Little land birds, how to keep alive?

jdc

Well-known member
Joined
1 Dec 2007
Messages
1,977
Location
Falmouth
Visit site
We frequently have little birds flop on to our deck, quite exhausted. We always try to rescue them, and put them in a warm and dry place but sadly almost invariably they die.

Sometimes it's well off shore, eg on passage to the Canaries, or mid Biscay, but a couple of weeks ago a swallow landed on us 1/2 way between the Lizard and Scilly (in a brisk northerly, about F6). I released it on Tresco where there were 100s of them happily flying around the pond in Old Grimby, but I'm not sure it survived, it just lay on the grass, still dazed from exhaustion and shock, when I gently tipped it out of the cardboard box we'd put it in.

Does any one else experience this, and have you any tips for keeping them alive?

The only one which seemed happy aboard was a chaffinch which landed on us mid Biscay - I believe they are called the 'Fearless Chaffinch' for a reason - and he eat moths he found in the cabin, scraps of cheese and bits of museli and generally made himself at home.
jpgAfY8ABA9aD.jpg
 

AntarcticPilot

Well-known member
Joined
4 May 2007
Messages
10,239
Location
Cambridge, UK
www.cooperandyau.co.uk
I think the problem is that they have fast metabolisms that require a high food intake. Many small birds eat a substantial proportion of their own body weight each day; they're warm-blooded and flying without soaring is energy intensive. Being small, they need more energy to maintain their body temperature as they have a greater surface area in relation to their mass (the square/cube law - surface area goes up as the square of the size; mass goes up as the cube). A land bird that far from land has probably used up all it's stored energy, is on its last legs, and if you can't replenish it's reserves, it's a goner. Unfortunately, unless you're a dedicated birder, feeding it is tricky - it could eat seeds, insects or fruit. I guess the suet balls people put out for garden birds might work, but I'm no expert. But I'm pretty certain the key to helping them to survive is feeding.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jdc

Farmer Piles

Well-known member
Joined
6 Oct 2020
Messages
790
Location
Deepest Kernow
Visit site
We frequently have little birds flop on to our deck, quite exhausted. We always try to rescue them, and put them in a warm and dry place but sadly almost invariably they die.

Sometimes it's well off shore, eg on passage to the Canaries, or mid Biscay, but a couple of weeks ago a swallow landed on us 1/2 way between the Lizard and Scilly (in a brisk northerly, about F6). I released it on Tresco where there were 100s of them happily flying around the pond in Old Grimby, but I'm not sure it survived, it just lay on the grass, still dazed from exhaustion and shock, when I gently tipped it out of the cardboard box we'd put it in.

Does any one else experience this, and have you any tips for keeping them alive?

The only one which seemed happy aboard was a chaffinch which landed on us mid Biscay - I believe they are called the 'Fearless Chaffinch' for a reason - and he eat moths he found in the cabin, scraps of cheese and bits of museli and generally made himself at home.
jpgAfY8ABA9aD.jpg
It's incredible to think that you found a small seed eating bird like a chaffinch mid-Biscay. You could understand a swallow or similar.
I read a book on swifts recently, of course they only land when they nest in Europe. The rest of the time from when they fledge they spend in the air. The average swift flies about 10 000 miles a year or more over-wintering in the Congo and surrounds. Those that nest in Central Asia - the "Stans" - do 15 000 - 16 000 miles a year.
I know that it's a bit off-topic but I just find it all quite incredible. Plus the fact that I am biased because I have four pairs of swifts nesting in my roof currently.
 

AntarcticPilot

Well-known member
Joined
4 May 2007
Messages
10,239
Location
Cambridge, UK
www.cooperandyau.co.uk
It's incredible to think that you found a small seed eating bird like a chaffinch mid-Biscay. You could understand a swallow or similar.
I read a book on swifts recently, of course they only land when they nest in Europe. The rest of the time from when they fledge they spend in the air. The average swift flies about 10 000 miles a year or more over-wintering in the Congo and surrounds. Those that nest in Central Asia - the "Stans" - do 15 000 - 16 000 miles a year.
I know that it's a bit off-topic but I just find it all quite incredible. Plus the fact that I am biased because I have four pairs of swifts nesting in my roof currently.
Of course, swifts and similar birds are insectivores and eat on the wing.
 

michael_w

Well-known member
Joined
8 Oct 2005
Messages
5,728
Visit site
The two oddest land birds I've encountered one was a grey heron, the sort that eat your goldfish, about 300 miles from Bermuda. The other was a bright blue budgie that must have escaped off Felixstowe.
 
  • Wow
Reactions: jdc

jdc

Well-known member
Joined
1 Dec 2007
Messages
1,977
Location
Falmouth
Visit site
Quite a few birds over-winter nearer the Mediterranean, even tiny ones. A day after the chaffinch joined us, a flock of chiffchaff (I think) landed on the boat but didn't seem at all exhausted, just curious! They all carried on S about 30 mins later anyway, seemingly flying only about 10' above the sea. We were about 100 miles N of A Coruña at that point (on the 2nd of November).
jpgpdPWMVCUZb.jpg
 

johnalison

Well-known member
Joined
14 Feb 2007
Messages
39,795
Location
Essex
Visit site
We’ve had a good number of avian passengers. A few pigeons of course, including one that hitched a ride across the Ijselmeer, but also small ones such as a house Martin, a probable icterine warbler and a marsh tit. Usually they rest for an hour or two and fly off.
 

jdc

Well-known member
Joined
1 Dec 2007
Messages
1,977
Location
Falmouth
Visit site
Swallows need to be launched like a model glider. They are ineffective at taking off from level ground, unless there is a cliff edge.
Coo, I didn't think of that! It would have seemed callous but might have done the trick. Have you a reference or video?

The bird did manage to launch itself from the sea (it crashed into a wave and was quite soaked), but by Herculean effort got airborne out of the water and flew the few feet to us, landing right next to me in the cockpit.
 

Refueler

Well-known member
Joined
13 Sep 2008
Messages
18,820
Location
Far away from hooray henrys
Visit site
One ship ... 300,000 ton ... we were sailing into Gulf of Mexico bound for offshore discharge - Ship to Ship ... located near mouth of Mississippi. We had 'acquired' a huge number of White Egrets on deck ...
First lightering ship when discharging up river mentioned to shore about this ... next we had radio calls from shore asking if we thought we could 'shoo' the Egrets off so they would fly to land - or transfer to next lightering ship ...

We had half the crew out on deck like a skirmish line getting the birds to hop over to the other ship ... it took more than one lighter operation to get them finally off.

We rec'd a call at the completion from shore saying thank you and that they were busy counting the birds !!

We never knew begore this - that the White Egret is a protected bird there !

Its funny - it was years ago - but I can still picture crew running around chasing the birds !!
 

Refueler

Well-known member
Joined
13 Sep 2008
Messages
18,820
Location
Far away from hooray henrys
Visit site
South of Ventspils .. along the coast .. about 5nm offshore - there is an area that if you enter it - you get swarms of midges ... why they are out there - no-one can answer ... but there they are ...
 
Top