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Bird Rescue News (Winter 2005)

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A few things to remember for the welfare of birds in care:

  • Not to stroke or pet the bird. This will remove the oils from the feathers and make it human friendly. This is not a good idea for a wild bird.
  • Not to keep the bird longer than is needed. Once the bird has reached its goal weight and is feeding, and has recovered from its injuries/sickness then it is time for release.
  • Not to get the bird use to dogs or cats. This will result in the bird thinking all cats and dogs are bird friendly —they are not. A dog that may lick and wash a bird in a friendly manner will remove oils, this is not good for the bird. The next dog it meets may well bite and the bird is killed.

Seasonal reminders:

  • Please keep an eye out for Tui that are found lying under flowering rhododendrons from this time onwards. (I noticed in Wellington that some of their bushes are already in flower). Some of the flowers are toxic and if not found in time the Tui will die. Keep the Tui warm and take it to a bird rescue centre as soon as possible.
  • Some ducklings will hatch early so, if possible, give way to them crossing the roads with their mothers.
  • Hungry hawks often feed off road kills and many get hit by cars. Again, if possible, slow down and give them a chance to escape. The blood of the animal they are feeding on is stuck to the road and as they try to fly off with their prey they can’t lift off.

Bird Rescue News

Winter feeding

Well we are now into winter and with it cold mornings and nights. This time of the year the birds really appreciate a feed and some sugar water.

Remember do not use honey to make the water, but one cup of sugar to 1 (one) litre of warm water, dissolve the sugar and cool. The waxeyes really love this mixture and get through it very quickly. I just put a wire basket wedged in a fork of a tree and then put a basin of sugar water in the basket. It didn’t take the birds long to find it.

Wild bird seed is also eagerly gathered as are scraps from the dinner plate. Remember not to put food out too late in the day as this will encourage rats and mice. You could also melt some fat into an empty tin, add bits of food/cake/seeds to the fat, let it set and hang it up in a tree. If you make a hole in the bottom of the tin and thread a string through the hole before pouring the melted fat in you can then use it to tie around a branch.

Kiwi bird in care

A few weeks ago a Kiwi was brought into care. It had been handed into a vet and had to have its leg removed. It looked like it may have been caught in a possum trap but no details of how it was injured were given. It was good that it was handed in as it got care straight away.

The bird was put onto a heat pad when it came into bird rescue, and after two days was standing. A few days later I saw it eating on its own which was really good.

Kiwi eating on its own
Kiwi eating on its own

Once the Kiwi started to gain weight it was sent over to Rainbow Springs Rotorua, as it could not be released back to the wild... Rainbow Springs are responsible for raising a lot of young Kiwi in their Operation Nest Egg. This is when fertile eggs are removed from the wild population of Kiwi and hatched at Rainbow Springs. Once they reach their goal weight they are returned to the wild. Many young Kiwi would be lost to predators such as rats, cats, stoats, etc. if these steps were not taken.

Kiwi off to Rainbow Springs
Kiwi ready to goto Rainbow Springs

The latest news from Rainbow Springs on the Kiwi is that it is still gaining weight, eating well and they are awaiting the result of a feather sent to find out whether it is a male or female.

Fantastic what they can find out these days.

Other birds in care

Other birds in care include a few pied shags, down in conditions.

Shag down in condition
Shag down in condition

Unfortunately some shags get very tame when you are feeding them, and can be a nuisance once released. It is very important not to make pets of the birds in care, not even stroking them. We want them to adjust to the wild again very quickly.

A few weeks ago there was a photo of pied shag in the newspaper, it had gone into someone’s lounge and was sitting on their settee, and it wasn’t even frightened of the cat. This type of behaviour can be the downfall of some wildlife. Next time there maybe a great big dog that attacks the bird.

I am not sure how we can get over this problem. It is like people fishing in a boat, and throwing scraps of fish to the seabirds. The birds then target all fishing boats with some disastrous results. Some years ago a giant petrel was clubbed to death through being around a fishing boat, other reports of birds being shot at sea are often heard.

Also in care have been native pigeons, kingfishers and morepork flying into windows or get hit by cars when flying low over the road.

Windows kill lots of bird each year. If you stand outside your home and look in through a window you see the reflection of the trees and shrubs, this is what the bird sees, and it thinks it can fly through. Some birds just stun themselves while others break wings or are killed outright.

Morepork also get hit by cars at night when flying after moths.

A few hawks, down in condition, came in. this could be due to poison through eating wildlife that had botulism.

Botulism refresher

Sullivan Lake in Whakatane had an outbreak of poisoning — whether it was botulism or not is unclear.

Both the white swans died and also some ducks and a heron.

Black-backed gulls pick up botulism from the Council dump by eating food that is past its use by date. We even had a banded dotterel that had symptoms of botulism. Any bird eating the maggots off a dead bird, or the bird itself, that has died of botulism will also get it. I think I mentioned this in my last news letter, but it is always good to reinforce the message.

Major flooding at Matata

Since the last newsletter we have had very bad floods at Matata. Many of you would have seen the news items on television and newspapers showing the vast amount of rock and debris that has been brought down from the hills and surrounding back country.

The Matata Lagoon, for many years a sanctuary of wildlife, has been devastated. Silt has covered the lagoon and I don’t think it will ever get back to how it was before. Even a couple of months later, with heavy rain, more flooding has been reported.

I think the amazing thing is seeing the power that the water/floods had on the rocks that were brought down. Rocks larger than a big truck came down, and it was a miracle that no one lost their life.

Our local Council Animal Control went out in the aftermath of the floods to feed cats, dogs and even doves that were stranded through the evacuation of the townsfolk.

Local care group established

Fighting for the rights of wildlife and their habitat has made people join together and start a “Save our Wetlands Care Group” in Whakatane.

There is a proposal for a marina to be built on the Apanui Saltmarsh, situated along the river between the Whakatane Yacht Club and the Landing Road Bridge. Many people walk along here viewing the wetlands and birds, walking their dogs or participating in the many other activities that take place along the stop bank.

Birds such as royal spoonbill, heron (white, white–faced and reef), shag (little, little black, pied and black), oystercatchers, pied stilts, ducks (all sorts), bittern, spotless crake, and banded rail as well as fernbird all use the wetlands. Also bar–tailed godwits have been seen feeding during the summer months.

A very well attended cleanup along the stop bank filled a trailer with rubbish. Another cleanup will be held during conservation week. It is hoped to encourage the schools to be part of the care group studying the bird life. Perhaps in time there will be an interpretation board listing the birdlife to be seen.

We have less and less wetlands in the Bay of Plenty and it is very important to preserve what we have. Not only is it the birds that will suffer through lack of wetlands but also whitebait which use the damp grasslands for laying their eggs and eels for part of their life cycle.

Rosemary Tully
Whakatane Bird Rescue, New Zealand 
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