‘More love than labour’ for bird rescuer
Every morning Thomas the bisexual goose is carried from his aviary and placed next to a fenced pond at the front of Craig Shepherd’s property.
The 33-year-old bird is completely blind and has lived at the Ohariu Valley sanctuary since his deteriorating heath, and a swan attack, forced him to leave Kapiti three years ago.
He was a well-known character at the Waikanae Estuary where he spent 25 years with his partner Henry the swan, before the great split when he met a female goose.
Thomas wouldn’t survive in the wild and Shepherd described him as ‘‘pretty high maintenance - a $10 a day goose’’.
Most of the birds rehabilitated at Shepherd’s rural property, north of Wellington, are released back to the wild but a few characters stay permanently.
Robo-duck, whose metal beak made news in 2012, wouldn’t survive in the wild as his beak-brace might get caught on something.
‘‘He has to stay here for his own safety. He’s a stroppy little fella though and he’s got a hell of a bite.’’
Fixing birds doesn’t come cheap and Shepherd’s charity, Wellington Bird Rehabilitation Trust, costs $100,000 a year to run.
Also not all residents are welcome and a mobile aviary has been set up to catch and relocate a dozen pukekos that lurk around the property.
‘‘We rehabilitate them and they have a very nasty bite, but we don’t want them staying around or the wild ones making a home here.
‘‘For pukekos, ducklings are
‘‘People are innately caring, some demonstrate it, some don't.’’
meals on wheels ... they just slaughter everything...they are such a nasty bird.’’
While the pukekos are being lured into their aviary, other birds have feeding stations scattered around the 60-acre property.
When people find an injured or sick bird Shepherd, known as ‘‘ The Duckman’’, is the man they call.
A third of the birds he cares for come from the SPCA and the remainder are bought in by members of the public, vets and animal control staff.
‘‘People are innately caring, some demonstrate it, some don’t. When they see a duckling and realise without their help it will die, it brings out their compassion and empathy.’’
Shepherd has been caring for birds since 2002 and much of his knowledge has been learned by experience and trial and error.
‘‘I’m just so lucky with the way things have worked out for me. It’s not a labour of love, it’s more love than labour.’’
It’s more love than labour for Wellington’s Craig Shepherd
Shepherd and Thomas the goose