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  • Letitia Labbie

“Don’t touch me bro!”

So, you found an injured or orphaned bird....now what? It can be a little intimidating approaching a big bird. But, remember they really aren’t that big. Feathers can make a bird appear much larger than it is. Even a large red-tailed hawk only weighs about 2kg! Signs that a bird of prey is sick or injured: First we need to determine if the bird is really sick or if it is just being a bird. The following signs indicate that it needs medical attention: 1. There are obvious wounds or blood on its body 2. It looks fluffy or sleepy and lets you walk right up to it It cannot fly. 3. One or more of its wings, legs, or head look like they’re pointing in the wrong direction 4. The bird limps or favours a leg when walking. 5. There are string, fishing line, or fish hooks/lures on some part of the bird’s body.

If you’ve determined that the bird needs help, the next step is getting it safe and secure until you can find help for it. 

Containing a bird of prey is not that different from containing a small one – you just need to know what to look out for.

When containing a bird of prey, keep in mind these safety considerations:

Their most dangerous weapon is their feet. Some birds of prey will even flip onto their back and wave their legs around when they feel threatened. Keep an eye on where the feet are and avoid contact when containing a bird of prey. Some birds of prey are very large, and have strong wings. Be careful to keep the wings tucked in when transferring them into a container.

Remember – human safety first!

So, How do you contain a bird of prey? One method is called The “spider” method

Have you ever caught a spider to put it outside by putting a cup over it and sliding a piece of paper underneath? You can contain a bird of prey the same way, on a larger scale. It’s the safest way to do it, if circumstances allow. You will need:

A sturdy container, such as a cardboard box, a plastic tote, or a recycling bin; if the container is made of plastic, make sure it has air holes beforehand. A stiff piece of cardboard, plastic, or wood to slide underneath. A towel or blanket (optional).

Approach the bird calmly and quietly. Once you’re close enough, place the container right over top of the bird, trapping it inside. This might be easier to do if you toss a towel over the bird first, especially covering its head and eyes. If the bird is still able to walk or hop, use the towel to corral it into a corner against a wall or fence to get close enough to contain it. Slide a stiff piece of cardboard, wood, or plastic under the container. Use rope, bungee cords, or duct tape to secure the bottom to the container.

The second method is called The “blanket” method

Since many birds of prey will lie on their back and claw at anything that comes close to protect themselves, you can use that to your advantage when trying to catch them. Use a thick towel or a blanket. Throw it over the bird, and let the bird grab onto the blanket with its feet. Keeping an eye on those feet, you should be able to scoop the whole bundle up and place it in a box. It’s a good idea to wear heavy gloves with this method, just in case.

If the bird is still able to fly but you’re sure it needs help, contact a Wildlife Rehabilitator for advice.  They can give you species-based tips and tricks, or talk you through a tricky rescue. Once the bird is safely contained, then what? Temporary care:

While you are waiting to hear back from a wildlife rehabilitator, keep the animal contained in a dark, quiet place. Don’t give it any food or water until you have spoken to a rehabilitator. What is it is a baby bird? First: contact a Rehabilitator to see if the baby really needs to be rescued. You can get the baby bird contained and safe while you figure out how to help it. Place the bird in a small cardboard box with a soft towel or t-shirt. Even on a warm day babies can get cold, so give it a heat source: a clean sock filled with dry, uncooked rice, and microwaved for one minute a plastic bottle from the recycling bin filled with hot tap water an electric heating pad set to “LOW” and placed under half of the box. Put the box in a dark, quiet spot, and contact a Rehabilitator instructions.

If the baby bird hops or runs really well and is difficult to catch, leave it alone but keep a close an eye on it. It might be a normal situation. Baby birds learn to hop before they learn to fly. Please, Contact a Rehabilitator and discuss ways to reunite the baby with the parents. Remember it is always best for the parents to raise their young.


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