nzbirds >   more (about birds) >   Archive of Bird Rescue News:

Bird Rescue News (Autumn 2005)

Send your questions and suggestions about Bird Rescue to:

[email protected] 
These can then be pasted onto this page and we may be able to gain more knowledge.

e-mail about found birds

If sending emails about birds that you have found, please give me the area you live in. This will make it easier for me to let you know of a nearby carer.

A few things to remember for the welfare of birds in care:

  • Not to stroke or pet the bird. This will remove the oils from the feathers and make it human friendly. This is not a good idea for a wild bird.
  • Not to keep the bird longer than is needed. Once the bird has reached its goal weight and is feeding, and has recovered from its injuries/sickness then it is time for release.
  • Not to get the bird use to dogs or cats. This will result in the bird thinking all cats and dogs are bird friendly —they are not. A dog that may lick and wash a bird in a friendly manner will remove oils, this is not good for the bird. The next dog it meets may well bite and the bird is killed.

Bird Rescue News


We are now into autumn and here in the Bay of Plenty it has been very dry and hot. With the hot weather birds have been brought into bird rescue suffering form the symptoms of botulism. Symptoms can be any of the following:

  • Unable to walk
  • Head hung low
  • Eyes closed not able to feed
  • Unable to fly
Banded dotterel while in care
Banded dotterel while in care

Botulism is a blood-poisoning caused by bacteria known as Clostridium botulinum. Ingestion of the toxin produced by the bacteria gives rise to the disease known as botulism. Waterfowl are most commonly affected, becoming poisoned in hot weather when the bacteria in the mud of stagnant ponds produce large quantities of the toxin (Arnall L. and Keymer I.F. 1975 Bird Diseases 22: 325 - 326). But other birds that eat rotting food or maggots that have been on a bird that died of botulism will also get infected.

Black-backed gulls that visit the dump will often come down with the disease and then if they die on the beach the maggots from the bird can be picked up by birds such as the dotterel, or any other bird that feeds on the beach or tide line.

Hawks feeding on a dead duck that had botulism also may be found unable to fly and suffering from botulism.

All dead birds need to be buried to stop the spread of the disease.

Some years ago Matata Lagoon in the Bay of Plenty suffered an outbreak of botulism and many types of birds and lagoon life were affected. Eels, fish that ate the dead birds or maggots died, and this started a chain of other birds dying from eating the dieing eels and fish. Shags, bittern, as well as hundreds of ducks.
Mallard with botulism symtoms, in care
A mallard, with botulism symtoms, in care

When treating birds with the symptoms I give an electrolyte by crop tube, trying to flush the system through. Keeping the birds head supported, and changing the soiled paper often. If weather turns cold keep the bird warm.

Birds that have been brought into care lately and released back to the wild suffering from the symptoms are NZ scaup, banded dotterel, mallard ducks, hawk.

In care for other reasons

Other birds that have come into care are a Pukeko suffering from concussion after being hit by a vehicle. This just needed resting for a few days. A hawk down in condition and after treatment this too was released.

It was a very quiet season (Dec — Feb) for the grey-faced petrel. This could be due to the fine weather and not too strong winds, or perhaps not such a good breeding season for them. We did have flooding in July last year and some of the burrows could have been flooded during egg laying. I did have one adult bird covered in mud brought into care after the floods! The fledglings that did come into care were released if they were fit. Some birds that were very underweight or with broken legs/wings were put down. The grey-faced petrel breed on Whale Island (Moutohora) and some of the fledglings get disorientated and instead of flying out to sea, head for the lights of town or in some cases as far away as the mills in Kawerau. Once the birds are down they cannot get a clear run to take off and just stay where they are (usually in a dark corner). If they are not found they die.

Sticky seed pods alert

I have noticed that the Whakatane District Council’s parapara (Pisonia brunoniana) trees are bearing the sticky seed pods. If you have this shrub/tree growing in your garden and do not want the little birds to get caught on it, please cut the seed pods off and wrap them up and dispose of them. They will then be out of harms way.
Parapara (Pisonia brunoniana)
Parapara (Pisonia brunoniana)
What happens is, the larger birds like morepork and kingfisher are attracted to the little birds such as waxeye and grey warbler struggling to get off the seedpods and become caught themselves, or if not caught get covered in the seed pods and are unable to fly.

Bird safe tree trimming

Now is the time to start trimming trees if you need too. Most birds have finished nesting and it should be safe to do your pruning. By leaving it later in the year such as spring, birds have already started building their nests.

One delight this year was to see a grey warbler’s nest in our garden. We were lucky as it started building before the Camellia bush had got all its summer growth. Also a Tui built a nest in the Rimu tree and it was interesting seeing it fly in one side of the tree and go out the other side. If you get visited by Tui you may like to put out sugar water in the winter months. One cup of sugar to a litre of warm water, dissolve sugar and let cool before putting the mixture in and area away from cats but where the Tui visit.

Rosemary Tully
Whakatane Bird Rescue, New Zealand
[email protected] 
home store birds birding more (about birds) Archive of Bird Rescue News collective nouns hall of fame national birds journal