WILD BIRD RESCUE
Weaning and wilding your baby
So you have raised (either through sheer skill or sheer luck) your baby bird yourself. Whether you did this because there was nobody in your area willing and able to help, or because you decided to 'go it alone' despite all advice to the contrary, is irrelevant. What is important is that you now have a 'teenager' on your hands which needs to learn to feed itself, to fly and to be rehabilitated and returned to the wild.
WEANING THE BABY
As soon as your baby is full-size and well-feathered you need to start weaning it, This is a long process, and under no circumstances should you discontinue regular feeds before you are absolutely certain that the bird is eating enough on its own. The weaning process involves the following:
- Transfer the baby to a cage fitted with one or two low perches to teach it to perch. As its confidence increases, the perches can be placed higher up and further apart.
- Offer a small dish of the food that you have been feeding and a small dish of water in its cage. Both should be too small for the bird to fall into, while being too heavy for it to tip over.
- Place some small, live, moving insects inside the food dish to attract its attention. Brightly coloured marbles may also do the trick. Be sure that they are too big for the bird to accidentally swallow!
- Initially the food will only be played with, but soon the bird will begin to swallow some of it. As soon as you are sure that it is actually eating, you can begin to skip some of its midday meals. Never let the bird go to sleep at night with an empty stomach. The last meal at night should definitely be continued until you are certain that the bird is eating all it needs.
- Once it begins to eat properly, gradually mix its adult diet (be that seed, fruit, or whatever) into the food in its dish. The bird will soon be taking it readily.
- Patience is the most important thing when weaning a baby bird.
WILDING THE BABY
Once the baby is eating by itself, it needs to learn that it is a bird, and very importantly, that humans are its enemies. To release a tame bird is to sign its death warrant. So itís vital that it now be introduced to an aviary with its own kind. If they are wild, so much the better as they will teach the new arrival their distress and alarm calls, and show it to be afraid of humans. The only way this can be done is in a large aviary with its own kind. Here a rehabilitation centre is mostly the only way to go. They have the skills to teach it what it needs to know, the companions it needs and the aviaries in which it can get fit for life in the wild.
By Gordon M Duncan & Wings in Need
Animal Talk November 1999