An orphaned song thrush chick

Meet the first (and hopefully last) of this year’s rescues; a song thrush chick.

Every year we get birds nesting in the most inconvenient of places (for us) such as the log splitter, the wood pile, the mini digger and even the pickup, meaning we have to leave the area alone for several weeks.

This year a pair of song thrushes made their nest in a machine in the yard. Luckily it wasn’t one we needed but meant giving the area a wide birth so as not to disturb her. Just over a week ago I snuck a photo of the eggs while they were away from the nest. Each day we would glance into the next to check it was still there. Magpies, crows, squirrels and mice destroy many nests in the wood each year, so we regularly check nests we are aware of, hoping they are still there.

A week last Friday the chicks hatched and, while the parents were away collecting food, I snapped a photo of the tiny naked chicks in the nest. Comparing the eggs to the chicks in the photo below makes one wonder how just the day before they were inside the tiny shells.

On Bank Holiday Monday Ian checked the nest as usual but was horrified to see just one lifeless naked body inside the nest. He gently nudged the small body and it  was clap cold to the touch. Thinking the chick was dead he carefully scooped it out to see if there were any signs of the attacker. The chick made a slight movement indicating it was still alive so he rushed it inside to warm it under a lamp and hot water bottle. When chicks, especially such young ones, get cold it’s a sign death is just around the corner.  The chick had some blood on its head and after closer inspection it looked like bite wounds, most likely from a mouse or rat. Luckily it didn’t look to severe but it’s hard to know with it being such a small animal.

This photo was taken on Bank Holiday Monday

Thankfully the chick warmed and started to move more but didn’t open its mouth to ask for food. Normally small vibrations and sounds make chicks think a parent has returned to the nest so they will open their bright coloured mouths (known as their gape) to receive food from their parents. At this age their eyes aren’t yet open so they can’t see.  The chick didn’t respond and was very weak. Ian gently opened the chick’s beak and fed it boiled egg, which it swallowed. This was a good sign.

When I returned from work the chick had more strength and suddenly opened its gape. I quickly grabbed some egg with the tweezers and place it in its open mouth. The chick enthusiastically swallowed the food. Wahoo!

Six days on the thrush has grown in size, has started to grow feather, has one opened eye and has started to tweet (not the 140 character type). The speed at which the chick is growing is fascinating. I have been taking one to two photos each day to compare growth. After comparing the photo from this morning, around 9am (left photo) to this evening’s around 7pm (right photo), there is a clear change in the length of the wing feathers.

Caring for chicks is very demanding. The thrush needs feeding roughly every 30 minutes to an hour apart from night time but one of us has to get up at around 4am to give the chick its breakfast. The thrush will be just an eating and pooping machine for the first couple of weeks of its life. Food goes in which triggers a poop to come out at the other end, which we catch in a spoon and dispose of.

We’ve hand raised a number of birds in the past including crows, magpies, ducklings and blackbirds. It’s rewarding to see the grown bird we have helped fly away but along with success stories there are also failures. Sometimes little ones just don’t make it, despite our best efforts.

This photo was taken this evening (Saturday).

The future for this little thrush is looking more positive each day. Hopefully in a few weeks it will take to the sky.

If you have found a chick that you think is is trouble, please read the useful information from this RSPB first. Chicks with feathers have normally left the nest and will soon learn to fly. They are referred to as fledglings and it’s perfectly normal to see them on the ground and their parents won’t be far away. If you find a featherless chick or an injured chick, keep it warm and contact a local rescue center or the RSPCA. (The RSPB don’t have facilities to treat birds).

By Jenni Tulip

I'm a bright-haired, hill walking, magpie whispering, skull collecting, tree hugging, money saving, bird watching, happy campervanning, ferret fanatic, woodland dweller sharing my stories and passion for the outdoors to inspire you to immerse yourself in nature.