Where there is a will there is a way

Friday, November 1, 2013

Rescuing Hoihoi (a baby blackbird)

This is Hoihoi - a rescued baby blackbird, fallen out of the nest and missing some feathers.  Always pays to keep your eyes peeled - which is something I am not particularly good at. Good thing my husband Shane and daughter Troy are.

Hoihoi suits his name (Maori for noisy), he likes to chirp away and make vocal communication.  He (or she) gobbles up a cereal mixture from a homemade eye dropper, just like you see baby birds in the nest doing when their mothers bring back worms. He sits on your finger when you bump a horizontal finger against his chest, and runs around on long road runner legs.

We didn't have an eyedropper to feed this baby song thrush so I fashioned one by cutting a length of plastic tubing, and trimming down a wine cork.  The eyedropper places food in the bird's "crop" just like the mother would with her beak.  I researched what to mix up - cereal (weetbix in milk), with a teaspoon of jelly meat (cat food), and an egg yolk.  They said to add calcium, but as our funds were low we bought high calcium milk and only used milk to dilute, no water.  When it was runny enough, it either ran out of tube - or we pinched it to help it go.

He is getting very fat and healthy now, we also built a bird enclosure with materials we had - mostly to contain the mess!  We also make a perch set into a stump, with a few different sticks he can perch on.  The cage is bottomless - just sits upon a board - so that later we can just set it on garden dirt outside so he can practice digging for worms.  We have already started to bring in trays of dirt with a few worms in it which he pecks at, and finds to eat.  The lid with bamboo poles (he is sitting on here) just lifts off, we also use it as a place for him to perch while we feed him, or he can hang out on it.

Now that he is stronger he shows a more mischievous, cheeky personality - he likes to run away from you behind his cage, or runs up to us / flies up to us asking to be fed.

Some people might wonder why we would bother with a small creature.  How could you not?  He's a little person, even the little snails I pull from my garden are small, inquisitive, seeking little guys.  Our eyes are just not closed to it.

He's a cool little guy.  We were having a very challenging period.  Hoihoi was a blessing as he was a humorous distraction.  He can fly around the room too.  Our kids and their friends have all had fun feeding the baby bird.

Video of us feeding Hoihoi:

Update 10 November.   Hoihoi's return.

After bringing worms in to Hoihoi, Shane started taking him outside on walks in the backyard regularly to dig for worms and explore.  He was no longer scruffy and weak, now he was vibrant and had grown larger.  But sometimes he didn't want to look for his own worms, and preferred to be fed - and we knew we had to release him soon or he would become dependent on us forever.  Then he started to enjoy the freedom of being outside, pecking for food, and flying where he wished.  He flew onto the roof, and listened to the birds in the neighbourhood.  Shane collected him down, but knew he was nearly ready to go.

One wet morning, when many worms had been washed out of their holes, and although the air was damp and the skies overcast the neighbourhood was full of birds singing and chattering.  Shane took Hoihoi back to the park where he had first found him.  He set him down, where he started to run about and forage in the ground, pecking for insects and worms like a little bird should.  Then a blackbird made a sudden landing nearby.  He (male as he had dark colouring) hid right away from us behind the nearest shrub, but kept following Hoihoi protectively.  Up to this point we didn't know he was a blackbird as they look lighter, and don't yet have such an orange beak when they are babies.  Both male and female parents care for fledglings (we looked this all up in our official bird book).

Since then when we visit the park, we know it's Hoihoi as he doesn't take off when we come by - as all the other wild birds do.  He doesn't vocalize back any longer, but stops his busy job of pecking the ground for food, and looks at us.  Then his parent blackbird flies down to protect this grown-up baby who still needs to learn many skills.  He is so quick and fleet now, you wouldn't know he had ever been looked after by humans - except for his lesser fear of them.

Hoihoi is free now, living just as a wild bird should.