Finding a young bird on the ground

Some birds such as chickens and ducks are relatively well developed and mobile at hatching. However most of the wild birds around our clinic hatch in a very underdeveloped form and are raised in a nest. At several weeks of age these birds leave the nest. On leaving the nest they are not, however, ‘instant adults’. They can only walk and fly weakly and are supported by their parents in the nest vicinity. At this stage they are very vulnerable to cats, dogs, cars and unfortunately people.  Some well meaning people mistakenly ‘rescue’ these chicks when in fact this stage of steadily becoming stronger around the nest is quite normal. Catching and removing these chicks from their parents care gives them an almost zero chance of survival in the wild. Certainly such chicks can be taken into captivity and hand reared (legally only by registered wildlife carers) but when released as mature birds usually die unfortunately for a variety of reasons, essentially because they have no survival skills. It’s a bit like keeping a child inside at home until he is 18 and then taking him into the city and telling him to get a job, cook for himself, and find his way home. Young birds must spend time with their parents to learn all of the lessons and survival skills that they will need as adult birds to survive ie what is food, how to find it, what is danger, where are the safe trees to sleep at night and even how to interact with other birds of the same species. If you find a young bird on the ground that cannot fly, leave it where it is. If however you think that it is in danger then the chick can be placed back in the nest or if this is not possible on a branch in a safer location nearby. Nearby dogs and cats should be confined until the chick can fly sufficiently.

Keeping native birds as pets

It is unlawful to remove a native bird from the wild and keep it as a pet. This includes if the native bird has been removed from the wild because it is injured. The government’s advice to vets and wildlife carers is that if a wild bird cannot be rehabilitated to the wild it should be humanely euthanized. Do bear in mind that the vet covers the cost of the examination and euthanasia from their own pocket. People (and this includes vets) who want to keep such birds for anything more than a few days must apply to the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) for an appropriate permit. The department only issues such permits under exceptional circumstances. Please do not ask your vet to keep and care for a native bird which cannot be returned to the wild unless you have been granted a permit. If you want the vet to provide care in the short term while a permit application is being sought you will need to cover these costs. Remember your vet may see several wild birds per day. It is not reasonable to expect them to pay for their costs.

The difference between native Australian and introduced birds

In Victoria it is unlawful to rehabilitate an introduced bird for release into the wild. Introduced birds include sparrows, blackbirds, starlings, Indian mynahs and lace neck doves. These birds are viewed by the government in the same way as foxes, rabbits and cane toads. Please do not ask the veterinarian to commit an illegal act by providing treatment for these birds with a view to release. The clinic does however offer humane euthanasia free of charge for introduced injured birds. It is however legal to keep these birds as pets. If you would like to do this we are happy to provide veterinary care for these birds in the same way as we would for any other pet. All veterinary costs of course will need to be met by the owners of this new pet.

Costs involved in treating a wild bird

No government body pays or even reimburses the costs incurred by private vets or wildlife carers for looking after wild birds. All costs involved in caring for a wild bird are met by the vet or carer. Most veterinary clinics are prepared to fund a certain amount out of their own pockets but obviously this has to be limited. Expecting the vet to care for all wild birds is a bit like taking a number of cars that are not working to the local mechanic and expecting him to fix them all for free just because he loves cars. No private business can afford this no matter how much they may want to.