Orphaned & Abandoned
It’s a fact of life that we can’t ‘leave well enough alone’ so every year the Trust braces itself for the annual influx of baby birds that have been collected by well-meaning people all over Norfolk & Suffolk.
||Sometimes picking up a baby bird is the best thing to do. This little tawny was found about half a mile from any suitable nest site and, judging by his injuries, had probably been taken by a predator.|
|More often, though, we receive perfectly healthy babies like this unrelated pair. The Trust has had years of practice dealing with this sort of situation but, with the best will in the world, we can never be as good parents as the real ones.||
|The usual way of dealing with these youngsters is to ‘hack’ them out using either a hack box or hack aviary. This is simply a way of gently introducing them to the wild whilst still providing support during the first few days while they learn to hunt.The hack aviary is just a normal aviary with a removable front whilst the hack box is an oversized nest box, also with a removable front that can be put in a tree. In either case, the young birds’ food is dropped through a tube or some other means to ensure that they don’t associate people with food.
The method is very simple. Once they are strong enough and have been ringed, the young birds are put into the aviary or box with the mesh still in place. They can look out over the woods or fields and become accustomed to their new surroundings. We feed them without them being able to see us and, after a few days, remove the mesh. At this point they are able to come and go at will but are still attracted back for food. After a while, the food is reduced to encourage them to hunt. We can monitor their progress by examining their pellets. Once we see the remains of wild caught prey we know that we can stop feeding them.
Don’t pick up young birds unless you are certain that they are either actually injured or in danger.
Their parents know where they are and will continue to feed them and anyway, most owl babies are perfectly able to climb back into the tree when they feel like it.
There is a very important exception to this rule
Baby Barn Owls must either be returned to the nest immediately or taken into care.
The reason is simple. Barn owls will only bring food to the nest! Any youngster unfortunate enough to fall from the nest will be ignored by its parents – even if they can see or hear it.
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