Veterinarian ‘DachsUndDachshund‘ recently posted this amazing story to imgurÂ about how out jogging one day he stumbled upon this tiny freshly hatched songbird that had fallen out of its nest. Unable to locate the nest so he could return the baby bird to it, he decided to take it home and hand raise it himself until it was big and health enough to be released into the world to sing its songs. Here is the amazingly beautiful story that is sure to put a smile on your face:
Day 1 – Here is the little chick on the first day. My brother had been out jogging, and found it on the sidewalk. It was actually still attached to part of its shell and some dried membranes. Clearly freshly hatched, we were unable to locate the nest in the group of trees above us. **NOTE** if you find a bird this young, it is best to try to locate the nest and put it back in. There is a myth that you can’t touch a baby bird, because the parents will reject it due to the smell of humans. PLEASE don’t try this at home! This is not meant as a guide, but more to show you the amazing development and growth of songbirds. Wildlife rehabilitation should only be carried out by those licensed to do so!
Day 3 – Baby birds eat a lot! We fed this chick primarily with crickets, mealworms, waxworms, caught insects, and a commercially available liquid formula for chicks. We fed the chick every 30 minutes for 14 hours/day, simulating what she would get in the wild. Just imagine what that means! This was just one chick, and most songbird broods will have anywhere from 2 – 5 chicks. The amount of insects songbird parents need to catch to feed their chicks (and themselves) is a bit staggering when you think about it. Since the parents don’t feed their chicks overnight, we didn’t either. This is opposed to many mammalian babies that need to be fed regularly around the clock.
Day 5 – By day 5, Dumpling was able to sit more “sternal” (on her chest with the legs tucked under her body) with more stability. Look at the changes in the feathers in just another 24 hours! She is actually starting to look like a bird! Her eyes were starting to open just a little bit by this time, as well.
Day 7 – Overnight, all of the feather sheaths fell away and -tada!- we have a bird! You can see here as well that she has a bent lateral toe on her left leg. Not much to be done about that in a bird this small, and it really didn’t slow her down at all.
Day 9 – By this time, we were able to stop using the incubator. Since her body was covered in feathers, she was able to regulate her body heat on her own. The tufts of chick fluff and the eternally grumpy expression that baby birds have was hilarious.
Day 11 – She was able to officially perch for the first time! Definitely a big step in the right direction. She doesn’t have much of a tail yet, so her balance isn’t great, but she had a really strong grip and could hold herself up there very well, bad toe and all.
Day 13 – Almost 2 weeks from hatching, and she is now perching very well! You can see that her strength and balance has improved even compared to Day 11. Her legs are more upright, showing a better perching posture. This “hocks up” posture is very characteristic of 14-day old songbird chicks, so she is right on schedule.
Day 17 – Here she is in a larger cage that she graduated to. We put in freshly cut branches so she can have a variety of perching options, and can explore the leaves and twigs like she would in the wild. By this point, she is hopping and flying around the cage like a professional. **NOTE** Any of you with pet birds, it is very important to have a variety of perches. The best ones are branches you cut yourself from non-toxic trees. It’s great, healthy enrichment for your pets!
Day 22 – We started placing her cage out on the deck to get her exposed to the wind, the sun and other birds. This is important for socialization and training. Other birds would come to the feeders and interact with her, and she could watch them and learn their songs.
Day 23 – This is one of my favorite pictures of her, showing her wonderfully patterned feathers. By this point, we decided she was likely a White Crowned Sparrow or Chipping Sparrow. WCS is a species of bird that is common around here, but you don’t see them often because they don’t come to bird feeders regularly. Chipping Sparrows are very common, but there were a few pictures of juveniles that didn’t match well with her. Both are a migratory species, traveling south for the winter. We were hoping to get her fit for release in plenty of time to make that trip.
Day 27 – By this time, she was completely off of eating crickets (showed absolutely no interest in them), and her diet was more seed and worm-based. She was also eating on her own, completely. She actually didn’t let us feed her anymore, which was a good sign.
Day 33 – At this point, she was essentially releasable. However, there were some expected storms rolling in over the next few days, so we decided to keep her for a few days longer to give her the best chance.
Bye Bye, Dumpling! – We opened the cage door and stepped back. After a few minutes, she hopped out and flitted immediately up into a tree. She didn’t hesitate at all. She immediately started exploring the branches, biting at tree buds and hopping from branch-to-branch like a wild bird. Pretty soon, we lost sight of her.
What an absolutely amazing story. The fact he raised a tiny pink, helpless, fetus-looking thing into a release-ready bird is a testament to his skill as a veterinarian. It should be noted that the rearing of any wildlife can be difficult, and should only be undertaken by those trained (and licensed, in many cases) to do so. Many animals, especially migratory birds, are protected under federal law, and it is illegal to have them in your care without the proper permits. If you find any injured or sick wildlife, your best bet is to look for a local wildlife rehabilitation organization.
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