On arrival, the bird is given a quick assessment. If obvious injuries that require vet attention, ie major bleeding, obvious broken bones, we contact the vet and arrange to go straight away. We are very lucky to have dedicated and caring vets at Vetco.
If nothing obvious, generally birds are at least stunned or bruised, so we treat for bruising. Kereru are generally given fluids through a tube down into the crop; tui are encouraged [and generally will] to drink from a small cup or medicine jar. The food given is called ‘tui mix’ which is a combination of plain Farex, plain Complan, brown sugar and water sometimes with honey or other flavouring added. For injured tuis we also add honey.
Fluids are given regularly for the first 24 hours and, depending on the state of the bird, more solid food is then introduced, while fluids are still given to a lesser degree.
For the first few hours up to days depending on their requirements, birds are put into heated cages or in a cat box near a heat source. Often they are checked by the vet at some stage and can still be xrayed if later concerns deem this necessary.
For kereru, after a week in the box, they are put into a cage in our hospital area where they are able to either sit on the floor or begin to perch. We have found that a week is a suitable time to stay in the box, during which time bedding is changed each feed time, being three or four times daily.
Birds need to be force fed as they will not eat the food offered as it differs hugely from their natural diet of leaves and seeds. Food we feed is banana, peach, grainy bread soaked in tui mix and cut up small, peas, corn, grated carrot, soaked sultanas, apple and sometimes silverbeet.
The third stage of recuperation is to one of two small aviaries, then later to a large aviary where the birds can start eating natural foliage again as well as being offered the above food in a dish, daily.
Before going to an aviary all birds are banded with a DoC numbered metal band on the left leg if we think it may be a female or the right leg for a male [although we can’t be sure as no diagnostic tests are carried out] and in the case of kereru, a coloured ‘jess’ is also tied onto the same leg, on top of the metal band.
These colours are changed every year after 31 March so that if a bird is picked up injured again or seen in the wild, it can be identified and checked with our records.
In the large aviary the birds climb around the trees and practise flying until they are fit to be released, by which stage the aviary is divided in two by the dropping of a net, and the birds to be released are shut into one half while birds staying are shut in the other half.
Once they are ready the birds themselves show us by flying back and forth in their half whenever people are around. On a designated day the aviary trapdoor is opened and the birds can fly out; usually two or three at a time when ready. The trapdoor remains open for several days and if kereru are seen to hang around food is again placed inside that half of the aviary. This doesn’t often happen as birds generally fly away and stay away, but occasionally a bird has come back for food daily and then flown out again, for several days.
After a few days if no birds return the trapdoor is closed and the net rolled up to give the other birds the whole aviary once again.
There is also a trapdoor in each of the small aviaries and if only tui are being housed in this aviary, the trapdoor can be opened and remain open in the same way as above for kereru.
Sometimes if an adult bird has very light injuries and comes from further away from Invercargill or we believe it has a chick – been acting very aggressively as well – we decide to do a ‘hard release’ as shown in this picture, the bird is just taken from the box and released back in its own area.