Vets' frantic warning about 'kidnapping season' endangering Aussie birds

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter

An alert has been issued to people who unknowingly “kidnap” baby birds from their parents during spring while the tiny animals are learning to fly and become self sufficient.

Well-meaning members of the public who take young fledglings, can severely compromise the animals’ growth, causing catastrophic consequences and leave vets with no option but to euthanise them, according to the Bird and Exotic Animal Clinic.

In a stern post to Facebook on Tuesday, the Victorian vet urged people to “leave the care of wildlife to the experts”.

“If you find a fledgling and don't know what to do, call your vet or local wildlife organisation. Please do not keep them to try to raise them yourself,” the post read.

“The months of spring are known as ‘kidnapping season’ because that's when we see healthy fledglings who are learning to fly get taken from their families, many times unnecessarily.”

Magpie shown alongside an X-ray of its broken and brittle bones amid a vet's warning to leave baby birds alone.
The vet said removing a baby bird from its parents could have catastrophic consequences. Source: Facebook/Bird and Exotic Animal Clinic

Magpies, crows and ravens were common targets because they spent a lot of time on the ground while they were fledging, the post said.

Overly fragile and brittle limbs in baby birds were caused by people feeding them a diet that often neglected their need for nutrients normally gained from insects, the vet said.

While noting most people who took birds home believed they were doing the right thing, the vet said this logic was impossible to explain to “the poor creatures that are beyond intervention or any hope of a good quality life”.

“They can't talk to us to say ‘actually I'm in lots of pain’. We vets at the end of the line are the ones that look into the faces of these babies, as we end their lives so they don't suffer, as the life disappears from their eyes, our hearts hurt forever and every time,” the post read.

The vet said fledglings were almost always better off left with their parents, but if they really needed help, either a vet or wildlife carer should be contacted.

Baby magpie shown with broken limbs as vet requests the public not to kidnap birds.
A magpie with broken limbs that had to be euthanised. Source: Facebook/Bird and Exotic Animal Clinic

Deformities highlighted in a set of X-rays of a malnourished bird showed the animal to have broken bones and extremely thin, brittle bones, with its “rubber” bendable beak shown in a separate photo.

“There's many areas where there's simply no calcium in the bone... there are folding fractures where the bone has collapsed on itself. The joints cannot bend because they have no structure. The legs look like they have an extra joint but they are actually broken,” the vet said.

Another common issue in birds that had been force fed by humans was them having water and pieces of aspirated food in their lungs.

The vet said it had grown painfully tired of hearing the same story of a bird being taken by an unskilled carer after being found at the bottom of a tree, then that person taking to social media for advice.

“We know everyone means well. We know everyone believes they are doing what's best. We know the people involved would be devastated to know what's happened, but it's too late.”

Skeleton x-ray of a healthy bird (left) compared to a malnourished one with broken bones.
A fledgling with a healthy skeletal structure (left) compared to one with weak, broken bones (right). Source: Facebook/Bird and Exotic Animal Clinic

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