Basic Waterfowl Intake & Care

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1 Waterfowl Rehabilitation for Everyone Basic Waterfowl Intake & Care, CWR WRAM 2010 Outline Common Waterfowl Phone Calls To admit or not to admit Unique Rescue Strategies Basic Identification Intake and Stabilization Be Prepared Waterfowl Diet and Housing Respecting Wildness

2 Outline Common Waterfowl Phone Calls Common Phone Calls Orphaned waterfowl: Injured orphans must be admitted for care Signs of injury include bleeding, lameness or flies present Try to identify species over the phone Have called take a picture with their camera phone Have caller contain the orphan or orphans in secure cardboard box on towel while they search for parent(s) Orphans will disappear if caller doesn t contain them Not all orphaned waterfowl are candidates for fostering! (even if you find their parents)

3 Common Phone Calls If the caller identifies a family of geese that have goslings larger than the one they have found, they should not attempt to foster Orphaned Canada goslings: If the orphan is uninjured and the family can be found (must confirm ID with caller don t trust that they can properly ID the bird), the gosling can be returned to the family The caller should be instructed to wait and observe for at least 30 minutes to ensure that the gosling has been accepted and that it can keep up with the family If the gosling can t keep up with the family, it will need to be admitted Common Phone Calls Orphaned ducklings: Even if the duckling is uninjured and an family can be found, the duckling should not be returned to the family as there is a good chance that it will be rejected by the adult Once the foster attempt is made, it is impossible to recapture them if they are rejected Mother ducks will not recognize their own duckling once they ve been separated for even a short time Ducks will try to drown foreign ducklings Orphaned ducklings found without a parent should be contained in a cardboard box lined with a towel If a full clutch of ducklings is found, leave them in the box and give the mother an hour to return Keep in mind, that mother ducks will rarely desert their young Orphaned ducklings will have to be admitted for rehabilitation

4 Common Phone Calls Injured adults: Get as accurate of a description from the caller as possible: Species identification Obvious injury Description of the area (body of water, parking lot, other birds on site, etc.) At the end of breeding season, waterfowl go through an eclipse molt, or flightless period where it is normal for them to be grounded If the caller has already caught the bird, then it is definitely in need of help Common Orphaned Phone Calls Ducklings in a Sewer Unless the drain pipe leads directly out into a retention basin with no steps or ledges, these ducklings will die if not rescued The public should not be encouraged to go into a sewer Toxic fumes can be present People can injure themselves (or get covered in mud!) Recruit the fire department if necessary Keep the family together if possible Block off any pathways leading to other pipes and try to trap them in a single section of pipe If the mother is around, try to capture her and reunite the family in an appropriate location

5 Common Orphaned Phone Calls Ducklings in a Courtyard Ideally, capture the mother and then round up the babies Release the babies first and then let the hen out to meet them Sometimes, the whole family can be slowly herded through the building and outside to safety As a last resort, capture the ducklings and move them to the outside of the courtyard Leave them in a box until the hen locates them on the outside of the courtyard; then they can be released Common Orphaned Phone Calls Ducklings in a Swimming Pool If the mother is present, the caller should be advised to encourage the ducklings out: Raise the water level in the pool Configure pool flotation devices or furniture in the pool to provide an exit ramp Do not provide food If the mother is not present, the ducklings will have to be captured as quickly as possible and admitted The caller will have to get into the pool and encourage them to one end where they can be caught with a net Watch out they dive! Most ducklings can t jump out of a swimming pool unassisted. Take action quickly as ducklings can become hypothermic or drown

6 Outline Rescue Tips and Phone Calls Waterfowl Rescue Strategies Ducklings in the sewer: Supplies: Cardboard to block off tunnels Flashlight Crowbar to pop grate (or chain to hook to your truck) Assorted nets with small mesh 2 or more people (have police help with grates and traffic) Techniques: Keep all ducklings together Use recorded calls or mom to lure them into opening Trap between 2 grates or trap in well Don t forget to look for mom and try to catch her Always keep mom and babies separate in transport carrier

7 Waterfowl Rescue Strategies Duck or Goose on a pond - injured wing: Supplies: Kayak Landing Net 2 or more people Techniques: Use kayak to move bird out of water (birds hate boats) Have person on land pick spot where bird can be herded to and cornered Net carefully Bird on a Park Pond? Try feeding to lure onto land before unloading kayak Waterfowl Rescue Strategies Duck or Goose on a pond - injured wing and no kayak: Supplies: Long Section of Rope Remote Control Boat 2 or more people Techniques: Drag rope across pond to scare bird out of the water If pond is too large, try a few remote control boats (cheap ones from Toys R Us, expensive ones from Radio Shack) Once out of the water, corner and capture Always try food first to lure a bird out of the water

8 Waterfowl Rescue Strategies Duck or Goose - injured leg Supplies: Net(s) 2 or more people Good Luck! Technique: These rescues are extremely frustrating Can t see bird if on water Move slowly in approach and then pounce Sometimes you can tire it out if it only flies short distances Many of these birds will laugh at you before flying away! Waterfowl Rescue Strategies Family needs to be relocated Supplies: Assorted Nets 2 carriers 2 or more people Techniques: Capture mom first She will defend her ducklings Pick one up and she should attack you (time to net her) Round up ducklings - try to keep them in a group Duckling seem stressed from long rescue operation? Don t forget about capture myopathy! Sometimes the family should be admitted for 72 hours until stable.

9 Outline Basic Waterfowl Identification Identify First Orphans Nutritional and housing requirements differ for each species of orphaned waterfowl. Making a proper identification is critical! Left: Mallard, Above: Wood Ducklings; Right: Canada gosling

10 Identify First Orphans Hooded Merganser Common Mergansers Identify First Orphans Atlantic Eiders

11 Identify First Injured Adults While few species of waterfowl breed in the Northeast, many different species can present as injured adults Get a good field guide, i.e. Waterfowl of Eastern North America by Chris Earley, or Natural History of the Waterfowl by Frank Todd Swans and Geese are easy For Ducks, it can be tricky Please remember, while a good ID is important, don t fixate on it and stress the patient! Take a quick photo and ask for help, while leaving the bird alone to de-stress Mallard Pair Identify First Injured Adults Hooded Merganser Pair American Black Duck Wood Duck Pair Common Merganser

12 Identify First Injured Adults Canada Goose Atlantic Brant Mute Swan Mute Swan Domestic Geese Snow Goose Identify First Injured Adults Bufflehead Drake Long tailed ducks Ruddy Duck Drake White-winged Scoter

13 Outline Intake and Stabilization Be Prepared Waterfowl Nutrition and Housing Intake and Stabilization Be Prepared! Even if you aren t a waterfowl rehabilitator, you should be prepared for anything to come through your door When faced with an injured or orphaned waterfowl, identify properly, stabilize, and transfer to the appropriate rehabilitator quickly Have the basic supplies in inventory

14 Intake and Stabilization Basic Supplies: Medical Supplies: (Your Vet!) Fluids, bandaging supplies, avian would management supplies (silver sulfadiazine), feeding tubes, syringes Nutrition: Emaciation products: Formula V, Ensure, Iams Maximum Calorie, Lafeber s Critical Care Waterfowl diets: Mazuri waterfowl starter, Mazuri waterfowl maintenance, Mazuri sea duck diet, Duck Pellets (not chicken, turkey or game bird feeds) Other food items: Live: mini mealworms and pinhead crickets Frozen: bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and tubifex, krill, silversides Fresh: Greens (grass, romaine lettuce, duckweed) Seasonal: White millet, whole corn Nutrition Basics: Commercial Diets Proximate Analysis (DMB) of Select Waterfowl Feeds Protein Fat Carbs Mazuri Waterfowl 16.10% 7.3% 57.97% Maintenance Mazuri Waterfowl Starter 22.90% 6.6% 58.94% Purina Duck Grower 18.43% 3.8% 68.1% Mazuri Waterfowl Breeder 19.45% 5.03% 62.58% Mazuri Exotic Gamebird 34.05% 4.54% 48.81% Starter Mazuri Sea Duck Diet 24.27% 7.3% 57.97% Proximate analyses could only be obtained from Mazuri and Purina Other Feed Mills did not have any detailed information on their products to share - only knew what was on the label (the Guaranteed analysis) Most Commercial Feeds are designed for meat birds - what is the incentive to provide high quality ingredients? Even the difference between Mazuri and Purina was significant (same company, different markets) Mazuri keeps the ingredients the same and will fluctuate their prices as costs change Purina (and all other feed mills) will change the ingredients in their feed and keep the cost the same

15 Beyond the Commercial Diet Most pellets do not promote foraging behavior They sink, becoming mushy and greasy when wet Mazuri floats, making food presentation easy Natural food items need to be integrated so that birds can recognize them once released Beyond the Commercial Diet Goslings should have access to grass at all times (ideally roots and all) They can digest cellulose and extract up to 45% of its energy Consider rotating pens to prevent over-grazing Avoid feeding grass when dealing with impaction or other digestive issues

16 Beyond the Commercial Diet Live, Freeze-dried or Frozen insects and invertebrates should be floated in water to stimulate natural foraging behavior In the wild, insects will comprise 75-97% of a ducklings diet from hatch to 18 days old Ducklings should have access to duckweed and a variety of aquatic invertebrates Ducklings should receive most of their food on the water Beyond Commercial Diets Sensitive Species may require different or additional food items Wood ducklings have a higher protein requirement and need more insects (mealworms, crickets) Mergansers require a diet of almost entirely aquatic invertebrates, gradually incorporating krill and live minnows Sensitive waterfowl species (and most wading and game birds) need to be force-fed initially to maintain weight

17 Feeding Schedule Age (weeks) Food Water 0-2 Starter, duckweed, insects Small developer tray 2-4 Starter, duckweed, insects Medium developer tray 4-6 Maintenance, duckweed Small to medium pond 6-8 Maintenance, duckweed Pond Starter: Mazuri Waterfowl Starter Maintenance: Mazuri Waterfowl Maintenance Insects: freeze-dried bloodworms, daphnia and some mealworms Make sure waterfowl have easy access in and out of any water container For Goslings, substitute grass for duckweed, timeline is similar Certain species may have to be held for longer than 8 weeks Wood Ducks and Common Mergansers take longer to fledge Signs of Nutritional Deficiency Angel Wing (carpal joint deformity) Perosis (slipped achilles tendon) Bent feather shafts, stress bars and poor coloration can indicate nutritional inbalance It s much easier to prevent these problems than it is to treat them

18 Outline Unique Housing Solutions Waterfowl Housing Needs Need to offer a safe, warm environment Need to be able to present food appropriately Need to be able to clean QUICKLY Need to be able to clean frequently

19 Housing Solution: Incubator Works for small groups of ducklings or ducklings that are compromised (wet, shocky, injured) Provide mirror and feather duster / stuffed animal for comfort Offer small mouth poultry fountain International Bird Rescue Research Center Tri State Bird Rescue Research, Inc. Provide soft white toweling for new orphaned patients the food is more visible Find conspecifics for singles ASAP Housing Solution: Plastic Tub Rubbermaid Tubs are inexpensive and can be used to house very young ducklings (even sensitive species) They are easy to clean and disinfect Lids must be used as ducklings can jump This 31 gallon tub can hold 3-4 mallards or up to 8 wood ducklings for 5 days

20 Housing Solution: Brooder Removable trays allow for use of net-bottom tray for pelagic birds Water can be overflowed constantly (flows through tray and into shower pan with drain) Allows for flexible configuration for variety of patients Housing Solution: Brooder Wire tray (1/2 hardware cloth) is covered with variety of other substrates (towels, Dri-dek, Nomad to protect feet of young waterfowl), do not use hay or straw as a waterfowl substrate Shallow photo-developer tray is used for these 10 day old ducklings being raised by surrogate female. This group will get moved into an outside enclosure in the next day or so.

21 Housing Solution: Playpen Playpens can often be found at yard sales for less than $20 and can be configured for waterfowl of all ages The insides of the mesh should be draped with sheets for privacy These young ducklings (and rogue gosling) are offered swimming water only in shallow plant-dishes Playpen setups need to be cleaned frequently as there is no drainage for spilled water Tri-State Bird Rescue Research Inc. Housing Solution: Bathtub Bathtubs can be used to swim ducklings that spend most of their time in another setup (Rubbermaid Tub, Brooder or Playpen) Ducklings should not be left unsupervised without providing them with a haulout or float For young ducklings, only fill water up 1-2 inches; if they show any signs of getting wet, they should be removed ASAP Tri State Bird Rescue Research, Inc.

22 Housing Solution: Wet Brooder For orphaned waterfowl over 1 week of age, access to swimming water is imperative Here, ducklings have access to continuous overflow of clean water Food is floated in water and provided in both wet and dry dishes Housing Solution: Tepid Pool These can be very inexpensive to construct and can be stored when not in use Visit local pond supply stores for non-brand name tubs Does not require permanent plumbing (can rig up a drain hose if floor drain isn t available) Allows for variety of wet/dry configurations and can provide swimming time for young waterfowl

23 Housing Solution: Tepid Pool Overflow cut into top to clean surface of water Standpipe concept works too for overflow Housing Solution: Tepid Pool

24 Housing Solutions: Free-House Tri State Bird Rescue Research, Inc. Any empty room can be converted to a waterfowl habitat. If the room has a floordrain, think big and provide large kiddie pool or large developer tray. Be sure to use rocks or provide a ramp to allow easy access in and out of the water. Bare floors need to be covered with appropriate substrate (Astro-Turf, Dri-Dek, Nomad, etc.) Housing Solutions: Outside Individual pens should be provided for each clutch of orphans to avoid overcrowding, aggression and disease transmission Concrete ponds with standpipe allow for continuous overflow of clean water

25 Housing Solutions: Outside Perches and hiding places should be set up for wood ducklings; privacy screening can also be used River Rock (1 3 ) provides good drainage but should still be covered in some areas with Dri-Dek or equivalent Housing Solutions: Outside Here is a large concrete pond with a gradually sloped ramp covered with non-slip matting Shade cloth is used to separate adjacent enclosures Ducklings have access to lots of deep water! This setup works great for pelagic birds and sea ducks International Bird Rescue Research Center

26 Outline Respecting Wildness Respecting Wildness Orphaned waterfowl are very susceptible to imprinting, especially if presented as singles or if held by finder for any length of time

27 Respecting Wildness Find conspecifics for single orphans as soon as possible Consider wild-fostering goslings whenever possible Use surrogates! Provide comfort and warmth to orphans Promote self-feeding Allow orphans to develop normal social tools that will teach them to interact with their own species Respecting Wildness Provide privacy for rehab patients whenever possible Use privacy screening, sheets, tarps or bamboo fencing around pen exteriors so that birds do not see volunteers walking past Incorporate natural plants into enclosures Limit human contact The easier it is to clean the enclosure, the less human contact is required Clever facility design will reduce contact by providing visual barriers and minimizing cleaning time

28 Thank You Questions: Feel free to contact me at

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