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.

The Tribune (NZ) - - BACKYARD BANTER -

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.

RE-NEST IT

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.

MYTHS DE­BUNKED

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.

FEED­ING

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.

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