TREVOR WEEKS: Think twice before touching fallen fledgling

Tawny owlets
Tawny owlets

We have over 160 casualties in care at the moment, ranging from owls and woodpeckers, to nuthatches, ducklings and bunnies.

Our two tawny owlets are developing well and have now gone into one of our indoor aviary to where we will monitor their weights to ensure they are eating for themselves and get some more adult feathering before they go into the outdoor aviary. Our eldest juvenile jackdaws have gone into an indoor aviary this week too.

We have also moved more of our ducklings into one of our outdoor pens as they are not far off being releasable now. Another batch of hand reared blackbirds have gone into a soft release aviary and our sparrows and juvenile starlings will also be going into their release aviaries, as are the magpies. We will have more young pigeons ready to join their friends by the end of the week. We have managed to get out for release five fledgling crows, two wood pigeons and four feral pigeons, all of which have been hand reared.

Now the warmer weather is here we have to try to balance fundraising with our rescue work. Unfortunately the busy fundraising events coincide with our busiest rescue season. If we don’t raise the money we can’t help the casualties so our resources become even more stretched.

I would like to thank all our volunteers who have been working very hard. The phones have been red hot over the past couple of months and a number of calls we have not been able to respond to because of how busy it has been. Sorry to anyone we have not been able to help. Every year we expand the number of calls we can deal with but it is never enough. I wish I could win the lottery or someone would leave us a large legacy so we could expand even more.

Ambulances have been busy late into the night this week yet again. Calls have included a ‘catted’ blackbird in Freshfield Close, Eastbourne, and a gull chick that had fallen off a roof in Marsden Road, Eastbourne. There were also two hedgehogs dealt with at midnight last night, one was a road casualty at Waldron Thorns, Heathfield, the other was attacked by a dog at Great Cliff Ave, Eastbourne. Rescuers rushed out to a road casualty woodpecker in Jevington. They also responded to a catted jackdaw fledgling in Cavalry Crescent, Eastbourne, and an injured sparrow catted at Bodium Close, Seaford. I could fill an entire newspaper if I listed every single call.

We received a call regarding a jackdaw caught in some type of cable or line in De Monfort Road, Lewes, last week. On arriving at the scene our rescuer quickly realised that, due to the height of the roof top, they would require help from the fire brigade. ESFR arrived on the scene within minutes. After trying different ways they succeeded in freeing the bird and returned it to our awaiting rescuer who assessed the casualty on site. It turned out to be a youngster trying to fledge but unfortunately wrapped tightly round his foot was part of the nest. As he tried to fly the nesting material was caught in the chimney and on his foot. Due to the bird struggling his leg was injured and there was also damage to his wing. He was taken to the vets and, due to the severity of his injuries the kindest thing was to put the poor bird to sleep. A sad situation after getting so far; to fall at the last hurdle. A huge thank you to East Sussex Fire and Rescue for their continued support and attending so quickly, but also the neighbours who gathered and offered tea all evening, a very friendly group of people.

We are getting many calls about fledgling birds and modern technology is proving to be a great way to ensure people are given the correct advice. We have been asking callers to send us photos of the birds in their gardens and this has really helped guarantee the correct advice is given out.

There are three stages of a bird’s early life. Stage one is a hatchling which will be fresh out of the egg, few or no feathers; the second stage is a nestling which has just fluff or a mixture of fluff and feathers, often with bald patches under the wings; and fledglings which are in the process of learning to fly. These will have proper flight feathers where their tail feathers should be at least reaching the base of their tail or longer. There should be no bald patches of feathers and very little fluff if any, mainly on the head. Fledglings are the ones which should be left alone as they are learning to fly. Very few species of birds can fly direct from the nest. Generally they will jump from the nest and end up on the floor. They need to build up their muscle strength in their wings before they can sustain flight. Small birds like blackbirds can be down on the ground for 12 to 24 hours but the bigger the bird the longer this takes so a crow may take up to four to five days and a gull even longer. If you find a fledgling, please leave it alone unless in immediate danger of being run over by a car or similar. Predators are a natural risk to all fledglings and it is physically impossible to bring all fledglings into care because of cats, foxes, birds of prey or dogs being around.

We also need to remember that these fledgling birds are part of the food chain, that is the reason the parents have so many offspring. The natural food chain is such that those creatures at the base of the food chain produce high numbers of young to compensate.

If you do find a fledgling and have to move it because you are worried about predators or dangers please only touch them if you absolutely have to, as you could discourage the parents from coming back to their offspring.

Also please do not move them very far as the youngsters are still reliant on their parents to feed them, and teach them what to do and how to find food. Getting them off the ground into a bush, tree, extension roof or shed roof can all help.

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