To Pet or Not To Pet

This year’s lockdown has caused an increase in birds being handraised by finders. With the influx of patients coming to rescues it is sometimes virtually impossible to find one that is still open – so who can blame people for trying to raise baby birds themselves? I certainly can’t when even I know how frustrating it must be trying to find someone who answers their phone when you call for help.

Shadow – named because he wouldnt leave me alone when he first arrived

Every Feather has been extremely busy and I can only apologise for the number of unanswered messages and calls. However, one of the downsides to this has been the high number of corvids that have been brought in after being hand-raised and an unsuccessful release.

We are quite a hands on rescue and yet I have never tamed a releasable corvid. Corvid parents are attentive and their young remain with them for a long period of time – so to ease their stress and provide them with comfort I find that during the hand-feeding stage it is important to give them a structured, hands-on routine. As soon as they are eating for themselves I no longer handle them and they are prepared to be wilded up. For someone who is new to this – the attention and clear devotion they get from the feathered baby can mean they continue to pet and interact with them for much longer than they should.

The weaning / wilding stage is the one that rescues have worked hard to perfect. Sadly, people who have never raised these birds before don’t usually know how to do it. They raise a baby jackdaw and then when it can fly they take it somewhere and release it – wrongly believing that the bird will instantly know how to be wild and survive. This is not the case and sadly, this resorts in a number of tame birds being attacked, starving or even approaching other people for help.

In the last week we have had 3 tame jackdaws brought to us. One was being attacked by other birds, one approached a man on a building site and the other approached a lady while she was shopping. These are birds that have clearly been raised with love and care – they are desperate to get to me when I walk in the room and scream for attention. These are birds that will now need to go through a wilding up programme so that they can go back into the wild with a good chance of survival.

There is nothing that comes close to raising baby birds in terms of joy for me, and I’m sure for a lot of other people. Doing it the right way – and with the right support in place – can definitely be amazing. However, raising a wild bird like a corvid to be tame is sadly not good for either party.

As someone who has disabled corvids I can attest to the trail of destruction they will leave. Highly intelligent birds they need a lot of stimulation and entertainment or they will find it for themselves. Skywalker, a disabled magpie and my first bird love, used to hide raw meat behind the framed pictures on my wall until the smell was horrific. Corvids tend to hide food because when it rots it attracts flies, flies lay their eggs and then come the maggots – double the food for the corvid and twice the horror for anyone who finds them in their home!

So, what can you do if you have accidentally tamed a bird? Well, don’t just release it. The bird has a slim chance of survival and will probably end up in either being handed to a vet, a rescue or becoming a pet to someone-else. Contact your nearest rescue and ask for help – with the right space and care the bird can still have a chance at a life in the wild and that’s what we all want for them at the end of the day.

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