Sunday, April 30, 2017

How To Save a Mockingbird

Peepers is doing great!  He's transitioned to our pet yard bird now.  He hangs out in the trees surrounding our backyard and returns to the porch calling for me when he's hungry.  For a while, he was begging to be hand fed all day long.  He's down to a few times a day now, and sometimes darts away from me in lieu of being fed.  His bird skills are improving - yay!!

I can go out back and call for him and he answers!  I can hear him peeep peeep from a distance in return.  Sometimes he'll even fly over as if he wants to say "Hi Mom!"  What - you don't believe me?  Well....

Y'all probably think I'm nuts, but I've grown quite attached to my feathered child.  I've been feeding this bird for over a month now.  He's quite sweet and very smart.  I know that eventually he'll stop coming around and have a 'real' mockingbird life, which is the goal.  Part of the pleasure of caring for a baby bird is releasing them.  Grow up and go out and seek your fortune, Peepers!!

A few people have asked how did I take care of him?  I did A TON of research online trying to figure out what to do to keep this bird alive.  It seemed impossible and I didn't even think he had a chance at survival at first.  He was just so tiny and it's so hard to duplicate a mamma bird.  I actually almost gave up because it seemed hopeless, but every morning there he was gaping to be fed.  Every day I grew a little more hopeful that he just might make it.

If you do find yourself with a baby bird, everything you read will tell you finding the mom is the best bet.  Sometimes though it just isn't an option.  This is what I did for Peepers.  He was a 4 or 5 day old mockingbird chick when I took him in.

* Baby birds need to be kept warm.  I put Peepers in a box and made him a 'nest' out of a towel.  I put a heating pad under the box for some warmth.  I also made him a sock buddy.  I filled a small sock with rice and microwaved it a few times a day.  Peepers cuddled right up to it and it stayed warm for a good while.

* I fed him every 20-30 minutes at first.  I used Purina Kitten Chow soaked in warm water and fed him using the handle of a plastic spoon.  He took to it right away, but I've read sometimes you have to force them to eat.   If the bird is cold and the food is cold, the bird won't eat.  Keep the bird warm and feed it warm food.  Thankfully mamma birds sleep all night so the constant feeding is only during daylight hours.  Baby bird will sleep all night, too!

*After researching, I ordered some Exact Baby Bird food  and began feeding him that.  I set a timer and every 30 minutes I fed him.  Usually he'd just eat 1-2 bites, wiggle his little booty and poop, and he was done.  After a while, he'd wiggle and poop as soon as he saw me, which was quite comical!!  I guess he knew it was dinner time and had to make some room...

*I took his box outside for a little sun every now and then.  Sometimes it seemed to upset him, so we didn't stay very long.  He'd get really agitated and start breathing with his mouth open which means he was stressed.

* When he was almost fully feathered, I moved him to a tall laundry basket.  I covered the top with netting and put a stick through the holes in the basket to make a perch.  He looooved the perch once he figured it out!  I added more perches and different heights and before long he could flutter to reach them all.

* I took him out for flying lessons.  I'd let him rest on the back of my hand and I'd drop it fast enough for him to spread his wings.  Eventually he'd fly from my hand to sit on my shoulder or head.  Then he'd fly to a tree, sometimes he'd miss and end up on the ground.  It seemed to take him a lot longer to fly than it was supposed to.  Mocking birds become independent around 15 days?  Not this one...

* Once he could fly a little, I started putting him in the tree where his nest was.  Several times he hopped in the nest and went to sleep!  I started with a few hours of tree time and worked up to all day tree time.  I'd check on him often and feed him, of course.  For a long time, he just sat in the tree.  He had no idea what to do.

I spent a lot of time with him outside working on flying.  He'd flutter off my hand and this is what I'd get:

Eventually he caught on and started leaving the tree, but he'd always return.  I'd put him in his cage at night and put him back in the tree in the morning.  I was still hand feeding him all day long as he didn't have any interest in trying to feed himself.

*Finally, he seemed to have enough 'bird skills' to be left out at night.  He had a hard time learning to eat on his own.  I was overjoyed to see him eat a bug!  For the first few days, he was at the back door begging for food constantly.  He'd start at dawn - peeep peeeep peeep.  He'd get quite angry if mealtime was delayed.  I held off and little by little am hand feeding him less and less.  I see him pecking around on the ground, so he's getting it.  He's on his way to being independent!!

Peepers is 5 weeks old now and doesn't go far.  I do go out and call for him every morning, and sometimes he'll fly to the fence wanting a few bites of his baby bird food, but sometimes not.  Sometimes I hear him calling me from the trees to go out and feed him!

It truly has been amazing watching this little bird grow.

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