Feathered friends and spring orphans
Calves, lambs, bunnies . . . baby animals of every kind have the potential to make spring the most delightful time of year.
It is also the season for baby birds and unfortunately very few ( some studies say up to 70 per cent) make it to adulthood.
It’s not uncommon to stumble across a baby bird that’s fallen out of its nest. But what should you do?
There’s no right answer to that question; it’s a choice between leaving Mother Nature to do her thing and personal conscience. But here are a few how-to tips if you do decide to intervene:
KNOW YOUR ORPHAN
Make sure your orphan is actually an orphan. A baby bird in an unattended nest is not necessarily in trouble. Its mother may have every intention of returning.
A juvenile perched on a branch away from the nest could also be learning to fly. But a baby bird lying on the ground has probably fallen out of its nest and could need a helping hand.
Try gently putting it back – without putting yourself at risk. Reintroducing a baby bird to its nest is most successful if concerned parents are hovering around looking for their young. The bird is unlikely to survive if its parents aren’t around.
A baby bird touched by a human will not be rejected by its parents. Mammals identify their young by their scent but birds don’t have a strong sense of smell and identify their babies by the noises they make.
PARENTING AINT EASY
Be prepared for the long haul. Raising a baby bird is not an easy feat. It initially needs to be fed 3-4 times an hour, and given a warm and comfortable home.
HOW TO NEST
Raising a baby bird yourself. Start off by making a snug ‘nest’ out of a cardboard box lined with shredded paper towels (unscented and undyed are the best). Nests are normally constructed out of grass, hay, leaves and twigs, but these are messy and hard to keep clean. Change the ‘nest’ bedding when it gets soiled or damp. Make sure the box is covered and high enough where other pets can’t reach it.
A mixture of moistened cat biscuits, hard boiled eggs and cut up worms (you can get these from your local pet shop) will give the bird all the nutrients it needs.
Be prepared for the hard yards; naked, unfeathered birds with closed eyes need to be fed every 15-20 minutes from sunrise until sunset.
Feeding can be extended to every 30-45 minutes as they start to sprout feathers. Drop back to every hour once the bird can hop out of its nest. A syringe is the cleanest and most efficient way to feed a baby bird and can be picked up at a pet store.
EXPERT HELP AVAILABLE
Bird rescue centres know best. It might be exciting to have a baby bird as a pet but there’s more chance of it living if you deliver it to a local bird rescue centre.
Visit birdrescue.org.nz to see where the closest help is available.
Getting an orphaned baby bird through its first few week of life is no mean feat.