Don’t be a bird-napper!
Before you save a baby bird check that it really is an orphan.
Some species feed their young every few minutes while others like magpies can take an hour or more to find food for their young. Birds outgrow their nests when still very immature and continue to be fed by their parents for weeks or even months as they gradually learn to forage and fly. Parents will call and search for their young to feed them. Many baby birds just need a little help to be reunited with their parents.
First: Try to assist the bird to stay in its habitat
If you find a nestling (downy with immature feathers) look in nearby trees and shrubs for a nest and return it there. If you can’t locate or reach the nest then make a substitute using a hanging basket and attach this to the tree with the bird in it. Parents will usually locate the nestling and continue to feed it. Watch from a distance to confirm this is happening. Fledglings attempting their first flight often fall to the ground. If you see a baby bird with short tail feathers just put it up as high as you can reach and the parents will find it.
Second: Let it stay overnight
If it is close to dark and you are concerned you can take the bird inside overnight and try in the morning. Almost all birds will accept their young back if they have been separated for less than 24 hours.
Third: Last resort only!
If the parents don’t return, place the bird in a small box in a dark and quiet place indoors until you can bring it into Native Animal Rescue for care.
Nestlings must be kept warm: a plastic drink bottle filled with hot water and wrapped in cloth or a desk lamp with a 25 watt bulb work well.
Make sure to have a suitable box ready to ensure the safe transport of the bird
Wear proper protection
Consider your own safety before attempting to catch a large bird, and get help if you need it. Look out for sharp claws and beaks. Consider wearing gloves and eye protection (sunglasses); injured waterbirds may attempt to peck your eyes.
How to handle the bird
Catch the bird with a towel or cloth and gently hold its wings close to its body as you put it into the carry case. Never pin a bird’s wings to its side (e.g. by wrapping it up) as this can cause suffocation.
The method of transportation can mean the difference between life and death. Birds will already be stressed by the injury and by handling.
Keep the environment quiet, warm and dark. Try to find a cardboard box that fits the bird comfortably without allowing it to flap or roll about.
Place an old towel in the bottom to stop slipping, and punch air holes above the bird’s level of vision. Don’t transport birds in open cages. Definitely, do not transport the bird with food or water dishes and DO NOT FEED THEM.
The most common reasons that seabirds come into care are:
- Exhaustion after storms (when seabirds, which normally inhabit open ocean, are blown inshore)
- Injury and/or entanglement in fishing line, hooks or rubbish.
If you find a seabird firstly ascertain whether it needs your care. Observe it from a safe distance. You may only get one chance to catch a bird, so plan the capture.
Consider your own safety before attempting to catch it. Look out for sharp claws and beaks and get pets and small children out of the way. Get help and equipment (gloves, a box or carry case, eye protection such as sunglasses) ready. Catch the bird with a towel or cloth and gently hold its wings close to its body as you put it into a transport case.
It is best to get specialist help, even if you feel you can remove a hook on your own, as the bird should be examined to check for other hooks and other injuries and infections. Exhausted seabirds need specialist intensive nursing and veterinary care and some species will need to be released from a boat offshore for a successful release. It is best to take seabirds to specialist rehabilitators, such as NAR.
Fishermen – accidental hooks in birds
If you hook a bird while fishing stay calm and do not cut the line to release the bird (that is a recipe for a slow painful death and you can do so much better to help it). You can gently reel the bird in, even large birds like pelicans.
Get someone to help you place a towel or clothing over the bird’s head and eyes to make it easier to manage and check to see how badly the hook is embedded. Only attempt to remove the hook if it is superficially engaged. If it is deeply engaged or has been swallowed get the bird to professional veterinary care or call Native Animal Rescue for advice on 9249 3434.
Even if you can remove the hook, get the animal to veterinary care to be assessed. If it needs rehabilitation, ask the vet to contact Native Animal Rescue and we will arrange for its rehabilitation and release. Click here to locate your nearest NAR Partnered Vet.
Never release a bird with a hook or line attached to it. A rusty hook is likely to cause disease and death, or, at the very least, an extended period of suffering. Trailing line is likely to snare the bird and it will starve to death.
What you can do to help protect birds
- Do not use stainless steel hooks or unattended lines.
- Do not dump tangled line, cut it into small pieces and dispose of it properly.
- Take all your rubbish with you, plastic bags are regular killers of our marine life.
- Do not feed seabirds, it only encourages them to adopt dangerous scavenging behaviour.
- Avoid casting in areas where seabirds are feeding.
- NAR regularly services tackle boxes on the Swan and Canning Rivers where you may safely dispose of your tackle. Please call us on 9249 3434 for more information.