HAND FEEDING BABY BIRDS

posted in: Feeding chicks, Rescue | 84

“Our illustrious Webmaster feels strongly that we should leave baby birds alone. I agree. Attempting to hand feed baby birds is an extremely demanding task somewhat more complicated and troublesome than raising a human baby.

“It’s also something much easier to get into than get out of. The job does not end when the baby is fledged and capable of feeding itself.

“Turning it loose at that point would probably only ensure a good meal for the next passing raptor or neighbourhood cat.

“The rehabilitation of hand-raised birds and their return to the wild is a subject worthy of a chapter in itself.

“However, sometimes we get stuck, and have no alternative except to rescue fledglings. Those without bird-keeping experience then wonder what to do.

“So, when there is no alternative, you can try some techniques commonly used in aviculture to raise very young birds without their parents. The methods described in this article can be used to raise the following types of birds until they are able to fend for themselves.

“All starlings and mynahs; all bulbuls; barbets; leaf birds and fairy bluebirds; orioles; all parrots, parakeets, lories and lorikeets; finches, munias and sparrows; pigeons and doves; and crows and magpies.

“Thrushes, shamas, robins, herons, owls and hornbills are also frequently hand-raised, but using different techniques. And methods employed for the husbandry of ducks, geese, pheasants, rails, quail and jungle-fowl are also different. I will just skim over the details of those species at the end of this article, but if required, will be glad to provide information through the administrator of this website.

Here goes – with Handfeeding 101
“The bird used to illustrate this article is a Yellow-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier ventris) named Angry Bird. He has a grudge against the world – and for good reason.

“There he was, about a week old, minding his own business in the nest, when a cat brought everything down and ate his sibling. After finishing the snack, the cat ate his mother, who was fluttering nearby. It would have started on him too, except that I intervened.

“And I was stuck with the task of raising an Angry Bird with a bad attitude.

“Based on my own experience in keeping and breeding aviary birds I can say that in recent years there have been many advances in aviculture. A range of commercial products are available to simplify the care of most of the omnivorous and seed-eating species listed at the beginning of this article.

“When starting off with a very young baby bird you will need are a container, a heat source, food and syringes.

The container and heat source.
“The best container is an incubator. Some of the better-stocked bird shops sell small, table-top incubators for aviculture. But if you are not prepared to go to the expense, a box and a lamp can do the job.

“I don’t like to use plastic fish tanks, even though it is common in bird shops to display fledglings for sale in these. While good for business, leaving them constantly visible from all sides can cause stress. Generally, fledglings do better with some darkness and privacy because many species of birds construct either cup-shaped or covered nests.

“A cardboard box with a lid holds fledglings very well. Cut a small hole in the lid, line the bottom with kitchen towels, and put the fledgling in. Change the towels every time they are soiled, which will be often.

“Please remember that birds which have not yet grown feathers also have very poor control over their body temperatures. Many will die if allowed to be chilled overnight.

“I use a light bulb as a simple heat source. I shine the bulb at one of the sides of the box and put it close enough so that the cardboard feels slightly warm.

“Don’t put the light so close that the box may accidentally catch fire.

“As far as possible, have a box long enough to allow a temperature gradient – that is, with the heat source only at one end so that one side is cooler than the other. In this way, the bird can move to the section where it feels most comfortable.

Food and syringes
“Gone are the days when aviculturalists had to mix their own formulae for hand feeding. Now, there are very good mixes from leading American and German manufacturers. A standard parrot hand-feeding formula will suffice for all the birds listed at the beginning of this article. A full package is probably far more than you will need for raising even a few fledglings. Luckily, Goodwill Bird Trading at Block 154 next to the community centre at Serangoon North Avenue 2 will sell small servings of hand-feeding formula.

“A seven-dollar packet saw Angry Bird through from the day he arrived until he started eating on his own. Handfeeding formula is highly perishable. Keep it in the refrigerator.

“Mix the powdered formula with lukewarm, not hot water. Hot water reacts with the starches in it to form gum, which the baby birds will not eat. The desired constituency should be a paste, but not runny, just liquid enough to be sucked up in a syringe.

“Some people use spoons, others use coffee stirrers, but I still prefer to feed baby birds with syringes. I find these most convenient. I use the smallest syringes, with a total capacity of 1 cc. Please understand that baby birds are very small. For a bulbul, 1.5 to 1.8 cc in total is the maximum amount for one feeding. For a munia, probably a third of that will do. A long, small-diameter syringe also allows better control over the amount that you put into a bird at any one time.

“Most very young baby birds will gape when you approach them. If they do not, waving a hand just above their heads so as to cast a shadow, like a parent bird approaching the nest, will often trigger the gape reaction. Once the bird gapes, it is easy to feed.

Feeding with a syringe
“From above, inject a dose of food into the gaping mouth. The syringe makes precision feeding easy. To prevent injury to the bird, do not insert the syringe down the throat. And never push the syringe against the bird, as that can rupture the gullet. Baby birds are very delicate.

“Four to five squirts should suffice. The skin on the neck of fledglings is translucent. You can easily see how full their crops are. When you see the swelling on the neck, or when the bird stops gaping, it has had enough.

“I digress here to discuss gavage, a despicable practice used in commercial aviculture and duck farming to quickly raise large numbers of young birds as well as produce foie gras for ethically insensitive diners.

“It is said that birds have no gag reaction and it is possible to ram a whole lot of food into the crop at one go. Some people inject the ration for an entire meal this way. When you are raising a whole lot of birds on a commercial farm, I can understand that this saves time.

“In my opinion, birds raised this way do not interact well with people or with other birds. Very often, they will not even gape. The feeder holds their beaks open and injects the food. Anecdotally, I have been told that parrots raised this way do not make good parents.

“As an ornithologist, I assume that you want the fledglings you rescue to grow up and continue the next generation. For that, they should develop as many natural reactions as possible. Therefore, they should gape and approach the syringe as they would the beak of their parents.

“I can probably put a full syringe into a bird at one go. But I always prefer to feed in stages, so that the baby bird interacts with me, at least four to five times, during each feeding session.

“Now comes the difficult part. Baby birds require to be fed at two-hour intervals. Yes, there are bird shops that sell fledglings and tell you that they only need to be fed thrice per day. That is simply not true.

“As a senior citizen considered well past use-by date according to most employers, I had the idle time to diligently feed Angry Bird at intervals of less than two hours, every day for three weeks. The first meal was at dawn. He always had a full crop when put to bed at dusk each evening.

“By the second week or so, baby birds will get adventurous. They will want to leave the box. This is when you will need a bird cage.

“Try to get a cage with a very large door, or, better still, one in which the entire front opens. This feature makes for convenience when feeding and cleaning. If it is the only bird cage that you intend to have, one of this type is the best when the time comes to prepare the bird for release.

“The problem with cages is that they are exposed, and baby birds will flutter against the bars, breaking their feathers.

“Very often they will break so many feathers that they will eventually not be able to fly properly. You might then have to take care of them for another six months until they moult a new set.

“When the baby bird is transferred to a cage, keep it away from drafts, especially at night. I always cover cages with a towel at night, and ensure that no drafts from my airconditioner can get under the towel.

“Angry Bird grew quickly. In three weeks he was ready to be weaned.

Weaning
In true Singaporean fashion, baby birds prefer to be dependent. Given a choice, they want you to continue hand feeding. Mynahs and parrots have been known to insist on being hand fed even up to nine months old. Some aviculturalists oblige because they want very tame pets. On the other hand, birds that are forced to wean too early tend to be underweight.

“I would consider a bird due for weaning when the corners of the beak are no longer fleshy, and when the beak itself becomes narrow and takes on the proportions of that of an adult bird.

“To start weaning, I add a little softbill food into the feeding mix. The solid granules will not pass through a syringe, so at this stage I switch to using a coffee stirrer taken from a fast-food restaurant. If it is too large to fit into the beak, trim the plastic with scissors, making sure that you do not leave any sharp edges.

“There are many mixes sold by bird shops for feeding softbilled birds. No doubt some of the local mixes are good, but others are suspect. Some do not contain sufficient nourishment, whereas others are boosted with too much glucose and other stimulants. These are used by people who enter birds in singing competitions. The fortified mixes give boosts of energy, but are not good for long-term health.

“I have used pre-packed mixes from the German manufacturer P. Sluis and the American Purina Corporation with good effect. Purina Pretty Bird Softbill Pellets seem to be acceptable to most birds. For young birds, it may be necessary to soak and soften the pellets, though these can be served dry to adult birds.

“After getting the baby birds to eat the pellets when spoonfed, the next problem is to get them to pick up the pellets themselves. Birds when hungry will start to peck at food. If they are kept very hungry, they will wean faster.

“Though some people do this out of convenience, I don’t like to force the birds to wean. I have seen too many hand-raised baby birds that were force-weaned and undersized. Once a bird has been malnourished in its development stage, it will probably not catch up to full size, however well it is treated in later life.

“This may not be a critical factor in a pet. But a bird that is to be released back into the wild has to be as fit, strong and large as possible to cope with the challenges and predators out there.

“Therefore, I continue spoon feeding baby birds until it is blatantly obvious that they can pick up food on their own.

“Young birds are wasteful and messy when being weaned. This is unavoidable. They do not recognise food in cups. I slice bananas or papayas lengthwise and spread the softbill pellets on the cut surfaces.

“The fruit juices soften the pellets, making them easier to eat. The young birds will investigate and peck at the fruit slices, inadvertently ingesting some of the pellets as well.

“After a while, I no longer serve pellets on fruit slices, but give a mixture of diced fruits and pellets. Finally, when I find the birds taking pellets readily, the pellets and fruits are served separately. And at some meals, fruit is not served.

Insect protein
“In nature, insect protein comprises an important part of the diet of baby birds, even of the vegetarian species. Modern hand-feeding formulae have sufficient protein to compensate for the lack of insects in the food, but during weaning, and after the birds are weaned, the addition of insect protein does improve the condition of almost all birds.

“The easiest but not the best insects to feed to birds are mealworms and superworms. Mealworms are about 1 cm in length while superworms are about four times as large. These are the larvae of different types of beetles that are commercially bred, and are sold in most pet shops and aquarium shops. All experienced bird keepers warn that these creatures can be dangerous to young birds. The larvae have hard shells and sharp, strong jaws. They do not die immediately when ingested, and have been known to cause fatal injuries by biting the gullets of young birds.

“I always cut these worms into several pieces before feeding them to birds, and discard the heads. The jaws can continue biting even after the worms have been cut into pieces and swallowed. Mealworms and superworms are full of starch and fat, and do not make for a balanced diet. I serve them only as treats for omnivorous birds. Insectivorous birds are a separate matter.

After weaning
“You can very often end up with a bird that is difficult to get rid of. Some, like mynahs, pigeons and doves, become ridiculously tame and trusting. Others do not recognise danger and don’t know how to get out of the way of cars or children. Some species of birds are valuable, and will be poached if you simply turned them loose.

“Re-introduction into the wild takes time, and can only be done in an appropriate place. Opening a cage door in the middle of a Housing Board Estate guarantees a dead bird. What would you do if you were suddenly dumped in the middle of Moscow and told to fend for yourself?

“I have been fortunate to have lived in rural or suburban areas most of my life. The release of hand-raised birds is a process that stretches into weeks.

“The first step is to ensure that the birds can really fly. Angry Bird spent so much time fluttering against the cage bars that most of his flight feathers got broken. I will have to wait until he moults and grows another full set before starting on his release.

“In the past, and now for the sake of Angry Bird, I have assembled flight cages with full-opening front door. I used to breed parakeets, lorikeets and doves in such flight cages, which measure about 1 meter in length and half that in width and height. They are spacious enough that birds should not break feathers fluttering against the sides, and are made of lightweight wire and cost about $30 apiece.

“Birds meant for release were transferred to the flight cages hung in the shed behind my old house. In my present house, the flight cage for Angry Bird is in the back porch, which faces a large expanse of greenery.

“Once in the flight cages, the birds were fed with minimal human interaction. The objective was that they should not be tame, and should not like to approach people.

“Once they had settled in for several weeks, I would observe the wild birds in the area. For common species such as the Yellow-Vented Bulbul or the Javan Mynah, there would usually be resident pairs in most areas. The males of these pairs would come up to the bars and challenge the birds in the cages.

“I had to make sure that the birds in the cages were sufficiently self-confident and well-established so that they would not be driven away in panic once the territory-holding male confronted them. I assisted the process by shooing away the territory-holding birds whenever they challenged the birds in the cages.

“Finally, when I thought that the birds in the cages were ready for release, I would tie open the main doors, but still leave food and water inside the cages.

“It is very common for hand-raised birds to return to the cages, which they treat as home base, for days, or even weeks after the doors are opened. Right now, I have one Spotted Dove that has been coming back every morning for over six months.

“The cages also serve as the core of their territories. If the wild, territory-holding bird in an area attacks your recently-released bird, it may rush back to the cage for security. And if you have been shooing away the other birds in the area, they might not dare to pursue your bird back into its cage.

“After this stage, it is all touch-and-go, hit-or-miss. There is no guarantee that the original territory-holder in any place will co-exist peacefully with your bird, or that your bird can succeed in displacing the other bird. And, despite your efforts not to make your bird too tame before release, there is also no guarantee that it will not be too trusting and come to grief.

“Our web-master is right. Hand-raising baby birds is a thankless and often futile task if you plan to release them. But sometimes, there is no alternative, and I just have to be prepared to have an additional mouth to feed that I really do not want, but who might be with me for a long time.

“No wonder he is an Angry Bird.

Raising other types of birds
“Besides omnivorous softbills and seed eaters, I have also hand-raised insectivorous thrushes (shamas, magpie robins and pittas) gallinules (quail) herons, bitterns and owls. Some of my friends have raised raptors and sunbirds. These are the things you would do differently for these other types of birds.

Insect eaters
“The processes are the same as those for raising a bulbul, but the diet is different. The base diet should be an insectivorous mix, which can be bought from reliable bird shops. Try to get the German or American mixes rather than the local formulae, which are not consistent. The formulated diet has to be mixed with water for baby birds, and must be supplemented with fresh insects.

“Live crickets, mealworms and superworms are sold at most bird shops. When bought, the insects or larvae are often starved and not nutritious. Gut-loading is necessary. This involves feeding the feeder insects well, and ensuring that they are fat and have full stomachs, before they go into your birds. Many insectivorous birds, especially when they are young, require vegetables and fruits in their diet, but will not eat these items on their own. You have to feed insects full of fruits and greens, and then feed the insects to the birds. Mealworms readily take apple peelings. Crickets do well with a mixture of chicken feed and slices of orange.

“The gruesome part is snipping them up with scissors into bite-sized pieces for the baby birds.

“Flying termites, when they appear, are really appreciated by the birds. They are not too difficult to catch.

“I have found that pittas like a diet with a large proportion of earthworms. Feed with soil still adhering to the worms.

“The biggest problem with insect-eating songbirds is that they are aggressive and usually very valuable. If released close to human habitation, it will not be long before someone attracts them with a decoy and traps them for sale.

Sunbirds
“The processes are the same as for raising a bulbul, except that a nectar-based diet is used. I used to keep and breed lorikeets, nectar-feeding parrots, and know that very reliable American-made nectar-based diets are available.

“A mixture of nectar-based diet and insectivorous bird diet is used for weaning sunbirds.

“Remember that sunbirds are very small. The portions served at each feeding must be adjusted accordingly.

“After being weaned, sunbirds will eat insects and some soft fruit in addition to the nectar, which makes up the staple diet.

Gallinules
“Pheasants, jungle fowl and quail are the easiest baby birds to raise. They can feed themselves from a very young age. Many quail also never become really tame, but remain skittish around people. Releasing them into the right environment is no problem.

Herons, bitterns and egrets
“These are easy, but very smelly to raise. Herons and bitterns eat fish. Simply buy small fish from the market and slip these down their throats. I have found that the Chestnut Bittern and the Little Green Heron do not gape. You have to hold the bird, open the beak and slip the small fish down the throat. They are hardy, and grow strongly. But their droppings stink.

“I have not raised Cattle Egrets myself, but know people who have. They seem to be all right on a diet with some fish, meat, crickets and superworms.

“I used to live near the Serangoon River, and simply left the cage doors open for the herons and bitterns. I assume that they eventually found their way to the river banks.

Owls and raptors
“Roughage is an important component in the diet of these birds. When I had baby Collared Scops Owls, there were still chicken hatcheries in most villages. As I had a number of other exotic pets at that time (long before Singapore enforced any regulations on keeping wildlife) I was a regular customer for the discards, malformed chicks that did not hatch properly. These, freshly dead, would be fed, feathers, bones and all, to the baby owls, which flourished.

“I don’t know where to get suitable meat or poultry with the feathers and bones still attached any more, but have read that mixing cotton wool (natural fibre, not synthetic) into minced chicken can produce a workable substitute.

“The trouble with owls is that they become ridiculously tame and attached to people, and refuse to leave.

“I have never raised raptors, but know friends who have. They have not been able to release their birds because these huge and impressive birds attract attention. Being hand-raised, the tame raptors do not know how to avoid attempts to capture them.

Lee Chiu San
Singapore
3rd September 2012

84 Responses

  1. […] hand-feeding formula will suffice for all the birds listed … … See original here: Bird Ecology Study Group HAND FEEDING BABY BIRDS ← A Guide to Feeding Your Pet: Caring for Your Pet […]

  2. Thank you for the informative article. I love the subtel sense of humor! thank you and like-minded others who put in the (seemingly thankless but important) efforts to help these birds.. I too recently had an incident where a neighborhood stray cat took down two out of the 3 nestling mockingbirds in our nest. Luckily, both nestlings were unharmed and we simply reconstructed a makeshift nest for them and hung the nest back into the nest tree. We confirmed that the parents found/fed them for the next week until all nestlings fledged sucessfully.

  3. Lim Swee Im (Datin Dr)

    Wow, great article, enough info as a stand alone booklet. What a wonderful world it would be if everybody does everything with love & care! Certainly agree that venturing into caring for young birds is not for the faint hearted, nor those with busy pressured lives. Better to leave alone than to do more harm.

  4. Lee Chiu San

    Thank you very much, Alice and Datin Lim Swee Im for your encouraging comments about my writing skills or lack thereof.

  5. Thank you for the informative article and your kindness toward birds. I just lost a brown throated sunbird I had been raising for over 7 months. I found it in the corner of my bedroom of all places in June when it was just a fledgling. It was injured in one eye and had a broken wing. After a trip to the vet and placed on medication, she recovered quite beautifully to fly around the house over short distances. She lost the use of her eye however. I fed her every 2 hours with polyaid in a syringe and soon she was drinking nectar out of a bowl and eating fruits. Sadly, I could never release her as she preferred to stay on the ground and was in danger of cats, people and cars. She had a room she could fly about in but it had a basin and one day, the tap leaked and filled the basin.
    She fell in but managed to keep her head over water for at least 5 hours before I came home and found her. I dried her and watched her over the next few days, she seemed fine but was not moving around as much. A week later, on new year’s day, her conditioned worsened so quickly, and with everyone who loved her by her side, she died. Most people tell me it’s just a bird. To us, she was a bird who would fly directly to where I wherever I was seating so she could be close to me. She would come when we called and would somehow ‘communicate’ when her food bowl was empty by walking back and forth to her bowl and us. Heartbroken

    • A touching story with a sad ending, but I am sure both parties enjoyed the interaction until the end.

    • Jeremy Chen

      I can’t imagine how sad you must feel. I felt sad when this spotted dove chick we rescued left. Had no idea what to feed it. Lamely gave it human baby formula for a bit till it was able to peck for seed. (Had no idea what we were doing.) But we were sad when he/she left (we named it Kelvin after the big bird in Up!)

    • Art Nicolet

      Dear Heartbroken,

      After living with two green cheek conures for 23 years I too experienced the same joys of bird companionship you described. I often say that there is an incredible relationship between bird lovers and their precious birdies. A relationship as deep and meaningful as many human relationships. We only discover the depth of that relationship after they are gone and we are confronted with the brutal grief of their death and we notice how quiet the house is! Soon thereafter we are shocked by the depth of the grieving pain with which we are assaulted. The memories we are left with eventually help us continue to experience that grand little creature who met us each time with unconditional love and excitement every time we came home. Hello Buddy and Peepers, I miss you so much!

  6. Lee Chiu San

    Very sad, but this sometimes happens with birds. When their body temperatures are allowed to fluctuate beyond a certain limit (in this case, when the bird was soaked)you may get them out alive, but the damage has been done, and they will die afterwards. I have known birds that died a few days after they were left out in the sun, or out in the rain. And yes, some birds do form very close and genuinely loving relationships with people. I have experienced this with corvids and the large parrots – which is why I do not keep them as pets any more. The parting is just too painful.

  7. Jeremy Chen

    I was reading this while waiting for sunbird mama/papa to come back for another feeding. I have sunbird tenants and one egg just hatched today. Worried about the I hatched one. It’s a bit like becoming parents… First time can be very full of worries.

  8. […] “A year ago I chronicled my travails, having to play surrogate parent to an orphaned Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier ventris) LINK. […]

  9. […] spelt out in great detail on this website how much trouble is required to hand raise one fledgling LINK. I did not intervene to help ensure success even though the one pair that I observed had five […]

  10. Hi there, Thank you for the informative article. I found a baby bulbul and raising and feedinghim for a week nou, in the biginning it was tough to get enough food in his crop, after bying a syringe, my problem is that his feathers was falling out a lot, it stoped now, what i need to know also is ist ok to feed him baby purity, grapes and apples. Will the feathers grown out again.

  11. Lee Chiu San

    Sorry to say, but if there is noticeable feather loss, this could be a sign of malnutrition. When birds change from baby down to adult feathers, you can usually see the pin-feathers (look like little quills sticking out of the skin) appearing before the down drops off. However, if you notice that the feathers are no longer falling out, it can mean one of two things – 1) you have changed the diet and the problem has been solved – 2) all the feathers that can be lost have been lost, and those that remain are what the bird cannot afford to lose.

    As to what to feed the bulbul – my recommendation is still one of the reputable brands of hand-feeding formula, which you can buy from the major bird shops in Serangoon North.

    Failing that, human baby formula (porridge-based rather than milk-based) will often do for bulbuls and mynahs.

    You have had the bird for only one week. It is still a bit too early to start it on fruit. Only after two or three more weeks, when you can no longer see fleshy growths on the sides of the beak, and when all the feathers are fully formed, will it be ready to try some fruit. Cut the fruit into small pieces when you first introduce it to the bird. Grapes and apples are OK, but I find that papaya, though very messy, is their favourite.

    Hope you have success raising this bird.

    • Please help! I found a baby sparrow most likely a fledging as its fully feathered but it can’t fly yet. And it has bee sleeping throughout the night and all it seems to want to do is sleep, but it curios a lot occasionally. I’ve found it for 12 hrs and when I tried feeding it and putting the syringe near its mouth, or hovering it above the bird it still does not open it’s mouth or gape . What should I do as I’ve completely no experience with birds.

      • First of all, the bird should have been left at or around the site found – but away from possibility of being trampled or caught by a cat or dog. Now that you have the bird, if it is not responding to you, it may be that it is dying. And I don’t think there is anything you can do about it. Only if it is gaping and asking for food could you feed it with soft food like fruits. Often the older of the two chicks in the nest will push the younger out to benefit from the food brought by the adults.

  12. Hi, is there any way for me to contact the author of this article?

    We had an abandoned baby bulbul outside our house about 7 months back and this article was very useful in helping us to take care of him and raise him. We wanted to take care of him until he can fend for himself on his own and we have tried finding advice to release him back into the wild but come up blank.

    Help please! We welcome any advice on how to release our bulbul back into the wild.

  13. Lee Chiu San

    Dear Mirnalini,

    Releasing animals back into the wild always involves some risk, but I suppose it is the best choice sometimes. Here is how I have done this, for a variety of common native, and not-so-common native birds that were excess to what my aviaries could hold:

    First, is the area suitable for releasing a bird. Fortunately, both my present and my previous homes were the last houses on streets in relatively sparsely populated parts of Singapore. There was greenery on three sides, and my only neighbour in both cases were also understanding nature lovers. So, I did release from my own garden, but I would not do so if I live in central block of a condominium. If you are in the latter position, find a friend with a suitably located home who will give you help.

    Second, the bird to be released must feel at home in the area. You can’t just open the cage door, boot it out, and expect it to fend for itself in a totally unfamiliar place. I usually keep birds about to be released in a large cage on my back porch for at least two to three weeks, until they feel at home.

    Third, the bird may not want to go right away. I always have food and water in the cage. One day, I will open the door, and tie it open. The bird may not leave for several days. Do not attempt to push birds out. This can be a death sentence.

    Fourth. When it leaves, it may come back. They very often do. Life outside is not wonderful, and they may not know how to forage for food right away. Keep the cage door open, and food and water supplied, so that in a crunch, the bird can come back to a place of refuge. Doves are the worst free loaders. Some just never want to go away. Usually, after a period of weeks, or sometimes months, they will adapt to life outside and not come back so frequently.

    And finally – Accidents happen. Not all releases have happy endings. The mortality rate is high among young birds, even those brought up by their parents. The inexperienced youngsters are the first targets for predators. And tame, inexperienced young birds are also targeted by the neighbourhood brats. Hopefully, you can be around to rescue them when they get into difficulties.
    Anyway, I wish you the best in trying to release the bird.

    • Thank you very much for your help!

      We actually don’t keep our bird in the cage; instead we let him fly around the house with the windows and doors closed. He only sleeps in the cage at night. Would that make it harder for us to release him as he is already very accustomed to the house?

      Furthermore, if there are other birds of it’s kind in the area will that be helpful in getting our bird used to flying out on it’s own? I live in a walk up apartment in Siglap and there are quite a lot of trees nearby.

      Thank you once again!

  14. Lee Chiu San

    If you really want to release the bird, you have to take the risk that the outcome may not be what you like. However, if there are trees nearby, there is a good chance that your baby bird can find a way to make a living. Move the cage, well-supplied with food, to a place on your verandah facing greenery. After the bird becomes used to the location (usually after two or three weeks) leave the door open, and hope for the best.
    Other bulbuls in the neighbourhood will not make your bird feel welcome. To them, he will be an intruder, competing for food and scarce resources, and they will do their best to drive him away. Which is why you need to keep the cage door open, and the cage well supplied with food, so that he can come back to use it as a refuge. And hopefully gain enough strength and confidence to fight off the incumbent birds and stake a claim on a piece of territory.

  15. Hello, we found a sunbird fledging perched on our pomegranate tree which does not have the ability to fly. We suspected that it fell from it’s nest due to the very heavy rain on Sunday. The parents were there urging it to fly and by night fall however, they returned home without the baby. worried that it may get attacked by cats or rats, we took it home in a big box. we tried giving it sugar syrup and we mistook it for a hummingbird but it took it all the same. Next day, the parents found its way to my house and now, I have unannounced visitors coming in to feed their baby throughout the day. when night comes, they leave the baby in my house and went home. May i just ask, how long does it take for a fledging to be able to fly? it is now only able to fly little by little but not very far.

    • The first flight is always clumsy. Subsequent flights will get better. I am sure within a day it should be flying around without much problems.

  16. Hi, I found a baby mynah bird about a month back. When I found him, he was nearly 3-4 weeks old. I feed him fruits and egg. By the time he was 6 weeks old, he got sick and i took him to a Vet. Vet said he seems to have got fungal infection. he became well after that, but after that he started to lose its feathers. He has lost almost 15-20 feathers and now he cannot fly at all. Anyone can help to what has happened to him? is He just changing his feathers or does he have any problem?

  17. Lee Chiu San

    Among aviculturalists, feather loss is often a sign of diet deficiency, as I have said in my article, and also more than once in my responses to other writers to this page.

    Birds, especially babies, have complex diet requirements. The nutritional content of various types of fruits varies tremendously, and you might not have got the ratios right.

    Fortunately, mynahs are easier to feed than most. What I suggest you do is that instead of trying to experiment with homemade mixtures of fruits and eggs, go to any one of the bird shops in Serangoon North Avenue 2 and purchase a packet of properly formulated mynah food from some reputable American or European brand.

    The pellets will be for adult birds. Mash them up, mix them with water, and feed them to your fledgling until his feathers grow back. You have had the bird for a month already. It will not be long before he will be able to eat the pellets dry and whole.

    Subsequently, if you decide to keep the bird and not release it, the staple diet can consist of pellets, but you will still need to supplement them with some fresh fruit and mealworms.

    • Thank you very much Lee Chiu San. This is a helpful note. Is it possible for you to give a guess on how long it may take to fly if i want to set him free when he is independent? Thanks again!

  18. Lee Chiu San

    Luckily, with Javan Mynahs, releasing them is relatively easy, but a little messy. And, not being valuable, they are unlikely to be trapped or stolen.

    When the bird is about two months old, transfer it to an open-fronted cage, (like those in the photos in my article) and leave the door open. Continue to feed it, and let it decide when it wants to move out.

    Be prepared though, for droppings in the vicinity, and bits of bird food scattered around. This is not a problem at my place, because my bird feeding activities take place on the back verandah, which is hosed down a couple of times per day. But it can be problematic in an apartment or a condominium.

    And, the biggest problem with Javan Mynahs is, some of them never move out. I started feeding one fledgling, then another. Mynahs are social birds that form flocks. The youngsters I raised grew up, got married, and never tried to apply for their own accommodation. They started families right here. Now, I have a retinue of free-loaders.

    • Hi Lee Chiu San, Read your post about the mynah started families at your home. Very interesting and I am very keen to keep baby mynah and have been looking for a while, and not easily found. Just asking if you happen to have baby mynah, are you able to let me keep one or two? Thanks in advance.

      • Lee Chiu San

        To Eric, who requested that I get him a baby mynah. Sorry to say, I do not trade in wild-caught local birds. Yes, I have kept and bred rare birds, but those were imported, endangered species. I think that local wild birds should be left free to populate our Garden City.

        I know that it is a bit questionable as to whether or not the Javan Mynah is a local bird, but I happen to like them hanging around my house, and will not do anything to upset the resident population.

        That said, if you want a baby Javan Mynah, I am sure one will come your way by chance easily enough. They breed by the thousands, and are considered nuisances by many people. Sooner or later, some nests will come to harm, and the babies will be looking for homes. You can offer to adopt some.

        Sorry to say, it is now not easy to purchase any of the other mynah species. Most used to be imported from Vietnam or Indonesia. But due to bird flu, the government has banned imports from these countries.

  19. It sounds interesting that those Mynah birds made family in your house and settled there. :-)

    My Mynah bird is already about 2 months old and I bought a similar cage for him last weekend. He seems to be ok in that cage but he cannot fly, he can just run and jump a bit using his wings. I will start giving him more nutritious food as you recommended. Also, there is no direct sunrays coming in my home and I read somewhere that they need direct sun for their development, is that true?

    I took him in direct sunrays yesterday and he got very scared, as he never experienced that in his life before. Then I let him come in shade, then today again I took him to sunshine, today he seem to have liked it as he was opening his mouth and tried play with its feathers while in sun.

    What is your guess, if he has to regrow his primary feathers, then how long it may take to regrow the feathers?

    Thanks very much!

  20. Lee Chiu San

    Mynahs are intelligent birds. They know when they are onto something good. Given half a chance, they will not move out, but will continue to hang around underfoot.

    Why do young mynahs raised by people tend to hang around? Remember that competition is tough out there. Many areas already have established flocks of wild mynahs, with dominant males that do not take kindly to newcomers in their territory. When a fledgling is hand-raised by humans, and later released, it may get beaten up by the mynahs already in the territory. The safest thing to do is to run to the company of humans, where the wild mynahs dare not follow. That’s how I ended up having a retinue of free-loading mynahs residing on my back porch that prefer to venture out into the garden only when I am there for them to follow around.

    On the separate issue of how long it will take for a bird suffering from malnutrition to grow back all its feathers. I cannot give you an exact time line, but can say that if the bird is going to recover, the feather growth will be quite quick – a matter of weeks, or maybe a couple of months.

    Before 1986, when the import of birds into Singapore was still freely allowed, many Indonesian barter traders would pack all kinds of birds into their boats and sail here, sometimes from as far away as Irian Jaya. The birds were not well fed during the trip, probably having to subsist mainly on rice. Many would have shed most of their feathers by the time they arrived. The same happened with birds imported from Vietnam and China.

    I have purchased Golden Mynahs (Mino anias) and various Laughing Thrushes (Garrulax species) that were almost bald. These grew their feathers back when well fed. The same happened with Tree Pies (Urocissa species) purchased by my friends.

    So, just feed your baby mynah well, and he should grow a good crop of feathers.

    Regarding sunbathing for birds, I agree that sunlight is necessary for good health. But I do not put my own pet birds out into the sun. The risk is too great, especially for young birds. If left in direct sunlight, they overheat easily and die of sunstroke. All I used to do with birds in cages was to place them in well-lighted areas. As for those in aviaries, mine were spacious enough that the birds could move in and out of the sunlight as they fancied.

    • hi Lee Chiu San,
      Your experience sounds too high ..
      I would like to share some pics of my bird with you but it does not seem possible to upload on this website. Could you please send me your email or whatsapp number to bhatejaravi@yahoo.com.
      Thanks very much for all the guidance.
      Ravi

  21. elaine gardner

    Lee Chui San
    Hi I am hand rearing two abandoned magpies, there were four but sadly two were dead in the nest. They are about four weeks old now I think and have a lot of feathers, but you can still see their pin feathers. I have now put them in a large tall cage with their bed in the botyom.

  22. Lee Chiu San

    Dear Elaine,

    from the e-mail address that our good Webmaster forwarded, I assume that you are talking about European Magpies, which are different from the birds that we call Magpies here in Singapore. Though I have no first-hand experience with European Magpies, I have with other Corvids, the family to which they belong. Fortunately, birds of this tribe are quite easy to raise.

    There is a best way and there is a cheap, workable way. The best way of raising Corvid fledglings is to buy Insectivorous Softbill Bird food from a pet shop. Mix the pellets or powder with water to make dough balls that will hold together. The balls must be small enough for the birds to swallow easily. Pop these into the birds’ throats when they open their beaks.

    The cheap and workable way is to mix equal amounts of canned dog food and chicken feed with water to make the dough balls. Feed as per above.

    At four weeks of age they will still require feeding at least every two to three hours. Feed to satiation, until the birds stop begging and sit down.

    When the birds grow older you can persuade them to feed on their own by leaving the dough balls on a plate for them to pick up. If you decide to keep the birds when they are adult, the dog-food and chicken-feed mixture makes a suitable staple diet. I have raised my Corvids on this for over 20 years. Supplement the diet with fruits, minced meat, and whatever you eat. Corvids are omnivorous, and consume almost anything that humans do – in moderation.

    European magpies are big birds with long tails. As these babies grow up you will need either a LARGE cage or will have to give them the free run of your garden.

  23. Our muniya was in our home 6 months.Dors windows closed-it used to roam about.Today accidentaly he went out,He was\ with us since 1 month old.Will he return?

  24. Please help!…I am currently hand feeding a zebra finch but it seems that its feathers are not growing properly. In fact there is very little feather growth on its wings and body.

    Can you tell me what to do?

    Thanks

  25. Lee Chiu San

    Tony, Lack of feather growth, poor bone development or other abnormalities in baby birds can often be traced to diet deficiencies. Not all of us are nutritionists, and do not fully understand what birds need for their development. And, some of the requirements, especially for very rare birds, can be extremely complex.
    Thankfully, zebra finches are common aviary birds, and their diet needs have been quite well researched. Good quality commercial foods for raising baby finches are available. They contain much more animal protein and calcium than the seeds which adult finches eat.
    These foods can be obtained from the larger pet shops in the Serangoon North complex of bird shops. Be sure you buy internationally branded items from reputable manufacturers. If you cannot get food specifically for raising baby finches, formulations for raising baby canaries may work.

    • Hi Chiu San;

      Many thanks for your reply. I’m currently using this formula for feeding baby parrots. Your right in saying that we should use internationally branded items cos this packaging which I bought from a bird shop is called “Ho Mei Jan” and looks like it is produced in Taiwan or China.

      I have resorted to adding multi-vitamins on a daily basis together with the formula for the last 3 days.

      I will definitely take your advice to change the formula to a better known brand.

      Now my question is, with the change in formula, will the chick start to grow properly or will it be forever stunted?

      At near fledgling stage it is still unable to perch and fly and its wings have not enough feathers.

      lastly, it seems to be begging for food all the time even though its crop is full.

      Could you also tell me if there are zebra breeder groups or keepers here in Singapore? Would like to link up for exchange of information and experience.

      Thanks alot for all your help.

      Rgds

  26. Lee Chiu San

    A firm reminder. Raising a baby bird is not cheap. You need the right kind of cage (about $35), a heat lamp (about $10 to $15). The food, syringes, paper towels, etc, will put you back another $20.
    So, you will be about $70 down for the first baby bird you rescue. I am talking about Singapore dollars, not Ringgits. Of course, for subsequent birds, you will already have the cage and heat lamp.
    And, after that, you have to invest a tremendous amount of TIME!

  27. Lee Chiu San

    Dear Tony, sorry to say that most baby birds don’t shape up properly if they don’t get the right care in early childhood. As for whether or not there are special interest groups of finch breeders, I am not sure. Large groups of bird fanciers gather at Serangoon North Avenue 2 on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, especially near the coffee shop, on the Pet Walk, and at the row of bird shops behind the Community Centre. Most just like to talk about birds. Why not introduce yourself and strike up a conversation?

    • Hi Chiu San;

      Thanks for all your replies. Do you think its a good idea for me to return this hand fed chick back into the cage with its parents? Will the parents still feed it? Or should I find it an adoptive parents?

  28. Lee Chiu San

    Sorry Tony, but in my experience, once you start hand-feeding a chick, you are usually lumbered with the job until it weans. However, there is no harm in putting it back with the parents and hoping, the word is hoping, that they will resume feeding it. You have to observe the situation carefully though, and be prepared to take over again if they do not.

  29. Anybody interested in taking care of a Java myna baby bird . Mother built a nest inside my air con . When air con men came to clear up, they found a baby inside . Try to put the baby inside a carton on top of the air con but the mother bird is just keen in going back to the air con even we block the way and not wanting to go inside the carton box . So no choice but take the baby in . Do not know what to do . Trying to feed the baby and keep it warm . Interested party ps call 67289067

  30. Hand feeding baby Sunbirds article was very informative, however the query I have from Far North Queensland is: The male Sunbird of the pair who built on my veranda was killed, however the female laid an egg and is now feeding the hatchling. I have noticed a new male visiting her, different to the first male, an olive back, whereas the new male has a black throat/chest. I saw him visit the nest and wondered if he would be assisting with feeding the hatchling, or perhaps poses a threat? And the second question is, if they pair up, are they likely to use the same nest next time? Many thanks for any information you can provide on these gorgeous little additions to my garden.

    • Lee Chiu San

      My response to the comment on “Hand Feeding Baby Birds.’”

      I am pleasantly surprised to find a someone from Australia commenting on an article about Singapore birds. To address your comments;

      The Olive-Backed Sunbird has a very wide range, extending all the way from Vietnam, through Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Papua-New Guinea, all the way into Australia. There is considerable colour variation among sub-species and even within individual birds within a single range. There are individuals which are darker than others. Some also have dark pigmentation extending further down towards the belly. It is likely that this dark stranger who appears to be pairing up with the surviving female is also an Olive-Backed Sunbird.

      Are his intentions towards the egg honourable? I really can’t say. Some birds will co-operate to raise chicks, even if they are not the parents. in Australia, Apostlebirds (Struthidea cinerea) and Eclectus Parrots are known to do this. Other male birds who pair up with single females will harass and even kill fledglings so that the mother will not spend time on raising them, and will come into oestrus more quickly, thereby giving the males opportunities to mate. Please keep us posted with regard to your observations on this matter.

      As to whether or not Sunbirds will re-use locations when building their nests, from my own observations both around my home and in the trees around my former office building, I would say yes, they will. They will re-use a location until it becomes unsuitable. They move out because of tree pruning, more human activity close by, or, as I have published on this website, the arrival of a St Andrew’s Cross Spider. These spiders have webs large and strong enough to snare Sunbirds. When one started weaving next to where a pair of Sunbirds were building a nest, the birds left.

      Lee Chiu San

  31. Loh Mei Yer

    A female olive backed sunbird is reusing her old nest at my balcony, she laid 2 eggs in the same nest 10 months ago, she has yet to lay her eggs this time but I think will be soon. I wonder can I keep the baby birds as pets?

    • Enjoy the birds as they nest and interact with each other. Do not take the chicks and hand rear them as they may eventually die due to one reason or another.

  32. Baby Mynah bird refuses to eat!
    A few days ago, I returned home (HDB) and found a baby mynah bird near the refuse chute of my floor (I live on the 15th floor). I didn’t want it to die so I picked it up, brought it home and put it in a shoebox.
    The mynah bird looks like a fledgling with feathers growing although it doesn’t have any tail feathers and missing feathers on one wing.
    Originally the bird would gape and I could feed it a mixture of egg and biscuit but soon after the first feeding, the bird refuses to eat and would no longer gape. I tried feeding it very small pieces of sliced apple as well but would still refuse the food. I have even tried force feeding the bird with not much success.
    I have never raised a pet myself before so I am at a loss on what to do. Any advise would be much appreciated.

  33. R bould

    Hi I found a baby bird think it’s a long tailed tit had it over 48 hours feeding fine but this morning I awoke and it was closing and opening beak quite distressed I noticed it had bit of cotton wool in its throat I removed this and cannot see anymore in there but the bird is opening and clouding mouth as though it is hurting it what can I do thankyou

  34. In our window that is at the 2nd floor there is nest consisting of two baby mynahs, the mother is feeding them. They don’t have feathers and even their eyes are closed . A smell have started to come from that area. I wanted to know is it safe for us to keep the nest there. And I also wanted to know how long will it take them to fully grow up and fly. Is the nest safe up there in the window bcoz all the time crows hover around the place and even direct sunlight and rain is coming. We even once moved the nest at a safe place but the mother was not able to locate them….please help what should I do… I don’t have any knowledge of what should be done….

    • Not to worry. Leave the nest alone. The adults would have chosen a safe spot to build their nest. The chicks would be leaving the nest soon as the complete cycle takes about a month.

      • Thank u……and also what should I do with the smell that is coming from that area…..I hope it’s not bad for me and my family..

  35. Thank u……and also what should I do with the smell that is coming from that area…..I hope it’s not bad for me and my family..

  36. If the smell is tolerable, why not do nothing. It would be gone as soon as the “whatever” rots away. If not, then you need to remove the source of the smell…

  37. […] Hand feeding baby birds – bird ecology study group […]

  38. I need help I have got a baby bee eater fallen down in nest due to heavy rain. It’s baby I have got it at home bird is shivering and afirad of everything but I gave water n little honey.
    What all has to be done plzz help I dnt want to lose it!!.

  39. Once you pick up a helpless birdling and brings it home, you have done it a disservice. You should have left it where you found it, placing it higher up, away from cats and dogs. The parents will return to look after it. When you brings it home, even if you are able to keep it alive until it can fly, who is there to teach it how to find food? To recognise and evade predators, etc. It will not survive for long in the wild.

    • Thank you
      I thought I will gt a solution for it.

      • Hi jay. I found a baby bird today & took it home thinking i could help this poor baby bird. After reading YC Wee reply i feel bad.

        Thank you mr lee for this wonderful article.

  40. Abhishek

    Lee Chiu San: Very informative article and appreciate your love towards the birds.
    This is very helpful as I am hand-raising a red-vented bulbul chick which was separated from his parents .
    Thank you very much.

    The bulbul we are raising behaves strange sometimes; it wide-opens its beak and moves its neck left and right. Also sometimes it falls down suddenly and closes its fingers inside as if the entire strength is lost(faints) then we hold him in our hand and it becomes normal in sometime. This is similar to fits in human being.(This is not related to hunger I can say as we feed him at regular interval )
    It would be great if you can advise ?
    Is it related to any disease in birds ?

    Thanks,
    Abhishek.

  41. Lee Chiu San

    This is purely speculation, but I can think of two reasons for what is happening to the bird.

    1. The body temperature has been allowed to fall below a critical level. I don’t know where you are writing from, and the Red-Vented Bulbul has been introduced to many countries, but if the night time temperatures in your area drop below 20 degrees Celcius, any baby bird will need to be kept warm. I have suggested how to do this in my article. All you need is a small lamp.

    2. Very unfortunately, diet deficiencies often result in fits, or various forms of retardation in the development of young birds. Diet is most critical in the first few weeks of a baby bird’s life. I don’t know what you are feeding your bird on, but I use commercially prepared bird foods from reputable manufacturers. If you do not have access to such material, for a bulbul, fruit-based human infants’ formula can be tried. Buy a bottle, and use small amounts to feed your bird.

    • Abhishek

      Hi Lee Chiu San,
      Thank you for the reply. Appreciate your time and efforts.
      Currently we are in Pune, India where the climate is comparatively cool.
      Its a rainy season here in india.
      I stayed in singapore for around 6.8 years.

      I think both of the reasons suggested by you hold true.
      I would like to provide some more information here.
      The bulbul chick we are raising is around 3-4 months old.
      He has got good feathers, he can fly small distance , has got long tail. Tail looks more longer compared to body.
      We generally hand feed him but he can peck the food from the dish.
      I had tried gathering information on diet for the Bulbul chicks.
      Based on which we are feeding him with grated,small pieces of mangoes,
      banana, apple, chickoo fruits. Sometimes hard boiled egg.
      I was searching for live mealworms but difficult to find in Pune.
      We used to give him dried blood worms soaked in water.(But now we have stopped
      feeding him with blood worms assuming this could have been the reason).
      Now have kept him fully on fruit diet.
      In night we cover the cage with a warm cloth but not sure that would be enough.
      Else we need to use the warming method suggested by you.
      If you can advise based on the above information ?
      If any change required in the diet ?

      Thanks,
      Abhishek.

  42. Lee Chiu San

    Dear Abhishek,

    I have no personal experience with the Red Vented Bulbul, but this species is imported by bird fanciers in Singapore. They tell me that care and maintenance are exactly the same as the other types of fancy bulbuls that we commonly keep. Since I have experience with three other species, (the Straw-headed, the Yellow-vented and the Red-whiskered, I am basing my comments on the species that I know.

    All bulbuls are omnivores, which means that they do require a quantity of animal protein and calcium in their diet, besides fruits.

    Yes, fruits can make up the main proportion of the diet, but you can supplement the fruit with other materials. The choice of fruits that you are feeding to your bulbul are fine. They are the types that they eat in the wild.

    Perhaps you could give him a little more hard-boiled egg. The other supplement that I use to provide protein is meat. I grind up raw, lean meat and feed it to my shamas, dhyals, bulbuls, and even some parrots.

    I also raise tropical fish, and find that it is not a good idea to use bloodworms as a bird food. The smell can be very unpleasant.

    I am sorry to raise this point, but, as I had stated, the first few weeks of a baby bird’s upbringing are critical. What is not provided during this period may lead to later deficiencies in development. It may be possible that this bulbul may not develop as well as others raised naturally.

    In the near future, I will be writing an article on the development of hand-raised baby birds, and will discuss this issue.

    • Dear Lee Chiu San,
      That’s again great piece of information. This will help me to improve the diet provision for the bulbul. We have been feeding him hard boiled egg sometimes; he takes a small quantity only.I will try to add meat content in its diet as suggested as well. I would be eager to read the upcoming article mentioned by you.

      Thanks,
      Abhishek.

  43. Lee Chiu San

    Dear Abhishek,

    If you can obtain good-quality, manufactured, poultry food pellets, this can form a convenient and suitable staple food for bulbuls. By this, I mean the blended, complete diets that they feed to fowls in large, commercial farms.

    Many of these pellets are grain-based, but they also contain a good proportion of fish and animal meal, as well as bone meal and calcium additives. And in commercial farms, the blend had better be correct, otherwise the farmer would suffer financially if his chickens do not grow properly.

    Bulbuls may not at first eat such food, but they can be taught by sprinkling the chicken meal over slices of cut fruit.

    Subsequently, it will be very convenient to leave a cup of such food in the cage at all times, and only hang slices of fruit on wire hooks once or twice a day.

    • Dear Lee Chiu San,
      Let me try to get the good quality supplementary food for the bulbul.
      Also the suggested technique will be useful if he doesn’t take it initially.
      Let me try it out..
      Thanks a lot for your recommendations; those will be really helpful for me in raising the baby bulbul.

      Thank you,
      Abhishek.

  44. HELP!!! I gave my baby sparrow (12 days) baby bird formula that stood for a few hours?? I had not noticed the warning on the pack!! What should i do please help!!!

  45. What does the warning say?

  46. I have four beautiful geckos, there names are Ghandi,Chai,Sugar,and Dank! I joined this group because i love Geckos and have some knowledge about them and would like to help people with questions, I do not believe that worms can eat through a geckos stomach! I have had geckos for years and have never had that happen! If you feel more comfortable pinching the heads off then by all means do so.. but my geckos with not eat anything if its not moving.

  47. Lee Chiu San

    Besides birds, I raise tropical fish, and, when it was still legal to do so in Singapore, I also had a number of reptile pets. I still feed the reptiles that wander in and out of my garden, though they are not in any way confined, and cannot legally be classified at pets.
    I would like to assure Corrine Ipson that from my experience and that of other bird keepers, live mealworms and superworms do try to chew their way out of containers. Just look at the condition of a paper bag or plastic bag after the worms have been left in it for a while. When fed to baby birds, the fledglings have been known to die. I had an autopsy done on a baby shama by a qualified veterinarian, and the diagnosis was a ruptured crop.
    I have no reservations about feeding live mealworms to adult birds, house geckos and the skinks that wander around my garden. All of them know how to bash the worms, or chew them to death before swallowing. But fledglings do not know how to kill worms before swallowing. And they die as a result.
    In Nature, the parent birds will kill the prey before offering it to the babies. If you hand-raise baby birds, you must do the same.

  48. Thanks Chiu San. Good to know…

  49. Hi Mr Lee,

    I chance upon your website when I was googling up on how to handfeed baby birds.

    My daughter bought a 14 days old budgie and the bird died barely one week later. She bought another one that is 3 weeks old and got separated from the parents when she bought it from a home breeder.

    To avoid killing another baby bird, would like to get all the possible advice I could.

    What is the fatality rate in hand raising baby birds. Do we still need to feed every 2 hrs for a 3 weeks old bird? Do we force feed it if it doesn’t gape.

    With the previous bird, we didn’t feed it when it refused to open it mouth to eat. What should be the right approach to feeding such tiny creatures.

    Many thanks in advance for your help.

  50. Lee Chiu San

    To answer your questions about hand raising baby birds.

    The survival rate is seldom 100%, but it can be close to 95% for the easy species such as starlings, bulbuls, and the large parrots.
    For delicate species like sunbirds, I would probably say 20%, but a lot depends on the skill and patience of the pet keeper.
    Budgies are domestic birds, and well adapted to captivity. The survival rate should be at least 80%.
    For a budgie, I would not try to make the feeding formula myself, but would depend on one of the branded commercial formulae. I have used baby parrot handfeeding formula from Kay Tee with success.
    Yes, you do need to feed a very young baby bird at least once every three hours. You can increase the interval between feeding to four hours when the bird has close to a full set of feathers.
    I assume you have tried spoon feeding and syringe feeding. From my experience, using the syringe is easier. But please remember that a budgie is a very small bird, so feed only very small quantities at a time.
    Some baby birds (especially of the parrot family, and that includes budgies) do not gape readily. Very gently hold the sides of the beak, pry it open, and insert the syringe. The bird will quickly get the idea. You may still need to open the beak at subsequent feedings, but the bird should swallow readily.
    And please remember to keep baby birds warm. I have shown how to do this with a long box with the heat source at one end. The bird will move to the part where it is most comfortable.
    Do not attempt to force the bird to wean too early. Due to inadequate nutrition at a critical growth stage, birds forced to wean early never develop their full size or plumage, even if very well taken care of in later life.
    If your budgie continues to demand to be hand fed long after you think it is adult, you should continue to do so. In this way you will have a very tame pet.
    One important point – this is not my website. The Webmaster is retired Professor Wee Yeow Chin, my schoolmate. I am merely a bird keeper and infrequent contributor to his excellent efforts.
    I hope you have success with this bird.

  51. Hi I plan to breed a pair of budgies so I can get a new born baby as I’ve wanted a tame Budgie for years and I can only find “HAND RAISED BABY BUDGIES” but even though they might be young, I am desperate to have a bond so close with it, I believe if I take it out after a day and feed it round the clock which isn’t a problem, and holding him more and more every day and talking to him and once he is eating well and is able to stand up and walk strongly IL have him on me moving around while watching TV and take him as I do my jobs and smooch him and barely be apart and even keep hand feeding as an adult will be the happiest, friendliest and never bite bird to ever live. He’ll be in the main living area with us so can see everything and everyone else, b used to different people, noises and the TV then at night hel come to my room to be with rest of the family and hear and sense mummy and not all alone in the big, dark, cold, scary living room all night. No way. But I’m scared of killing him as tonight I’ve read dozens and dozens of articles all under the name “raising day old budgies” and my God. I’m soooooo confused 😵by the amount of different opinions from all so called professionals and breeders of over 20 or 30 years yet you don’t agree on many issues mostly noticeable was the thing I was interested in, which is best utensil to use and what to add to it, and how often to feed it. I honestly believe I can do a better job myself ignoring all the confusing info and probably do just fine. IL just go with my gut feeling, let it guide me as it always does and is never wrong. IL buy best formula my vet recommends buy all the feeding options from spoons, syringes and etc and let my baby tell me what he prefers and I haven’t done it before but the rest is commen sense ie crop full but not too much and make sure I’m getting it down the right way slowly and clean him up and make sure he’s dry and keep the temperature perfect (that bit has me worried cause I know it be really hard to keep it just right all the time) I’m definitely scared about that. How will I ever gain experience with breeding if I don’t do it myself. No one would sell me a baby that young cause I had no experience, hello people, don’t turn me away, give me a chance, IL do exactly everything you say to do. So after several years of asking, stuff u all, I don’t need u. I’m going to take the plunge and give it a go. Bloody hell kids are doing it for christ sakes. Yes I might fail at first even a few times (hopefully not) that will break my heart. But if I look at what I’m doing wrong and change it, eventually I’ve got to succeed and raise a clutch with no losses and IL have my precious absolutely besotted with me bird. I was devastated to learn I can’t kiss him at all. That was one of the things I wanted to do most. It’s going to be extremely difficult to stop myself from doing it. It’s a automatic constant affection I just do. I kiss my little dogs heaps of times a day. I was excited to get him out the cage and smother him in cuddles and kisses and blow gentle raspberries on his tummy. Far out I already know IL stuff up a few times, then be a shaking, fainting, frantic crazy lady convinced I’ve killed the bird and rush, hazard lights on, speeding, criss-crossing lanes to get to the vet. 😵😨😲yes people I know I’m totally mad and probably should take some valium I’m encouraged to take 😊but anyway I might as well write a review on the internet cause what’s one more critique. I’m obviously as knowledgeable as all the other sites I read. Least I’d be honest and tell it how it is. Once I finish this email I am closing down all the different info I googled on this subject and take a panadol from all the craziness was swirling in my head at same time making me physically tense up and get angry when I thought ok I brought my cup of tea in my room and was calm happy relaxed about finding simple easy information on a subject I thought would be pretty basic and all of the results would be basically the same as how did wanting to just know what to feed a baby bird could be soooooo confusing, contradictory, not a couple but I’m talking hundreds of different opinions. Fuck it’s a day old animal. Even I had already guessed that the information would be a formula like a real baby. Baby anything usually that young only requires milk or some such slop. I was right about that but type, add to it and what stage plus I wanted to know the best material for the bedding and again hundreds of different views. Same as perches use this wood, don’t use it as it’s toxic, yes use it. On and on once again. I really want to try and make each little life survive and get it right but reality is I’m first time doing it so odds are against me. IL just take one opinion and that’s from my experienced knowledgeable, licensed professional vet. That and my commen sense plus gut feeling, I can’t lose. 😆

  52. Vicki Anderson

    I was given a baby bird to care for the a friend rescued from her cat.
    Everything I’ve read says babies need to eat every 15 minutes, sun up to sun down. The bird I have doesn’t hape that often at all, even when I prompt her to. Also, I’ve been giving her a mixture of boiled egg and canned shredded kitty food. Several sites suggested it. But your way with liquid and a syringe sounds so much easier. Though I don’t know what kind of bird I have yet (I think Sparrow) and maybe diet is different for different ones? It’s only been 19 hours. I hope beyond hope it survives.

  53. Lee Chiu San

    If it is indeed a sparrow, it will do quite well on the commercial food for raising baby parrots that you can get from the cluster of pet shops in Serangoon North Avenue 2.
    You can get away with feeding the baby bird less frequently, perhaps every hour, and later, when it is older, every two hours.
    In nature, the parents may bring food to the babies every 15 minutes. But don’t forget that they have to forage, and the food may not be of the best quality, or the quantity may be insufficient.
    When you feed a baby bird with a syringe using good quality formula, the food has been blended to give all the correct nutrients. Also, when you fill the crop with a syringe, it is filled almost to capacity. That should last the baby bird a while!

  54. Thanks to my father who ѕhared with me on the topic of this weblog, this blog is really awesome.

  55. Annette Wezel

    It is all too easy to imprint a youngster on humans, thus rendering it incapable of being returned to the wild, and there is no quicker way of doing this than hand-feeding.
    We have raised swifts as these birds are programmed to be completely independent and capable to look after themselves the moment they leave their nest or the moment they are released after being hand raised. It is certainly not easy to see songbird nestlings abandoned, but to raise them and turn them unwillingly into tame and dependent creatures is far more devastating for them. There is no better place than nature for something that is born wild…no ‘comfortable cage’ can ever replace that.

  56. Hi there. Wanted to ask some advice about a nestling African lovebird I’ve rescued. We have a large enclosure with about 10 African lovebirds in it; I found the nestling on the ground getting pecked on by some of the adults, so I decided to raise it until such time that I can bring it back to the bigger bird cage. I’d actually like to know if this is possible… once it’s big enough to take care of itself, can I actually put it back into the big enclosure with the other lovebirds? Is there any way I can get them used to its presence once its grown that it won’t get attacked by them?

    (At present, I’m feeding him baby food and have kept him in a decent-sized cardboard box lined with tissue and some leaves, and have a lamp pointed at one side of it for warmth like you said.)

  57. I rescued a baby owlet, the eyes only opened a week ago, i cut meat and liver into tiny pieces with a little water to feed it, but i have noticed that its having a runny tummy and i dont know what to do, can someone please give me advice asap please i dont want to loose the owlet !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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