On 15th April, 2013, we received an e-mail from Dr Manoj G Nair of Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala state in India, seeking advise on how to feed a barbet chick that was apparently abandoned by its parents. The chick was fed on palm fruits and grapes and was responding well. Wrote Dr Manoj, “… can you please advise on what supplements we need to give the baby?”
By return mail, Dr Manoj was informed that “… not too sure whether the chick was abandoned. It may have fallen during its maiden flight. If so, the parents must have been around. If left alone, the parents would have taken care of it. What needs to be done in such a situation is to place the chick away from being trampled or being taken by cats.”
The problem with looking after an “abandoned” chick is that you many succeed in keeping it alive until it is ready to fly off. But then who is there to teach it to recognise predators and to seek out food? Normally the adults guide the fledglings for a few weeks after they fledge. Only then do the young birds take off to live independent lives. In “rescued” chicks, what usually happened when released is that it will easily fall prey to some predators or other.
The good news is that this fledgling was able to fly soon after “rescue”. Fortunately the nest was in a tree growing in Dr Manoj’s backyard and the adults were still around. It was released and rejoined the family.
Adult birds seldom, if ever, abandon their chicks. Even when a nest has been attacked and the chick lay dead below the nest, the adults will continue to seek it out and try to feed it LINK. However, there are cases where chicks of the Little Heron (Butorides striatus) wander out of the nest before they are ready to fledge, to fall off the tree LINK. Calling helplessly below the nest, these chicks may appear to passersby that they have been abandoned by the adults. This is definitely not so. The adults are always around but usually hidden behind vegetation. There are also cases where, during its maiden flight, the fledgling may land on the ground, not having mastered flight.
PLEASE DO NOT “RESCUE” THESE CHICKS. If necessary, place them somewhere above ground, but nearby, out of harm’s way from pedestrians and stray cats. The adults will look after them.
Dr Manoj G Nair
Trivandrum, Kerala, India