By and by, Poe didn’t get better. She ate less and less through the weekend and I felt both helpless and hopeless to make her well again. After asking around, I found out about a veterinarian in town, loaded my sick bird into in my bike basket, and pedaled off…
Upon finding the veterinarian clinic, a gentle man took Poe in his hands and looked her over.
“Elle est tres faible et megre. (She’s very weak and skinny)” He said. He went on to explain that it’s extremely difficult to raise a seabird chick from such a young age. “It’s almost impossible to replicate the nutrients that the mother bird would provide by partially digesting the bones and scales and skin of the small fish that an adult tern of this species would eat,” he explained. I knew he was right. I had been feeding her mashed up pieces of fresh fish, but mostly just the meat—no bones or scales.
“Force her to eat,” he said. “Open her beak and put the fish way in the back and she will swallow it.” I nodded even though I had already been doing that. He sold me a nutrient supplement for cats to try to boost her nutrient intake and I left feeling only slightly more hopeful.
I gave Poe a dose of the supplement back at Swell, but after an hour, she could hardly lift her head anymore. It was too late. She took her last breath from this world as I held her cupped in my hands. To witness the fragility of life—one moment there, the next gone—hit me hard. I cried and stroked her still warm feathers.