We are heartbroken by the loss of Colonel, our 35-year-old female blue-and-yellow macaw. A onetime pet surrendered to the Zoo in 1999, this spunky bird charmed millions of guests with her personality, intelligence and vibrant plumage.
X-ray images captured during a routine exam in February revealed an abnormally shaped egg “stuck” in Colonel’s reproductive tract. If the egg remained in place, it would eventually block other eggs from passing. These eggs would have entered Colonel’s body cavity, leading to lethargy, anemia and, ultimately, death.
Our animal care team gave her the opportunity to pass the egg on her own, but she did not. We made the decision to remove it in a procedure that required less time under anesthesia and a shorter recovery period than traditional surgery.
Specialized tools were used to expand her cloaca and access her reproductive tract. We soon discovered that the egg itself was not stuck; a plug of pus-like material, which would not have shown in an X-ray image, was blocking the tract. It is not yet known what caused this plug to form.
Colonel unexpectedly entered cardiopulmonary arrest near the end of the procedure. We did everything we could to resuscitate her, including CPR, insertion of a tracheal tube and administration of stimulatory medicine. Unfortunately, these efforts were unsuccessful.
Because weaker individuals are more likely to be picked off as prey, animals often mask symptoms of illness. It is possible that Colonel was suffering from another condition, unknown to us, that caused a negative reaction to the anesthesia.
Her pathology report, which will be prepared by a third party and take several months to complete, will hopefully tell us more about Colonel’s condition.
Here’s what Kim, one of Colonel’s keepers, had to say about her friend:
Colonel was a little standoffish with new people, but she became the most incredible bird once they earned her trust. She was always the first to greet us with a big scream as we pulled up to the macaw night house in the morning. We would try to sneak past Colonel while she was sleeping in the Zoo, but she always woke up to shout “HELLO!” as soon as she heard our keys jingle. When we left her and said “goodbye, Colonel,” she would reply with “BYE BYE!”
We all loved Colonel very much. Things sure won’t be the same without her.