Injured night heron returns to Prague after epic intercontinental journey

The bird suffered two broken legs last year and was rehabilitated at Prague's animal rescue station.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 27.06.2023 16:04:00 (updated on 27.06.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

A bird that was released into the wild late last year after recovering from two broken legs has returned to Prague after spending the winter and spring in Africa.

The Prague Wild Animal Rescue Station took care of the injured black-crowned night heron who was discovered in Prague 8 in the garden of the Kotlaska Community Center. The bird already had a ring on one of its legs to identify it as a 6-year-old bird coming from a colony of birds that lives on the premises of Prague Zoo, but are actually wild and not zoo property.

How he broke both legs remains a mystery, but he could have flown into a wire or gotten caught in netting.

Ornithologists set the bird’s legs with splints and cared for the bird until he recovered, also giving him some time to get used to hopping around again on branches. He was reportedly a model patient with a good appetite.

Finally, once his legs healed sufficiently he was taken to near Prague Zoo and released back into the wild at the end of October 2022, as he seemed to be capable of taking care of himself. Birds are only kept on a long-term basis if their injuries prevent them from flying, for example, and the heron’s wings were in fine shape.

The bird was fitted with a radio transmitter to track its movements. It first left the zoo area and went to Prague’s Hamerský rybník in Prague’s Záběhlice district where it stayed for two weeks before heading south. It crossed Italy, went through the Mediterranean Sea to Algeria, and then unexpectedly returned to Europe, spending some time in Valencia, Spain. From there, it flew all the way to central Mali and got as far south as the town of Mopti in the country.

“He started his return on March 28 of this year. He flew through Mauritania to the coast of Morocco, after which he slowly traveled further north to the Strait of Gibraltar. And with stops in Spain, France, and Germany, he finally got back to the Czech Republic at the end of May,” the Prague Wild Animal Rescue Station said on Instagram and Facebook.

“We are very happy that even after his very serious injury he managed to complete this difficult journey. It proves that helping injured wildlife makes sense and that these animals can fully return to their original lives after being released from rescue stations,” they added.

City-run rescue station open every day

The Prague Wild Animal Rescue Station is operated by the city-run forestry company Lesy hl. m. Prahy and part of the National Network of Rescue Stations of the Czech Republic.

Each year the station takes in about 5,000 animals and is the busiest rescue station in Czechia. It is open 365 days a year and has an emergency line at 773 772 771 where people can report animals or find out what to do. This also prevents people from intervening with animals who don’t need care.

The station is moving to a new location. Work on building the new facility began in Prague's Jinonice neighborhood began in February. It should be completed in two years and offer more modern care facilities in an ecologically friendly setting.

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