Tweet Tweet Rescue & Rehab

13th May, 2024

Written by, and photographs supplied by, Danica Munro, founder

Professional photography by Pet Focus Photography

Tweet Tweet Rescue & Rehab was founded in 2018 when two local ladies in Edgemead who used to rehabilitate wild birds placed a notice on Facebook asking for help. I thought: I definitely have an extra hour a day, and, as I’d raised two laughing doves successfully, could assist by taking in some doves.

That “one hour a day” has swopped around to give me about one hour a day for any other work, except birds.

A serious commitment to conservation

Tweet Tweet Rescue & Rehab has always understood the importance of nature conservation, and how rehabilitating birds at home isn’t a hobby or spare-time activity. Serious commitment and data keeping is involved to give the best care to each birdie that needs help.

It’s illegal to rehabilitate wildlife without a CapeNature permit in the Western Cape. Tweet Tweet offers training and volunteer programmes to acquire permits from CapeNature.

Which birds need help?

We can only accommodate birds in real need of help. When finding a grounded bird, there are usually three categories to consider:

  1. Firstly, old, sick or injured birds. They all need human intervention.

  2. Secondly, nestlings*, where the nest is nowhere to be found; they also need urgent human intervention.

  3. Lastly, fledglings*, the stage that not only confuses the young bird, but also humans, thinking they need help when they usually don’t. We have a step-by-step fledgling message we send out as soon as we identify the bird in the picture as unharmed, uninjured; just a fledgling doing what fledglings do. We get 10 requests a day about fledglings – also the reason we request a photo.

*Stages of baby birds you may find:

  • A hatchling: just out of his egg.

  • Nestling: belongs still in nest.

  • Fledgling: done with nest. Parents are still feeding him and he’s learning to fly.

Steps to take when you find a grounded fledgling:

  • Make sure it’s totally okay (uninjured, etc.).

  • Move cats and dogs away for a day or two.

  • Put the bird back within a 10m radius from where you found him. Try a tree, if he was on the ground.

  • The fledgling will whistle and its parents will hear him and watch over and feed him.

  • Check the crop area (feel his sack under his beak) – you’ll feel seeds if his parents are feeding him. You can also weigh him on an electronic scale to make sure.

  • If the bird is looking really sleepy and unfed, then we can assess him.

  • Don’t feed these birds yourself; this should be done by the parents. You can place seeds out for the parents, to make feeding them easier.

  • Please contact us if you see the situation is desperate.

What about touching baby birds with your hands?

It’s a myth that, if you touch them, the parents will reject them. There’s no need to worry about touching birds with your bare hands in fear that parents will reject the baby birdie in case reuniting is a possibility.

However, although it’s okay to pick up a bird without gloves on, continuous handling of the bird with human hands does strip the feathers from their natural oils which protect them from rain. This is a waterproof coating and will disappear with handling a bird. So keep handling to a minimum.

Should I feed a grounded bird?

We’d like to discourage people from feeding a grounded bird. Not even water should be given. This can be fatal or lead to serious health conditions in future. There are four very good reasons for this:

  1. A cold bird will go into organ shock if you feed it.

  2. Most people aren’t able to identify birds correctly as you have insect, seeds and fruits eaters, and you may kill it by feeding the wrong food.

  3. Using the incorrect equipment, at incorrect intervals, feeding incorrect meals with incorrect meal sizes can be fatal.

  4. Not understanding the anatomy of a bird, which differs completely to humans, cats and dogs.

Birdies that the public feed usually take longer to recover, with extra side effects, that compromise a successful rehabilitation and release.

These poor birds shouldn’t be used as an experiment or project, but there’s one important thing everyone must know and do when they find a grounded bird: keep the bird warm.

ICU with warmth and a box

Keeping grounding hatchlings, nestlings, or ill/injured birds warm can be life-saving. This seems to be new to everyone, and not common sense. A bird should be warmer than your face (you can “measure” his body temperature by pressing him against your face).

A heat source such as an empty cool drink bottle with warm – not boiling – tap water, wrapped in a fleece blanket, will help to get a cold bird warm and keep it warm.

If you found the bird late at night and a CapeNature permitted rehabilitation centre can only be reached in the morning, just replace warm water every three hours. This will buy you at least 24 hours.

The bird shouldn’t be kept in a cage, but rather a box, wrapped in a fleece blanket with the heat source. The box’s darkness will keep the birdie calm, as well as trap extra heat.

Consider the birdie to be an ICU patient, needing warmth, rest, and peace and quiet. Don’t touch or play with it as it might have broken bones, internal bleeding, illness, etc.

You can help!

Tweet Tweet Rescue & Rehab doesn’t operate on normal business hours; however, we operate with the sun, usually up before sunrise, and down after sunset.

We ask the bird finder to contact us via a WhatsApp text message; we need a short description of what the crisis is and a picture of the bird. Our facility is under CapeNature permit, not open to the public, no public toilets and no exhibitions.

We don’t charge a fee but do depend on donations to keep running a facility. The cheapest species is doves, costing on average R10 a day, and staying on average six weeks.

We are based in Monte Vista, Cape Town. For more information, text to 078 517 7061, email, or follow us on Instagram @tweettweetrescue or on Facebook

If we’re not able to help with the situation, we’ll provide alternative solutions.

Editor’s note: For more information on Bird SOS


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