Rehabilitation and Release - Part I - [19 April 2005 17:48]



You will note that in most of our columns we finish by stating that long-term rehabilitation and release must follow the treatment. This is not said lightly or frivolously. Any bird which has been in captive care, even for only a few days, cannot simply be tossed into the air and told ‘fly away and be free little birdie’.

This action, without the proper rehabilitation and follow-up care, is simply sentencing the bird to death! Very few private people have the proper facilities to rehabilitate a bird, which is why we repeatedly request readers to contact their local rehabilitation centre for assistance.

An important point to remember is that, contrary to popular belief, most birds (once they have got over their fear of people) enjoy captivity! While it is necessary for legal reasons to rehabilitate and release birds once they are adult or healthy, don’t fool yourself that this is for the sake of the individual bird. The happy, healthy bird may often rather spend the rest of its days in the safety and comfort of an aviary.

So it is our duty to make sure the transition from the good care and safety of the aviary to the harsh, hard and dangerous world of freedom is done as carefully and gently as possible.


The points which will need attention if the bird is to have any chance whatsoever of surviving in nature are:

1.                Complete and thorough good health.

2.                Excellent and waterproof plumage.

3.                Fitness: Exercise and territorial establishment.

4.                Social skills.

5.                Natural feeding abilities.

6.                Support after release.


From the above it will be obvious that simply releasing a recovered or rescued bird without the necessary survival skills and tools is plainly and simply a death sentence. In Part II next month we will deal with these six points in detail. In the meantime, if you have a bird which needs releasing, get help from Wings in Need or a similar rehabilitation centre.

Should you want to rehabilitate and release birds yourself, you will need a permit from your local department of Nature Conservation to satisfy the legal requirements of keeping indigenous birds in captivity – even temporarily. Most rehabilitation centres like Wings in Need can issue you with a TEMPORARY ‘Foster parent permit’ if they are satisfied with your facilities and skills. Please don’t attempt the release of birds without the necessary facilities, training assistance and advice. You could end up doing far more harm than good.


By Gordon M Duncan & Wings in Need 

Animal Talk January 2000

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