There’s nothing we love better than a comeback story — especially if it features an animal coming back to its natural habitat. And luckily, thanks to camera phones, there are more opportunities than ever to share in the moment when an animal takes its first steps back into nature.
Last week, Ontario’s Hobbitstee Wildlife Refuge posted a heartwarming video of a Least bittern (a type of small heron) being released back into the wetland. The bittern was found on the road last month, bruised and unable to fly, but after spending a few weeks nursing the bird back to health, workers at the refuge decided it was in good enough shape to return to its natural home.
The heron clearly feels some trepidation as it takes its first steps back into the marsh. Its extreme caution is almost comical, but by the video’s end, the bird has waded into the water and seems to be taking a keen interest in the vegetation.
Nursing a heron back to health isn’t easy. This particular bird had a bruised wing and parasites, and it was dehydrated when it got to the refuge. However, getting a high-strung bird to eat and drink is no easy task. “Least bitterns are high stress birds and captivity stresses them out and sometimes they refuse to eat,” Chantal Theijn, an authorized wildlife custodian at the refuge, told the CBC, “so unfortunately we had to force feed him over the next couple of days as he regained strength and his bruises subsided.”
Workers at Hobbitstee say they don’t know how the bird was injured, but they suspect that it may have gotten caught in the slipstream of a truck, which could have caused it to fall and injure itself. Now that the bird is back where it belongs, staff at Hobbitstee are confident that he will be able to take care of himself.
Least bitterns have been designated a threatened species in Ontario, so we wish this one luck in his new home, and hope he finds the opportunity to bring a few new bitterns into the world as well.