For useful information on native birds, below are some information sheets:-
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Natural History and Behaviour
Injured (hit by car or unknown cause)
Natural History and Behaviour
In Australia, we are extremely blessed to have such a vast array of native bird species.
There are a number of excellent bird field guides available to assist with identification as well as various smartphone and tablet app’s available through both iTunes and Google Play.
Native birds do not handle stress well so handling should be minimised at all times. Most species have a defined home range and are very territorial. It is for this reason that it is absolutely imperative that information regarding the exact location where a bird is rescued is provided with any bird that comes into care.
If you find a sick or injured bird, it is important to observe the following guidelines when capturing and handling them:-
- Care must be taken not to restrict their breathing. They do not have a diaphragm and can be easily suffocated if the chest is restrained too tightly.
- Sick and injured birds should be housed in a cardboard box with holes punched in the sides for ventilation. Putting them in a wire cage can cause significant feather damage which may render them unreleasable.
- Line the bottom of the cardboard box with a towel.
- Birds of prey (raptors) can inflict nasty injuries with their talons and can sustain irreparable feather damage if housed incorrectly. It is best to call a specialised wildlife rescuer to capture and handle raptors.
- Large water and seabirds can also inflict injury with their strong wings and some species have a razor-sharp edge to their beak. They can also lash out quickly at your face so again, are best captured and handled only by an experienced wildlife rescuer.
Most common species of birds can be captured by placing a towel over the bird ensuring that the head is covered. Gently secure their wings, pick up and place into a cardboard box.
Any bird that is sick or injured will need veterinary treatment.
During spring and summer, the most common enquiry that Wildcare receives is related to baby birds.
It is imperative that we do not rush into bringing a baby bird into care, as often they are uninjured and the parents are close-by. Removing a baby from their parents is what we call ‘bird-napping’.
Injured Baby Bird
If you have found a baby bird that appears to be sick or injured – it will need to come into care even if the parents are still tending to it will require appropriate veterinary treatment as soon as possible.
Please the baby bird into a small box with a towel and transport immediately to a wildlife hospital or vet. Alternatively, contact your local wildlife rescue group.
Un-injured Baby Bird
Download our Baby Bird Poster with instructions on how to help our native baby birds and to create a make-shift nest. This poster is designed to be printed on A3 paper but can also be printed on A4.
Download our Helping Native Baby Bird information brochure.
WILDCARE receives a huge amount of calls each year regarding baby birds – particularly birds that are learning to fly (“fledglings”).
It is extremely important to make every attempt to reunite or ‘re-nest’ a healthy, uninjured baby bird with its parents. After all, there is no substitution for the care of mum and dad! With a little bit of patience and a few household items, we have learnt that in most circumstances, parents can be successfully reunited with their baby.
Here’s what you need to do:
Firstly, we need to correctly identify the bird.
Not all baby birds are raised in a nest; some are ready to take on the world the day they are born.
Precocial birds are born covered in down with their eyes open and can feed themselves soon after hatching. Precocial birds such as ducks, masked lapwings (plovers), swamp hens and moorhens usually nest on the ground and will stay under the watchful protection of their parents until they are independent. Some precocial chicks, such as the brush turkey, are independent from the time of hatching and receive no parental guidance at all!
Helping Precocial chicks
- A Precocial baby does not need to be placed in a nest.
- If it appears to be in danger and the parents are still around, place it under the cover of a dense bush or shrub in a nearby location and observe to ensure the parents re-join it.
- Parent birds have a strong parental bond with their babies and will return to protect the young as soon as they feel it is safe to do so.
- Do NOT offer any food or water; it is best to leave feeding to the parents.
Altricial birds are completely dependent on their parents for warmth and food. They are born completely or nearly naked with their eyes closed and are cared for by their parents until they are mature enough to leave the nest. These include the majority of birds such as honeyeaters, insectivores, parrots, pigeons, doves, carnivores and most raptors. These birds usually nest in trees or off the ground.
Helping altricial chicks
There are two general stages of altricial baby birds; ‘featherless’ or ‘fledgling’.
- Featherless baby birds have no feathers to keep warm.
- If the parents do not return soon, the baby will need to come into care – take the baby to a wildlife hospital or contact a local wildlife rescue group.
- Provide gentle heat, such as placing the baby on a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel, while transporting them to a wildlife hospital, vet or until a wildlife rescuer collects it. Use only WARM water – not boiling hot water.
- Fledgling baby birds have a significant number of adult-looking feathers. They have just left the nest and are learning to fly under the watchful eye of mum and dad who will teach them the lessons and survival skills that they will need to know as a bird; how to fly, what food to eat, how to find food and how to avoid predators.
- They should NOT be ‘rescued’ unless they are in immediate danger.
- If in danger, place them on a branch in a nearby bush or shrub for safety.
- Mum and dad will stay close to keep a watchful eye on them.
- They will not be rejected by the parents because a human has handled them.
- If they appear to be sick or injured, please take the bird to a wildlife hospital, vet or contact a local wildlife rescue group so that they can receive appropriate care.
- Fledglings will usually be confident enough to fly within a matter of days so please keep any cats indoors and to ask your neighbours to do the same.
How to re-nest or reunite baby altricial chicks with their parents
Healthy, uninjured altricial baby nestlings with considerable down or feathers and whose parents are nearby, are suitable to be re-nested and should be placed in a makeshift nest. The parents will continue to care for their baby from the new nest. Contrary to popular belief, they will not reject a baby because a human has handled it. Baby birds have been successfully reunited back with their parents many hours and even days later and the parents are glad to have them returned safely!
This method is suitable for most species of common native birds that raise their young in an open nest including magpies, crows, magpie larks and butcherbirds.
Note: Native birds that raise their young in tree hollows or closed nests (such as termite mounds), are difficult to re-nest. Species such as parrots, lorikeets, kookaburras, kingfishers have more specialised nesting requirements and these should be referred to an experienced bird rescuer for advice, as they may need to come into care. Contact your local wildlife rescue group for further advice.
What you will need:
- A plastic bucket (about 40-50cm deep) with wire or plastic handle.
- A handful of leaves and grass.
- A stick/branch (about 60cm long).
If you don’t have a plastic bucket, you can use an ice-cream container (suitable for small birds), a hanging plant basket or sturdy cane basket.
4 easy steps to making a new home:
- Drill or punch several holes in the bottom of the bucket to provide drainage in case of rain.
- Place a layer of soft leaves or grass in the bottom. Place the stick in the bucket at an angle by securing it into one of the drainage holes. This will allow the parents and baby bird to get in and out easily.
- Place the baby in its new home and hang the bucket at head height in a leafy tree or tall bush away from direct sunlight and predators and as close as possible to where you found the baby. The parents will not mind if it is in a different tree.
- Watch from a distance to make sure the parents return to feed the baby. If the new home is disturbed, this may take several hours. If the parents do not return by dark, the baby will need to come into care.
If the weather is particularly bad (e.g. very windy or rainy), it may be more appropriate for the bird to come into care.
If it is close to evening and the bird is not nocturnal, place the bird in a cardboard box and keep warm and quiet overnight (it will sleep) and then try reuniting it with its parents at first light the following morning.
Reasons why they may need to come into care
There are some instances where we do need to intervene and bring a baby bird into care for assessment, treatment and possibly hand-rearing. Baby birds that show the following signs should come into care:
- Naked or near-naked altricial hatchlings that cannot be returned to the original nest (these are not suitable to be re-nested).
- If the bird has any injuries or has been in the mouth of a dog or cat.
- If the bird is cold and/or lethargic.
- If you notice the parent(s) dead nearby.
- Efforts to re-unite the baby with its parents have failed.
In these instances, place the bird into a ventilated small box with a soft towel on the bottom and place into a warm, dark and quiet location. Do not provide any food or water. Take to your closest wildlife hospital, vet or contact a local wildlife rescue group.
Injured (e.g. hit by car, unknown cause)
Birds are often found on the ground unable to fly and appear to be injured. Often you may not know the exact reason for the injuries.
If the bird has any obvious injuries (e.g. broken wing or leg, evidence of blood) – it will it require immediate veterinary attention. Please take the bird to a wildlife hospital or vet as soon as possible. If you are unable to transport it, please contact a local wildlife rescue group.
It is important to remember that birds feel pain in the same way that mammals do, including us! Prompt veterinary attention will ensure that the bird will have the best possible chance of recovery.
Bird has flown into a window
This is a common occurrence during breeding season as many bird species are territorial and will often attack their own reflection in a window.
- If the bird has any sign of injury (e.g. blood, neurological symptoms), please take it immediately to a wildlife hospital or vet.
- If the bird appears to have no injuries, place the bird in a box and leave it in a quiet room for a few hours. You can then check the bird to see if it is bright and active.
- Birds quite often suffer from concussion when they hit a window and given a couple of hours’ rest are ready to be released again.
- If the bird is no better (or it is worse) following this exercise, please take the bird to a wildlife hospital or vet. Alternatively contact a local wildlife rescue group.
Unable to fly
The main reasons why a bird is unable to fly is because it is either injured or it is a baby.
If the bird is an adult and cannot fly, then it is most likely sick or injured. If you can, capture the bird and take it to a wildlife hospital or vet.
If the bird looks mostly like its adult version but with a few fluffy feathers or not as brilliant colours, it is most likely a fledgling. Fledgling birds tire easily whilst learning to fly and do not have the same capacity to fly as adults. If it uninjured, place the bird in a bush tree or shrub for protection and keep an eye out for the parent birds to ensure that they continue to tend to it.
Bird that repeatedly attacks its own reflection in a window
This display is generally territorial behaviour as the bird sees its own reflection as a rival.
To stop this behaviour, it is necessary to cover the bird’s reflection. This may take some experimentation on your part. If only one window is involved, some simple ideas include:
- Place potted plants in front of the window.
- Hang shade cloth on the outside of the window.
- Placing a screen of some sort in front of the window.
- Tape paper on the outside of the window.
These steps are generally only required for a short period during breeding season to stop the cycle of the bird’s territorial behaviour.
All birds that have been in contact with a cat require veterinary attention and antibiotics. Although it may appear that your cat did not harm the bird, cat’s have very fine, sharp teeth that penetrate the bird’s skin. These punctures heal over very quickly trapping the bacteria in the bird’s body. There will often be no sign of blood and perhaps only a few ruffled feathers.
It is important to place the bird into a suitable sized cardboard box with a towel on the bottom and transport to a wildlife hospital or vet as soon as possible. It is important to tell the veterinary staff that the cat was in contact with the bird as this will ensure that they treat it accordingly.
Birds near busy roads
Calls are often received regarding parent birds with babies near a busy road. Whilst our natural instinct is to protect them and relocate them to a safer area, we are unable to do this as this is their natural behaviour.
Some species nest in busy locations (e.g. plovers), such as on the sides of busy roads/highways or even on roundabouts. Ducks will often look for food on the side of busy roads with their ducklings.
It is also important to note that volunteer wildlife rescuers cannot conduct rescues on busy highways without authority from the State Transport Department due to the high risk to human safety.
Aggressive Parent Birds
The most common species that display aggressive behaviour are the Masked Lapwing (plover), Australian Magpie and Grey Butcherbird. This behaviour is a natural response to the parents protecting their eggs or young.
Although their behaviour can be very frustrating, it is generally short-lived and will subside once the young birds have left the nest. It generally does not last long than 4-6 weeks. With Masked Lapwings, the behaviour generally ceases once the babies have hatched and the parents will lead them into nearby bushland.
If you do have an aggressive bird nearby, try the following tips: –
- Avoid the nesting area as much as possible.
- Wear a hat to eliminate the risk of injury during attacks.
- When riding a bike, secure long zip ties to the helmet so that they stand upright. This will prevent the bird from hitting the helmet.
- Carry a stick or umbrella at head height to prevent the bird from getting too close. It is not necessary to wave the stick about as this may cause harm to the bird.
- Where plovers are attacking people as they enter or leave a building, place a sign to warn people or provide alternative exits during this short period of behaviour.
- Remember that if the parent bird is killed, the chicks will die.
If you are encountering a bird that is attacking outside of breeding season, or is attacking at a school or aged-care home (or the like), it is necessary to contact the Department of Environmental and Heritage Protection (EHP) if you are located in Queensland, for further assistance.
WILDCARE is not licensed to deal with these situations and they must be referred to EHP or a person with an appropriate Damage Mitigation Permit.
Eggs on the ground
There are some species of birds that lay their eggs on the ground such as Masked Lapwings (plovers). This is a natural occurrence and they should not be disturbed. If you are concerned that the eggs will be damaged, you can try the following:
- Try to place some sort of protection around the perimeter of the nest such as witch’s hats, star-pickets with tape etc. This will help protect the eggs from being destroyed by mowers etc.
- Place a sign nearby to alert people not to disturb the nest and to be alert for protective parents.
If eggs are on the ground as a result of a nest which has fallen and broken apart, ask the caller to make a “make shift” nest out of an ice-cream container as described in the Baby Birds section previously. This is not always effective however as the parents will often abandon the nest.
If the nest has fallen and is undamaged, ask the caller to replace the entire nest in its original position (if possible) or to place it into a make-shift nest. The parents may return to the nest.
Birds trapped in a building
Birds are often reported as being trapped in large factories or in houses.
Large buildings (such as factories or houses with high ceilings)
- If the exits are small and the ceiling is high, the bird may have to be caught but this is often very difficult.
- If it is daylight outside and the lights can be turned off in the building, then the exits will become more visible to the bird and it may then see the way out. Most large buildings (such as shopping centres and factories) will not be able to do this for safety reasons.
- These calls will generally be required to be referred to a wildlife business that specialises in difficult wildlife situations.
Small buildings (such as standard houses or shops)
- Open all exits and keep quiet and out of the way. Hopefully the bird will fly out.
- Leaving the bird to find its own way out will reduce stress on the bird and will reduce the risk of injury as a result of hitting a window or wall.
- A long handled net may be successful in capturing the bird.
- If the bird is diurnal, wait until dark and try capturing the bird while it is sleeping.
Birds entangled in fishing line
These reports generally relate to sea and water birds that have fishing line entangled around their legs and/or wings.
If the bird is not contained, please keep an eye on it from a safe distance. Contact your local wildlife rescue group immediately who will put you in touch with a specialised wildlife rescuer.
DO NOT cut the fishing line, particularly if it has been swallowed as the bird may swallow it further and cause further damage.
If you have already contained the bird, take it immediately to a wildlife hospital or vet.
If the bird is still able to fly, please contact a local wildlife rescue group. They will generally have specially trained volunteers with specialised equipment and techniques to lure and capture these birds so that they can receive treatment.
Birds washed up on shore
Some migratory birds come to shore exhausted after a long migration, particularly during times of bad weather out at sea. Periodically, these occurrences will result in hundreds of birds coming to shore.
As these birds are highly specialized, they are best taken to a wildlife hospital or contact a local wildlife rescue group.
Remember do not provide sea birds with fresh water.
Bird found with a band on its leg
There are three main reasons why birds will be banded.
- Pet birds – Pet birds are often banded by breeders when they are young. The most common birds to be banded are parrots, which are commonly kept as pet birds. Banded parrots will almost always be pet birds and they should be taken to a local vet or the RSPCA.
- Racing/homing pigeons – Are not native birds and should be referred to a local pigeon club which can be found via Google or by contacting the RSPCA.
- Wild bird – A bird that is generally not kept as a pet (such as magpies, crows, migratory birds etc.) was likely to have been banded under the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS). These birds are generally part of a scientific project.
If the bird is injured – take the bird to a wildlife hospital or vet and point out that it is banded. They will then contact the ABBBS with the particulars recorded on the band.
If the bird is dead – ask the caller to remove the band and provide the details to the ABBBS.
Australian Bat & Bird Banding Scheme – www.environment.gov.au – search for ‘bat and bird banding’. There is an Online Reporting Form available and detailed instructions on what information is recorded. The ABBBS can provide details of where and when the bird was banded.
Wildlife rescuers will not generally respond to calls involving pet birds or racing pigeons. They will however generally respond to wild birds that are banded under a scientific study.
Brush Turkeys – Baby
Brush Turkey chicks can fly shortly after hatching and are independent from the time that they hatch.
If the chick is injured, please take it a wildlife hospital or vet.
If the chick is un-injured and is bright and alert, please return the chick to where it was found.
Brush Turkeys – Digging up a garden
During most times of the year, Brush Turkeys scratch around in garden beds simply looking for food such as worms and insects, particularly during periods of rain or dry periods when there is limited food available.
During breeding season, male Brush Turkeys may build a mound. Once they start to build a mound, they are difficult to deter.
The following is some general advice in these circumstances:
- Relocating a Brush Turkey is very rarely an effective solution as they are difficult to catch and will generally try to find their way back again or are quickly replaced by another turkey.
- Ensure that compost heaps are covered to discourage turkeys.
- Remember – do not feed them.
- Use tree guards around plants until they are sufficient size to be unaffected by the turkey.
- Erecting temporary fencing around gardens may work (but turkeys can fly).
- Secure garden mulch by placing fine wire over the top (do not use bird or other netting) – turkeys do not like scratching on wire.
- Placing a heavy tarpaulin over the developing mound and weighed down may prove effective (particularly in the early stages of mound building).
- Physically destroying the mound is rarely effective as the turkey will simply start again.
- If you live in a bush area, consider leaving the turkey to display his natural behaviour. Eggs take approximately 45 to 60 days to hatch and are dependent from the time of hatching.
WILDCARE is not licensed to remove problem Brush Turkeys.
Adult Ducks in a pool
Adult ducks often become a nuisance to residents when they visit backyard pools and foul the water.
Some advice that may assist include:
- Remember do NOT to feed them – this only encourages them to stay. Check with your neighbours that they are not feeding them also.
- Place an inflatable ball or pool toys in the pool; these move around and may discourage them.
- Use a pool cover (if available).
- Hang cut-outs of hawks or eagles; these may scare them off. Hardware stores stock resin owls/hawks for this purpose.
Ducks and ducklings in a pool
Quick action is needed in this circumstance in order to prevent the ducklings from being fatally injured.
- Please turn off the filtration system immediately or the ducklings will be sucked in and killed.
- It is essential not to separate the mother from her ducklings, therefore every effort must be made NOT to scare off the mother.
- Try providing a ramp or similar method to enable the ducks to exit the pool; they cannot get out on their own. Securing a piece of shade cloth or towel over the edge of the pool will sometimes be sufficient to enable them to climb out.
- If that doesn’t work, scoop the ducklings out of the pool with a swimming pool net and place them on the ground away from the pool.
- The ducks should be observed from a distance to ensure that the parents return and lead the ducklings away.
- Catching and relocating the ducks must be a method of last resort. If they must be caught, you MUST CATCH THE MOTHER FIRST or she may fly off leaving her ducklings behind.
- Ducklings do not have waterproof feathers; the mother provides the oil for waterproofing so if they are left wet or in water they will die of pneumonia. Keep them warm and dry.
- Never place the parent ducks in the same transportation box as the babies because the babies may get crushed.
- Remember – some ducks nest in trees so ducklings “dropping from the sky” may be a natural or normal occurrence.
If you require assistance with removing ducklings from a pool, please contact a local wildlife rescue group.
Ducklings are often reported as being orphaned. Check carefully in the area for any sign of the parent(s) as this is the first preference would be to reunite the duckling with its parents.
Please do NOT release the duckling into water; they do not have water-proof feathers and will die from pneumonia if they are wet and cold.
If they are genuinely orphaned, they should be placed in a cardboard box and taken to a wildlife carer. Ducklings are particularly prone to stress so should be handled as little as possible. They are also very good at jumping so should be contained in a secure box.
Sulphur-crested Cockatoos commonly succumb to Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (also known as Psittacine Circovirus Disease).
This is a highly contagious disease that attacks the bird’s immune system. This results in missing feathers, an overgrown beak and an overall appearance of looking ill.
There is no cure for the disease and they often succumb to secondary infections such as pneumonia.
If the bird is on the ground and unable to fly:
- If you are able to capture it, take the bird to a wildlife hospital or vet.
- Ensure that you wash their hands thoroughly after handling the bird and to discard the box and towel (or disinfect thoroughly).
- If you are unable to capture the bird, contact a local wildlife rescue group.
If the bird is still able to fly, it is often difficult to capture them. Please monitor the bird and call back if they believe that the bird is able to be captured at a future date.
Lots and Found Pet Birds
WILDCARE often receives calls from the public asking us to make a note of a pet bird that has been lost or found. WILDCARE is unable to do this, however we recommend that you contact the following:
- RSPCA Lost and Found – rspcaqld.org.au
- Animal Welfare League (contact their local office) – awlqld.com.au
- Contact the local vet clinics in their area
- Contact any vets that specialise in birds (check their Yellow Pages or ask their local vet clinic)
- Parrot Alert – parrotalert.com (an international site but heavily used in Australia)
- Currumbin Wildlife Hospital (cwhf.org.au) -07 5534 0813 for Gold Coast
- Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital – 07 5436 2097 for Sunshine Coast