In November 2007, a baby Little Heron (Butorides striatus) was literally thrust onto me after a concerned couple picked it from the grounds of the Bukit Timah Campus LINK. It was a fledgling, probably having taken its first flight out of its nest in one of the trees around. Or did it wander out of the nest and somehow landed on the ground.
Being new to the game of “rescuing” helpless birdlings (although it was not me who “rescued” it, I was eager to try my hands at caring for it. The next two months proved challenging as I struggled to feed it in an effort to keep it alive. Check out this LINK that gives the 12 posts covering its “rescue” up to its release.
When the Little Heron was released around where it was picked up, it dawned on me whether the bird could manage to survive without its parents to teach it how to forage for food in the wild, how to recognise and evade predators, etc., etc. Yes, birdlings need to be taught how to survive in the wild.
After my single experience on looking after this Little Heron, I was considered an “expert” and subsequently offered two Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus) chicks to act as foster parent LINK 1 and LINK 2. For the record, one grew up to fly off on its own while the other was predated by a stray cat when I was not looking.
The chances of such birds surviving in the wild after their “rescue” are slim. Chances are, we nurse them to health so that they can be easy food for predators. In most cases we do not actually witness their being predated and thus feel satisfied doing a good turn. Not so for an unfortunate juvenile Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans) that was nursed to health after rescuing it from attacks by marauding crows. At the time of release a Changeable Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus) suddenly swooped on it when the pigeon landed on a branch of a tree LINK.
On 13th April 2008, we posted an account LINK to discourage people from picking up young birds they encounter on the ground when out on nature walks.
It is natural for people to assume a fallen birdling needs help and so we dutifully picks it up and brings it home to care for it. But does the birdling actually need our help? In most cases the answer if NO. Chances are the birdling is on its first flight and landed on the ground. The adults are nearby, usually out of sight. They will not feed it as feeding is used as an inducement for the young to fly. But they have their ways of getting the youngster to hide should a predator be around.
However, if you encounter a birdling by a road or where there is danger of it being overrun by a car or even trampled over by pedestrians, move it to s nearby safe spot. The adults would find them in no time at all. On the other hand if you encounter an injured bird, it definitely needs your care.
NOTE: There is a B.A.R (Bird Alert & Rescue) Singapore Hotline: +65 81802082 that you can get on to if you encounter a birdling that genuinely needs help… LINK.