Squawking chicks only rarely need our help

A sparrow at Dunedin Botanic Garden aviary on Tuesday morning. Photo: Gregor Richardson
A sparrow at Dunedin Botanic Garden aviary on Tuesday morning. Photo: Gregor Richardson
In spring, the cycle of life starts anew and birds are busy breeding. At Dunedin Botanic Garden aviary some mothers are on nests, and there are signs others will start laying eggs soon.

The aviary is safe but for wild birds, spring is dangerous. Parents can be attacked while out collecting food and mothers and chicks are vulnerable on the nest.

When chicks leave the nest, or fledge, they are not yet wise to the ways of the world. Clumsy and learning to fly, they are adapting to their new surroundings. When hungry, they can be heard by all, including predators, crying loudly for mum and dad.

The biggest threats to a fledged chick in town are cats, dogs, rats and stoats, but people can be a problem too. The desire to help tiny, adorable birds is hard to resist but can lead to stepping in too early.

First, wait to see if parents are just off getting food. If you suspect the chick is in immediate danger from a predator, move it into a tree or hollow close by. Don't take it too far away, as this can separate it from its parents.

Wild animals are best parent-reared but there are exceptions. If you find a chick without feathers and unable to fly if approached, it has probably fallen out of its nest or been attacked, so step in.

For native birds, contact the wildlife hospital via the Department of Conservation. For introduced birds, contact SPCA Dunedin, Bird Rescue Dunedin or Dunedin Botanic Garden aviary.

Garden Life is produced by Dunedin Botanic Garden. For further information, contact Alisha Sherriff.


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