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Rehabilitation and Release - Part II

WILD BIRD RESCUE

In our column last month we discussed the general ideas behind rescue and release of birds. We also listed the six essentials to prevent release from becoming murder.

This month we will discuss those points in detail. Most private people simply do not have the facilities and time to do responsible releasing of birds. Call your local rehabilitation centre and give the bird a real chance of survival in the wild.

  1. Complete and thorough good health:
    Check that all injuries have healed properly, Check that the droppings are consistently normal. A full health check by your vet is advisable.
  2. Excellent and waterproof plumage:
    The birdís plumage protects it from the elements as well as providing it with flying power necessary for survival. A bird which has been indoors for a long time, and which has not been exposed to rain will have lost its natural waterproofing. A bird which had inadequate nutrition while moulting, will have weak stress lines in the main flight feathers.
  3. Fitness, ie: exercise and territorial establishment:
    An unfit bird will quickly become exhausted if forced to fend for itself. It is absolutely essential that any bird be housed, for a number of weeks before release, in a spacious aviary. This aviary must be in the area that the release will take place.
    A new bird which is in strange place will very quickly be driven away or hounded to death by the resident birds. Allow your bird to establish a territory and psychological advantage before fighting for its place in nature. Even a few days is sufficient for its place to have been taken over by a new bird.
  4. Social skills:
    If hand-raised the bird needs to find out what it is. It needs to be housed in an aviary with its own kind so that they can teach it social skills and to fear people. It also needs to learn to fight for its position in the social hierarchy (pecking order), or it will simply be driven to death by wild birds as soon as it is released.
  5. Natural feeding abilities:
    A bird which has been fed on prepared foods, especially a hand-raised bird, needs to be taught to eat natural foods available in nature. These would include fruit (attached to trees) live insects, seed on grasses and mice, depending on the species. It also needs to be taught to find and, if necessary, kill the food.
  6. Support after release:
    The actual release should consist simply of opening the aviary gate and walking away. The bird will find its own way out. Make sure that children, cats and dogs cannot frighten or attack the bird! Keep the aviary gate open for as long as the bird chooses to return, and provide support feeding inside and outside for as long as the bird appears to need it.

By Gordon M Duncan and Wings in Need
Animaltalk February 2000

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Wings in need is a haven, hospital and rehabilitation centre for injured, sick, poisoned or orphaned wild birds.