Airplane Wing

Rescues receive many calls each year about waterfowl with apparently broken wings. Usually, if a wing is broken, it will hang down rather than be tucked up against the body. If the wing is sticking out at a right angle to the body, like those on this Canada Goose, then it’s most likely a deformity known as airplane or angel wing.


What is Airplane Wing? #

Also know as Angel Wing, this is a deformity which causes the final section of the wing, equivalent to our hand, to stick out perpendicular to the body. It can affect one wing or both.


What causes the issue? #

The exact cause of the problem is not definitively known. There is some speculation that a diet high in bread may be a cause but this is not proven and the condition has also been recorded in birds who have not been fed bread. It’s likely there is a genetic element as well.


What can be done? #

If the condition is spotted in a developing young bird then it’s possible that strapping the wing and providing a good diet may reverse the problem. For this reason, it’s always worth contacting a wildlife rescue for a young bird with this issue.

In adults the situation is less clear. There will not be any treatment for the condition so an assessment will need to be made as to whether moving the bird is in their best interest. In the right environment, a bird affected with airplane wing can lead a pretty normal life. They will need to live in a location where there is plenty of food, where others of their species are permanently resident, and where there is an island in the water that they can go to for protection for predators. If these elements are in place, the bird is likely best left with their flock in their home territory.

If these elements are not in place then a wildlife rescue should be contacted for advice. It may be that the bird can be relocated to a more suitable location where they will have better food and shelter. However,  there are unfortunately legal issues with helping Canada Geese and Egyptian Geese as they are considered an invasive species. Do check that the organisation you contact is able to relocate the bird rather than cull them.

Finding Help #

You can find details of rescues in your area by searching our directory. If you're unsure whether to intervene or you have difficulty finding a rescue who can help, we have information about sources of bespoke help. We also have articles with detailed, practical advice about capturing an animal, providing short term care, contacting a wildlife rescue, and getting the animal to them.

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Updated on May 6, 2024