the staff told us she had "taken a turn for the worse" and had been put to sleep the previous night.  We were devastated.

After getting over the initial shock, we started wondering how things could deteriorate so quickly.  Before we caught mum she was still able to eat, drink and fly. She would go off to roost at night and we have seen her in a nearby paddock. Yes, she wasn't 100%, but she did not seem to be anywhere near death's door.

We were concerned that the vet didn't have appropriate medication and the attitude of the staff was confronting. Then we discovered some reviews of this vet which had a mix of positive and negative.  The negatives were scathing and had two things in common - high prices and poor treatment.  One even used the word "slaughterhouse".  For our maggie, the "free treatment" offered suddenly brought the whole exercise into a sinister light. We became angry.

Mum maggie had put her trust in us and we had betrayed that trust by handing her over to a practice that seemed to only care for profit. I can't help but think that euthanasia would be the most cost-effective "free treatment".

WIRES was contacted once again and our experience and concerns were shared with them.  We were informed the vet will be investigated.  While this is good - the price was too high.

Dad maggie spent nearly all of the first day without Mum calling and flying around, no doubt looking for her. He did not show until mid afternoon, only having a small amount to eat and very little taken away.  Today is day two and Dad has been busy again, taking food back to the nest. We know we are probably over-supplying at the moment, but we will cut back a little futher down the track.

However, on his last trip for the night, Dad had a couple of mouthfuls ... then called. We just knew he was calling for Mum - and it ripped our hearts apart.

dwatsonbb's picture

Oh I am sorry for your loss. Having been involved in wildlife rescue, I know that small critters can deteriorate very quickly. Even just the stress of being somewhere with domestic animals can cause stress, which can have dire consequences.

Hopefully dad will successfully raise his young, and the circle of life goes on.

Thank you for having a kind heart and trying to look out for mumma maggie.

I know it is hard, but please reassure yourself you did everything right, she may have passed with or without the Vets intervention.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818's picture

How sad. I agree with all of Dale's  comments.

My daughter is a wildlife carer and we have had numerous critters rescued over the years and cared for at our home. Many were challenging and you get to know the best vet for each type but they can spiral down quickly. At least you tried.

Dad will find another mate next season as we have seen happen with our local Magpies over the years. Life will go on and you will find joy in the following generations.

Brumby's picture

Thank you Dale and Sue for your kind words.

The story has two more chapters - and neither have any joy.

About 3 weeks ago we had some severe winds and we were watching a tall tree in our backyard with great apprenhension. We were also worried about our backyard visitors.  That tree survived, but the much smaller one next to it lost a branch over the back fence.  Afterwards, one of the household was out in the back yard and Dad maggie swooped in, landed on the clothesline, faced that person and chortled loudly. He then flew off down the driveway and they wondered what that was all about. He then returned not a minute later and repeated the performance - so we went down the driveway to see him sitting on the fence, looking down. As we turned the corner we saw one of his babies sitting on the ground.  We grabbed a towel and were able to walk up to it and pick it up without a struggle. The wings were checked - and they were fine, but there was a real problem with their left leg. WIRES was called and we made every effort to ensure this little one would be properly attended to - by an established avian vet - and the bird was collected by a volunteer. We followed up the next day and were informed that it had been x-rayed and found to have a broken hip.  We knew what we were going to be told.  We were greatly saddened, but we were comforted by the fact that we had tried - and we certaily saved it from the fate of meeting one of the neighbourhood cats.

A few days later, I saw Dad fly up into the jacaranda across the road, followed by two juveniles who looked like they were quite comfortable on the wing.  This confirmed our suspicion that there were 3 babies.

However, just a couple of days later we had a severe hail storm - the worst we've had in the 6 years we've been here and the worst I've experienced for a far longer time.  We were genuinely worried about windows getting smashed by hail bigger than golf balls, not to mention the windscreens of both our cars. 

Fortunately, our property survived (how, I'll never know) - but in the two weeks since, we have neither seen nor heard Dad or his offspring ... at all.

The whole family of our favourite backyard visitors is, as far as we can tell, no more.  We are now - officially - just plain numb.

The whistle I concocted to imitate a magpie call used to turn the heads of our magpie friends - or sometimes bring them down from the trees - now invokes no reaction from any magpie we see. No longer will we have a magpie or two turn up outside the back door a minute after the lady of the house returns from a trip and parks her car in the driveway ... but she still looks.

They were a part of our family.  While their loss still saddens us all, we feel blessed to have been able to enjoy their friendship for the years we did.

sue818's picture

What a sad story, Brumby. I can understand how you must feel. It is a hard life out there but you have done your best to help it go on. I hope that some day in the future you will find that a new bird or appear in your yard to give you some more joy.

hamptonlindsay's picture

What cute birds :3 <3

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