THE sun is shining, the birds are singing – and the babies are out!
In spring and summer we often see a lot of baby birds brought into the clinic.
We love that there are people out there looking out for our wildlife, but sometimes these birds might just be tackling their ‘first steps’. “I can see a baby bird on the ground. “What do I do?” Firstly, unless it is in obvious or immediate danger (for example on a road or being stalked by a cat) watch from afar.
This will give you a chance to get an idea of what kind of bird it is, and whether mum and dad are hanging around keeping an eye on things.
There are two different types of birds – precocial and altricial.
Precocial birds are ready to go from the day they are born, they are covered in down and have their eyes open, they can feed themselves soon after they hatch. Often their nests are on the ground. These include ducklings, plovers, brush turkeys and swamphens.
Altricial birds are born without feathers or down, their eyes closed and are completely dependent on the parents for warmth and food.
These birds are often in nests up in trees and bushes, and include honeyeaters, parrots, pigeons, insectivores, carnivores and raptors.
If the bird you find is featherless, it will need care from its parents to keep it warm.
If the bird is sick or injured, or if you know its parents are dead then it will need to be taken to your vet or wildlife carer for care.
If you can see a nest nearby and the baby appears healthy, you can put it back into its nest.
If it has considerable down or feathers and you know the parents are nearby but you cannot reach the nest, you can put them into a makeshift nest made out of a bucket, with a branch for access in and out, drainage holes in the bottom, and leaves and sticks inside (see website below for more information).
Fledglings are birds that have just left the nest and are learning to fly.
They often will fall out or seem to be fluttering around on the ground.
Fledglings have a significant number of adult looking feathers, not just down.
The parents are often watching from nearby trees.
Fledglings are the birds that are most often ‘rescued’ when they are in fact not in distress.
If these birds are in danger, place them onto a nearby branch off the ground.
It is a myth that adult birds will abandon their young if they can smell that humans have handled them.
Birds don’t recognise their offspring by smell, instead they identify them by their call, so you are not doing any harm by putting a nestling back into its nest, or a fledgling onto a branch.
For more information check out www.wildcare.org.au/Pages/Birds.html which has a lot of great links on it and more information on constructing a makeshift nest, or www.wildlifevictoria.org.au/faq.
Any birds obviously injured or unwell should be brought into your vet for an assessment.
It is a very good idea to make note of where you found the bird, and see if the parents are anywhere in sight so that if we can release it, we will know where to go.