Would you like to help care for wild birds? Many birds that are brought in for rehabilitation each year have preventable injuries. As wildlife habitat has gotten smaller and interactions with humans increase, the possibility of injuries and illnesses increases. The reasons that wild birds come into care can be varied, yet some common causes are repeatedly seen, including cat or dog attacks, window strikes, road vehicle accidents, poisonings, and entanglement (think fishing line), disorientation and starvation.
Whether you are keen to be a rehabilitator or want to help them in their natural environment, there are many ways that you can contribute to assisting wild birds that need your help!
1. Pay attention to building design and plantings
Many window strike injuries could be avoided by careful attention to the type of glass used, building design and where you plant trees. Usually, birds hit windows due to reflections that make it look like a continuation of their flight path. The resulting impact can result in mild to severe injury or death, and it is estimated that worldwide the losses are in the billions of birds per year! There are excellent resources on building design and plantings with clever frosting/ lines and window decals.
Check out the American Bird Conservancy website for some fantastic free resources: https://abcbirds.org/glass-collisions/
2. Rethink how you manage your pet
Up until now, pet ownership has been relatively unrestricted in New Zealand. It is the owner’s responsibility to have their dog on a lead or allow them to roam. Likewise (and especially in New Zealand), cats have been free to roam wherever they like. With some wildlife rehabilitators reporting that up to a third of their intake is due to cat attacks (millions of birds worldwide!), we need to think about the price of freedom of our dear pets!
Some ideas regarding pet ownership:
Socialise your dog early with birds such as ducks and seabirds to discourage chasing. Talk to your favourite dog trainer about how to do this
Consider specific aversion training for dogs that are near or in wildlife areas or for certain species (in NZ, a typical training is kiwi aversion)
Keep cats in at night when they are most likely to hunt and get into trouble with other cats!
Consider building a “catio” (cat patio). These secure spaces can have multiple platforms, plantings, tunnels, sleeping hammocks and more. There are some amazing designs available and some very happy and secure cats - there is no need to design a cat house like a prison! Have fun searching online for designs and ideas
3. Help with ocean clean-ups!
Do you have a local organisation active in ocean or beach clean-ups or other litter management? Plastic waste and fishing lines and nets are common causes of ingestion, entanglement and drowning, especially for marine birds. By taking an active role in reducing waste in your local environment, you could also save a bird from injury!
4. Being mindful when you drive
Whilst we do not advocate slamming on the brakes every time you see a bird near the road (upsetting those behind you!), there are other ways that you can avoid bird collisions. Slow down if you see a flock of birds near the road as they may scatter. Consider removing (with gloves and ensuring human safety!) roadkill from the middle of roads to help prevent scavenging birds from getting hit. Look ahead of you and slow down if you see an animal ahead of you. It seems like common sense, but unless you are paying attention, it is easy to be right on top of them before doing anything about it.
5. Become a wildlife advocate!
Either support wildlife organisations financially or become involved yourself. Some great community groups and large organisations (like “Forest and Bird” in NZ) are undertaking excellent work on behalf of wildlife. There are also opportunities to help with reforestation projects, predator control and wetland rejuvenation. Providing more safe havens for birds will help their populations long term.
6. Become a wildlife rehabilitator or avian veterinary professional!
You can become involved with a local rehabilitator or group as a volunteer (always a good idea to see if you like it!) or become a rehabber yourself. You could also consider specialising in birds as a vet or vet nurse as there is a considerable need for more skills!
There are many benefits and joys to working directly with sick and injured wildlife, but it is not for the faint-hearted – there can also be grief and overwhelm, and you must be prepared. If you would like to know more, consider undertaking one of our free or paid courses at www.learnbirdcare.com
Written by Janelle Ward
Wildlife Veterinarian & Co-founder of Learn Bird Care Ltd
Would you like to learn to care for wild birds and be another helping hand? Why not try one of our courses and take that next step to help a bird in need? Wild Bird Rescue 101 gives you the tools and knowledge for the rescue, handling, transport and first aid for sick or injured wild birds.
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