Looking after birds

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Caring for a Kestrel


birds - kizzy kestrel 4Kestrels are a familiar sight hovering in the air at the side of the motorway.  They are looking for a small rodent, something they can eat.  We’ve had them brought in before, usually injured.  When we’ve patched them up and fed them well, they are released.  One of last year’s is still around, flying free but coming for food, which is wonderful to see.

The one above, who we have called Kizzy, is fit and well so no nursing is needed.  Her circumstances are quite different.  She is a captive bred bird, an imprint who was reared by humans.  Kestrels are often kept as captives even though they wouldn’t be able to catch anything big enough for us humans to eat!   The reasoning behind falconry is for us humans to catch their dinner and a large bird such as a goshawk, a buzzard or Harris Hawk would do this easily.  They pounce on their prey (a rabbit maybe) and give it up when their handler gives them an alternative – a piece of dead chick perhaps.  In the olden days (no supermarkets) this was an important source of getting food.

Our little Kizzy knows none of this.  Her life so far has been one of waiting for a dead chick to be given to her.   She has been tied to a block (perch) by a leash fastened to her legs so she couldn’t fly away.   She chatters to us when sees us – a piercing shriek – feed me please!  Falcons and hawks are popular with enthusiasts but not so much so if they are imprints.   Everyone wants a parent reared bird – they are quiet and never beg for food.  You can get fed up with a large hawk, with a loud call, shouting to you all the time!

The sound Kizzy makes is no problem, it is low enough to be pleasant.  We like to know that she is acknowledging us.   Before she was brought to us she had never flown free, she sat on her perch all the time.  These birds do a lot of sitting around in the wild, but it is on a branch, swaying in the wind and high up in a tree.  Not so good tied to a perch on the ground.

So the first thing we did was to take her jesses (leather strips used to fasten her legs) off and remove the leash also.  We’ve let her go in an aviary (small to start with) where there are lots of branches.  At first she just sat on the floor – she didn’t know what to do.   We put her food on a branch and within a day she was flying up to take it.  Kizzy soon learned how to fly…….. it’s a natural instinct after all.

What’s the long term plan?  Are we to keep Kizzy as a captive bird for the rest of her life?  Crying for food when she sees us?  I don’t think so.  But first we have to get her weight up.   We have to get her fit and able to fly well.   We have to teach her to hunt – and that may be the hardest part of all.

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Donations towards to the care of our wildlife would be much appreciated.  We need more aviaries, cages and equipment.

If you would like to sponsor Kizzy or other of our wild please send a donation and we’ll send you:

An adoption certificate, Kizzy’s photo and story, a Sanctuary 2015 calendar, our latest Newsletter and regular updates.

£10.00 will help towards Kizzy’s care for a month

£50.00 will buy heat lamps for birds with weakness or injuries

£75.00 will buy a hospital ‘box’

£100.00 will refurbish an aviary

£500.00 will provide a new aviary



Young Hawk is latest arrival

bird - injured Nov

This young hawk was found in a garden at Mansfield and brought in to us before dark.   We were relieved because it was unlikely he would have survived overnight.  Can you come and fetch him was the first question when the concerned people who found the bird rang up?    Unfortunately we can’t do this at present, we don’t have the rescources unfortunately – one day perhaps.

How to pick this fierce, injured and stressed bird up and get him in the a travelling container?      It’s not so difficult though, don’t be afraid of him, he is terrified of you.  The first thing to do get a cardboard box, not too big, if he can flap about he might injure himself more.  It needs to be just right for the bird and his long wings to fit in.  Punch some holes in the sides.  If you do this before putting the bird in you will cause less stress.  This is the biggest killer of a wild bird.   A cat basket will do if you can’t find a box.

We put a few layers of newspaper in the bottom and then a towel on top of the paper.   This give his talons something to grip.  Now you need to get a large towel or soft blanket, a fleece is ideal.  Approach the bird quietly and cover him with the fleece then scoop him up.   He will be in the dark and not likely to struggle.   Watch out for his talons and beak, they need to be completely covered.   He won’t deliberately set out to hurt you but even a baby raptor (bird of prey) has strong and sharp beak and feet.

Pop him into the box, remove the fleece and close the box up.  If you can’t get him in to us straight away, put a few large leaves in a corner of the box and give him some food.   Ideal is a cut up dead chick but ~I guess not many people have those in the fridge!   A small dead mouse would do but some strips of raw meat or a bit of raw mince would do in an emergency.   Place the food on the leaves.    Why leaves?   Wild birds are suspicious of plastic and anything man-made.  Keep it all as natural  as possible.

Food with fur and bones and inners are what the bird needs and will like.   You don’t need to give water and definitely not milk.   The hawk will get all the moisture he needs from meat.   Put him in a warm, quiet place overnight.   If he’s eaten the meat when you look at him in the morning that is a very good sign.   If he hasn’t eaten then he will have to be hand fed to get him going ……. that’s for the experts only!

Our latest arrival has survived the night and is alert.  It looks as though wings and tail feathers are injured.  He ate last night’s mouse so we are hopeful of his recovery.   We’ve called him Manni – a bit feisty (a good sign) and he came from Mansfield!

Lonely pheasant finds a friend

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Our golden pheasant, Ming, has been lonely since Noel the turkey passed away.  They had been best friends and shared a pen together.   We’ve been looking for a friend for him and when we heard that there were some golden pheasants looking for a new home we went to fetch them.

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The new trio are a male and two females, all are a year old.  The male does not have his brightly coloured feathers as yet but they will come this year as he gets mataure.   The two girls are fawn with striped feathers, they are much more drab in comparison.   The first day they hid but now they are coming out to explore.  Ming doesn’t know what to make of them!birds - gold hen

The girls are identical – neat and sweet and much more adventurous than the boy.   Hopefully they’ll soon make friends.  Golden pheasants are ground living birds who originate in China.  They like to hide in the undergrowth and only roost at night.  Will they all get along?   We do hope so.


Tame ducks for adoption

birds - ducks 3

While most of our residents are hunkering down and keeping out of the rain, these beautiful ducks are loving it!  There are two of them, callled William and Harry, so a princely duo.  They’ve been brought in today because their owner no longer has the space for them.  They are mallards and well grown and in excellent condition.

William and Harry are not wild birds and have been reared in captivity – they are very tame and can be picked up and handled.  They would stand no chance in the wild.  Ducks respond well to humans and recognise and become affectionate with their carers.   If you can give these two fellas a safe home please get in touch.  Safe is the important word – their pen would have to be very secure from predators, foxes and dogs.   They need a hut to go in at night and water is essential – a man made pond which must be kept clean or running water or a pond is best of all.

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Aren’t they beautiful…

Jim Crow is a meat eater

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Jim Crow had his first taste of meat yesterday, a left over portion of cat food.   He is an intelligent bird and recognised that it was food he liked straight away.   The grain and meal worms were forgotten as he swooped down and ate huge chunks at a time.  Where’s the camera when I need it!

Carrion crows are so called because they will eat any kind of dead meat and strip carcases of their flesh – a grisly sight in the ‘horrible history’ days when they would pick at humans hanging from gibbets!  Is this why some people don’t like them?   It’s just their nature after all and the protein helps them to survive.

We’ll give Jim a dish of meat every day now, he is still too thin and needs to develop his muscles so that he can fly properly.   At the moment he flutters from perch to perch, when he can swoop the length of the aviary it will be time to let him go.

Kind rescue saves pigeon

birds - pigeon Oct.This young pigeon was found with injuries to her leg which meant she couldn’t walk or fly.   Her rescuers brought her in to us (thanks folks) and it did look bad at first.   Her leg wasn’t broken but she could barely stand.   She had been put in a cat basket which is ideal for an injured bird, it’s a small space so she couldn’t move around much and injure herself further.  Also it’s a low light level in there which is soothing for a bird in shock.

It’s a real ordeal for a wild bird to be handled especially when hurt.   The pigeon wasn’t much better the second day but she did eat which is a good sign.  We offered split maize, peas, bread and goats milk, also chick crumbs which contain grit.   This is essential for birds, they can’t digest food without it.  You can buy p0ultry grit or make your own by smashing up old pots, but put them in a strong bag first so that the splinters don’t fly up and hit you in the face.

By day three she was a little better and we transferred her to an indoor aviary with a perch.   She stayed in her cat basket for another day and then came out and started walking round.  Within a few hours she could fly again and was feeling much better and made it to the perch.

She looks like a youngster and is still a bit thin so we’ll keep her in and fatten her up before releasing her.  A little life saved because people cared enough to bring her to safety.   It doesn’t always work out this well – sometimes the injuries are just too bad – we do love the happy endings.