Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Important: How to care for an injured baby bird

Jasper observes Bird

When this little bird came to me a few days ago (and shortly after, died in my hands), I wrote to Detta (Wildlife Orphanage and Rehabilitation Centre - WORC) and told her about it. She is currently out of the country and sent a detailed email. I'm sharing it because at some point or another most of us come across baby birds that fall from their nests or are victims of attack. I can tell you from experience, it is very rewarding to nurse an injured animal back to health ... especially a bird, to see it fly off.

From Detta's email:
When you find a baby bird ( any bird) pick it up gently but securely and examine it for any wounds, broken legs, etc. Gently turning it over in the palm of your hand so that the chest is facing you (you can keep your hand in such a position that the bird is still vertical) ease out each wing at right angles to the body, checking the bones of the wing. They are in the same arrangement as your arm. From the inside view any breaks or punctures are easily visible.

In this case there may not have been anything you could have done . The pussy eyes may suggest an infection or pox contracted from pigeons. This would also have caused the swollen nares.

The pigeon pox is a virus and highly contagious to doves and certain other native birds. This is the reason I don't take in pigeons unless they have a pigeon club band. I have another resource person who handles them.

You could give simple triage easily. Keep some supplies in the house: peroxide, Q-Tips, cotton wool, iodine and children's Painol. Mix a small quantity of Peroxide and h2o (half &half) and using Q-tips or cotton wool, completely clean the wound and the surrounding area. Because birds don't have a liquid lymphatic system, and creams make a mess of feathers, I use powdered antibiotics. A good standard is Beneocin. It's a broad spectrum and well tolerated. If you know your doctor well enough and he trusts you, you could ask for a prescription, explaining why you want it.

Pain management is an often talked about problem, I have found the simplest thing is Painol, but if you can get ARNICA in a tablet or powder it would be better as it is homeopathic. Either get it down the birds throat or mix with a little water and give it with a dropper from the side of the beak, a drop at a time.

Just a cautionary note: When putting liquid down a bird's throat make sure you avoid the glottis. This is the opening on the back of the birds tongue. It is the airway to its lungs.
Also remember that these are very small organisms and don't have much body mass. Use only very small quantities of the drug.

Lastly, keep it warm and secure. I have a cheap heating electric pad which I place under the cage at night. You could keep the bird in a box in a quiet and warm place in the house.

Finally: my valued resource person is quite close to you, Dr.Gabriel Brown. He is the avian specialist at the vet school, and you will find him in the small building on the south perimeter road as you pass the new Oncology unit, and the incinerator of the vet school. There is parking off the road but you have to walk round the corner to the glass door. Alternately you could drive around to the Small Animal Clinic, drive past it into the bovine area and the little building is facing you.
In this case it would have been useful to have taken the little body up to him for a necropsy. This way you would get some information back on what happened to it. It also provides the students with useful experience.

I have a small styrene container in which I transport little bodies. The protocol they prefer is to have the animal/bird placed in a clean zip-lock bag as soon after it expires as possible. This way they can examine the parasites it may carry and then place it in the carrier with a few zip-lock bags of ice. No freezing.

In the case of baby birds or an injury case, it is important to identify the species it order to feed it correctly. On the wrong diet, the bird will not survive.

Richard ffrench's book "the Birds of Trinidad & Tobago" has excellent plates for ID and some information on their habits and food sources. Be cautious when taking information off the net. The same species may occur in the southern USA but have different diets and are adapted to those, whereas, the same species from Venezuela, the Guyanas, and the amazon may have more closely related habits.

Finally, it is extremely important, to consider that you are helping this individual to survive and return to its own environment. Only if the individual is crippled and unable to survive in the wild should it become domesticated (habituated) and then a permit should be sought from the FORESTRY DIVISION, or it could be turned over to an established Rehabilitation Centre, for use.


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