How to care for a baby bird

What to do when you find a baby bird
Orange Grove Vet doesn’t only take care of cats & dogs. From time to time we get in animals of the wild variety. We regularly have clients bring us a variety of wild bird species commonly found in our gardens. Some of the birds have been injured or are chicks which have fallen out their nest.

Orange Grove Vet nurse, Vanessa shares some helpful tips if you find a baby bird in need of assistance:

1. Determine the birds age by checking if it has feathers or has fledged. Older chicks which have fledged are still cared for by the parents even if they are not in the nest.

Unless injured or in danger from your dog or cat, fledged chicks can be left and will be cared for by the  parents.

If they are not safe, try place them back in the nest or place them in a container (e.g. margarine tub) in an elevated area.

It is an untrue that the parent birds will not care for the chick once it has been touched by a human.

2. If the chick does not have feathers and you cannot find the nest where it came from it is best to contact a wildlife rehabilitation centre.

It is important to know that it is better to hand over an injured or abandoned wild animal than try rear or care for it yourself. It is illegal in South Africa to keep wild animal species as pets.

3. How to care for and feed a baby bird
Keep the bird in a quiet, safe place where it cannot escape e.g. cardboard box or shoe box.
Use the non-sulphur end of a match stick as a feeding tool.
Place a small amount of the prepared food made into a “porridgy” consistency and find the birds gape reflex (lightly tap the side of the bird’s beak).
Only feed when the bird is hungry, as the baby bird will stop eating once full.
No need to feed at night, as the parent sleep during the night.
Keep housing clean with newspaper and paper towel.

4. What to feed the baby bird

Many of the bird species found in our gardens are seed eaters such as the Cape Sparrow.

It is often difficult to tell what species of bird you have found when they are only a few days old. Most garden bird species can be fed using a product called Avi-Plus handrear Phase 1 (purchased from Vet’s Pantry stores) mixed with water. If this is not available you can make a home-made recipe made up of the following ingredients in equal quantities:

– the yolk of a hard boiled egg
– plain soft tinned dog food e.g. husky
– pro nutro
– water

NB! Never feed a baby bird on Pro nutro alone. It does not contain a balanced diet to sustain healthy development.

5. What to feed other bird species

– Baby pigeons or doves can be fed plain smooth cottage cheese.

– Loeries or Mousebirds can be fed mashed up soft fruit such as banana, strawberry or papaya with water or purity baby food.

6. Remember as the human, you are there to sustain life until the animal can be cared by a wildlife rehabilitation centre.


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