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Caring for Birds

Cover the body, in particular the beak and face. Cockatoos and parrots must be held behind the head to avoid their powerful beaks. With swans and other waterbirds, extra care needs to be taken when picking them up to avoid eye and face injury to yourself from beaks. With all birds, minimise damage to their feathers, wings and neck.

Swans: gently pin to the ground, grasp the body with hands over the wings, wrap your arms around the body, place under your arm with head facing backwards and grasp the legs with the same hand, facing them forwards. In the car, get someone to nurse, prevent flapping and hold the neck. Swans that can’t fly and are on the ocean need to be rescued. Get the assistance of a boat owner to shepherd them to the shore or catch them. Keep them away from the water and then they can be easily caught.

Baby ducks: They can be contained in an open-weave shirt or pillowcase, as they are likely to jump and escape. Listen for cheeping as some of the clutch may be hiding. Check if the parents are nearby and if so try to reunite the family, rather than taking the babies away.

Nestlings: If found on the ground and uninjured, try to return them to the nest. If the nest has fallen down, try to fix it back in place in the tree. Stand well away and watch to check that the parents have returned to the nest and are caring for the nestlings. Do not handle birds further unless a Vet or carer asks you for information over the phone such as to feel for broken wings or legs. Do not feed until you have received advice. If there is bleeding, apply pressure to the wound to reduce blood flow. Transport to a Vet or carer as soon as possible.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A BABY BIRD

More often than not, hatchling or fledgling birds are "rescued" when there is really no need for the bird to be rescued. No fledgling bird leaves the nest knowing how to fly; they have to leave the nest to practice flying and to build up their wing muscles. Fledglings rarely return to the nest and at first they can only flutter from branch to branch while they build up flight muscles. This only takes a short time and the parents are attending the fledgling the whole time.

If it is a hatchling that has fallen from the nest, the parents are most likely close by and still tending the baby bird.

Hatchling and fledgling birds are always better left with the parent birds, human care is a poor second to a natural parent, who can teach them what they will need to know about surviving when grown and independent.

If a fledgling bird is found and there is no immediate danger or the bird is not injured:

  • observe from a distance to see if a parent bird returns to tend the young. This could take up to an hour.
  • If the parent does not return, place the bird into a small box with a cloth on the bottom for grip.
  • Place in a warm, quiet area and contact a rehabilitator or your local vet.
  • Do not offer any food or water until advice has been sought.

If the bird is a hatchling that should still be in the nest and the parents are in attendance:

  • Try to locate the nest and place the hatchling back in.
  • If the nest can’t be found or is damaged, make an artificial nest from a container of similar size to the species of bird; put drain holes in the bottom, put in a little bit of leaf litter and nail as high as possible into the nearest tree to where the hatchling was found.
  • Wait and watch for a parent to tend the hatchling.
  • If the calls of the hatchling haven’t brought the parents back, place the hatchling into a box, loosely wrapped in a cloth and place in a warm, quiet area, and contact FAWNA.
  • Don't keep checking the hatchling as the baby will beg each time for food and this will use up energy the baby needs to stay alive until help is found.