When you decide to rescue and care for wildlife, it is essential to ensure you have everything on hand and easily accessible. We were brought this little thrush at 8.45 am, and although everything we needed was in the garage, nothing was in one place. Precious time was wasted finding and organising everything. Now we always have two boxes at the ready – one with all the necessary non-perishable supplies and the other a temporary ‘hospital cage’ with towels and a variety of hot water bottles inside.
Despite looking okay at a visual glance, on picking the fledgling up, it was very underweight, with a very prominent keel. We didn’t initially weigh the chick as it needed other attention more urgently. The bird was very cold: it's feet and legs were like ice sticks so we couldn’t give the chick the necessary fluids immediately - our first priority was to get the chick warm!
Although the first cage we found was too small for the long-term, it was okay for very temporary holding. The quickest method for instant warmth was to fill a glove with hot water from the tap. We did not overfill it; we put just enough hot water so we could still have it lying flat on the bottom of the cage and covered it with a few tissues. We placed the chick in the cage, on the tissues and glove, we then covered the cage with a tea-towel.
The Process of Initial Care
8.45 am – We prepared a small cage as described above, then we placed one end of the cage on the heat pad to help maintain the warmth. We used white tissues so we could see what the faeces looked like when the bird passed something. While we were waiting for the thrush to warm up, we prepared our supplies and equipment.
We got a heating pad plugged in and warming. We also organised larger accommodation for our patient, so it was ready when required.
9.30 am – We began the process of making up some Spark Liquid and Poly Aid Plus, per the manufacturer’s instructions. We drew up about 5mls of Spark, which was warm and mixed it with the Poly Aid Plus. Once well-mixed we drew up approx. 1.5mls of the mixture and tube fed the thrush with a syringe and crop tube, a little at a time.
9.45 am – We transferred our patient to larger, more comfortable accommodation and placed the tub partially on the heat pad. We did this so if the chick wanted heat, he could sit at one end, and if he didn’t, he could sit at the other. We examined the chicks droppings in the small cage before removing the tissues and cleaning the cage.
11.30 am - We performed a physical examination of the thrush, tip to toe, and found no visible wounds or abnormalities, nor any missing feathers. We then tube fed the chick with more electrolytes.
1.30 pm - We tube fed the thrush with Spark electrolytes, increasing the amount to 2mls. We again examined his droppings, and there was a definite improvement in the colour and consistency! We removed the soiled tissues and put in new.
3.30 pm – The thrush was looking a lot perkier, so it was time to give him something more than just fluids. We mixed up a small amount of Hills™ a/d Diet with some Spark electrolyte, which was warm. We very slowly tube fed the thrush approx. 3mls, allowing him to swallow regularly. Before cleaning we again checked his droppings. We were getting excited – it was looking even better! We placed clean tissues on his ‘bed/perch’.
6.30 pm and 9.30 pm – We repeated the above process of tube feeding 3mls of Hills™ a/d diet mixed with warmed Spark electrolyte. Checked his droppings and replaced the tissues. 9.30 pm was his last feed.
Day 2 - 6 am and 9 am – The thrush had made it through the night, and he had two more feeds and cleans. We had got him through the first 24 hours, and could now drop him off to the local vet clinic for a final examination and transfer to a local wildlife rehabber.
Although not always mentioned, we were regularly cleaning and disinfecting the countertops, equipment and our hands. When tubing the bird, we did not always wear gloves, so it was important to take precautions after handling. We washed with Chlorhexidine handwash and dried our hands thoroughly afterwards. If you would like to know more about washing hands effectively, you can watch this video by the World Health Organisation. We used Vetafarm Avicare for cleaning, wiping and disinfecting the counter and cages. We also used Milton’s sterilising tabs to soak our tube and syringes; these were rinsed before using to feed the bird.
The outcome for the little fledgling was a positive one. The thrush showed no visible signs of injury, and we assume the chick had been separated from the parent birds. Not being old enough to look after himself, he was slowly starving and most certainly would have died if he had not been rescued.
Although I am a retired wildlife rehabilitator, I still help birds in need and hold a current local permit/licence to assist native wild birds. I no longer have the facilities to rehabilitate birds’ long term; however, I still can give initial first aid and stabilise birds. The initial care is usually within a 12-36 hour time-frame - we then transfer to the vets if disease or injuries are suspected, before transfer to a rehabber with appropriate long-term care facilities.
Written by Mandy Robertson
Wildlife Rehabilitator & Co-founder of Learn Bird Care Ltd.
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