Tuesday, 11 January 2011

What To Do When A Bird Flies Into Your House

(This article was originally drafted for the Malaysian Nature Society Eco Kids Column, after a tearful friend called me for help when a bird hit the ceiling fan in her home and died of its injuries. I felt frustrated that too many people did not know what to do with injured and lost birds and wildlife. The article received positive feedback and SPCA Selangor reproduced it in our e-newsletter last week. It is reposted here with the relevant phone numbers)


Sometimes birds and insects end up inside our homes by mistake. While this can be an exciting incident for pets and young children, the stress of finding itself trapped in a human home can cause great distress to wild birds. Some may crash into walls and windows, injuring themselves badly in the process.

When a bird flies into your house, take these steps to prevent further distress, injury and death:

1. Switch off all fans IMMEDIATELY. Birds often try to escape by flying up towards the ceiling and many die upon coming in contact with fan blades.

2. If you have companion cats and dogs, remove them from the area and confine them to their kennels, cages or an escape-proof room immediately.

3. If the bird is in the kitchen, switch off the stove, cookerhood and any other heat-generating appliances that may harm the bird should it collide with the appliance. Cover all pots, pans and kettles that have hot food or liquids in them.

4. Open all the doors and windows to enable the bird's escape. Close all doors to other rooms to stop the bird from becoming more confused and flying deeper into the house.

5. Do not use loud noises, sticks or hard objects to chase the bird out. Use your hands to gently push, pick up or direct the bird towards and open door or window. If the bird appears stunned or injured, throw a light towel over the bird and gently pick up the bird. Inspect the bird for injuries.

6. Injured birds should be brought to a vet for treatment. Birds that are merely stunned can be brought outside and released. Be on the lookout for dogs and cats that may be waiting to pounce on a dazed bird.

A: The first choice is always to return a baby animal to its parents. Try to locate the nest and put the nestling back in it.

A: The majority of birds do not have a highly developed sense of smell. They will not "smell" a human and reject the nestling if you replace it in the proper nest. Put the bird back in its nest and walk away. Do not hang around the nest, whistling or chirping to attract the mother bird's attention. Go indoors and wait for an hour. The mother bird will generally return to check on its baby when she feels it is safe to do so.

A: If you spot an animal on its own, particularly a young or juvenile animal that appears to be deserted or in difficulty, do not try to catch it right away. Observe its behaviour for 20 minutes. In the case of a young or juvenile animal, it may simply be waiting for a parent to return. Remember, adult animals will often leave their young to hunt for food and return within a short period of time to feed/care for the offspring.

If the animal is obviously injured, call PERHILITAN or any wildlife rescue centre for assistance. Injured wild animals can be dangerous and need special handling. If you need to bring an injured wild animal to the vet or to the PERHILITAN office, be sure to wear protective gear before handling the animal. A long-sleeved shirt, gloves and eye protection (glasses, sunglasses or goggles) are essential. Cover the injured animal with a towel, wrap the towel around the animal's feet/claws/talons, and pick the animal up gently. Put the animal in a box (with holes punched into the sides or top for air). Bring the animal to the vet or PERHILITAN office with as little disturbance as possible. This means no lifting the box lid to peek at the animal every few seconds! The less the animal sees of you, the less stress it will experience. Good luck!

Useful numbers to have:

Avian Vet, Dr. Jalila Abu of Universiti Putra Malaysia: 03 8946 8340

Perhilitan (Dept of Wildlife and National Parks) Hotline (for wildlife crimes and injured wildlife): 03-90866800


mNadeshiko said...

thanks for this VERY useful post dear Ee Lynn! when u said about switching off the fan, i remembered the killer fan incident in my highschool last time... a bird got into our dining hall and somehow it hit the fan, and then hit the wall......... thank god i didnt see it. but i heard other students screamed...

Ellen Whyte said...

Our first thing: grab the cats!

Love this post, it's excellent. One day I'll tell you about the monitor lizard that Scoop and Au cornered in our bedroom....

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Ili,
Thank you for your kind feedback! That is EXACTLY why this article was written -- because a friend called me up only AFTER a bird had hit the fan in her home and died of its injuries. I hope that by equipping people, especially children, with knowledge and information, we can prevent more needless animal deaths.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Ellen,
Ohhh!!! That sounds like a most exciting story! Your man-cats cornered a monitor lizard? I must come over with drinks and munchies and hear all about it!


My dear CO78,

thanks for the message. i'll use this as a wake up call. we do have frequent visitiing birds roaming around our house, we will be extra careful

Unknown said...

Thanks for the useful tips. What we have in our attic is a civet cat that runs around and is especially noisy at night. We think that is his playground for now!! Hope it finds its way out. It must have done the 'skywalk' from the tall pine trees and got into a hole in the roof and into our attic.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thank you for your concern for the safety of our animal friends, Abang Rizal! Let the kids know too -- when a bird flies into the house, PLEASE switch off the fans and grab the cats!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Keats,
From what you have told me, I think there may be more than one civet cat! He/she may have a mate in there! The trouble starts when they eliminate waste and cause damp to seep through the ceiling boards. I think you might have to get someone to stand under the eaves and shine a powerful torchlight into the attic space for a few minutes each night. Sweep the light beam around so that the civets get annoyed and leave. That's the most humane way of getting them to move out and find another safe place -- a shed or a tree or something, to move into. Also, another problem is that if the civets have used tree branches to skywalk into the attic space, rats will soon follow. Rats are expert skywalkers, and much harder to drive out than civets.

louis said...

As I sit here in the Pacific Northwest in my house hermetically sealed from the freezing cold and snow outside your blog recalls that different earlier life in the Tropics where the interaction with Nature was so much closer, thanks to the always wide open doors and windows. The idea of a bird or any other wild creature inside the house seems so quaint now. Can't say I lament that though because geckos on a wall still give me the creeps.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Louis,
Now I understand why my friends from 'developed' nations are always so excited to find stick insects, tree shrews, birds or tokay lizards in our homes!
The mere mention of geckos sends shivers up my spine. Much as I like iguanas and monitor lizards, the common tokay lizards and geckos scare me half to death. I don't like the way they drop down onto you from the ceiling, the way they always get squashed in doors and windows and how they release their tails. Shudder! There was a huge spotted gecko in my bathroom 2 months ago. I was so terrified that I didn't use my own bathroom for the next 2 days and had to beg my housemates to let me use theirs. I didn't want to be cruel to the poor gecko and drive him out -- it's not his fault that I am scared of him -- but the idea of him watching me as I am using the bathroom gave me the creeps.

Pat said...

What an interesting post, E! I especially found the one on returning a baby bird to its nest new info, because I remember being told that once I touch it, its mother would reject it.

There are lots of strange things flying about here in PD. So far, we seem to be living in peace - they fly in, take a tour of the place and fly out! Hahahah!!!

Did I tell you we saw a lone fire-fly the other day? All alone and looking for a mate, I guess. We kept our eyes on him for close to 20 minutes, but we didn't see any others :(

Cat-from-Sydney said...

Are you saying I can't kill a bird if it enters my house (read: encroach my territory)? I'm a born hunter, you know.... purrr...meow!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Pat,

It's actually humans hanging around the nest, waiting for the mother bird's return, that makes the mother reject the baby, not the "smell" of human handling! We've even returned mammals with a strong sense of smell, e.g. cats, to their mothers this way.

Sad to hear about the lone firefly. I am now working on a firefly festival project with MNS to raise awareness on the conservation needs of the firefly habitat in Kuala Selangor. If you know any good firefly myths and legends, please forward it to your extremely busy friend, Pat! Thank you!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Kitties-in-Sydney,

You can kill a Magnum Ice Lolly, so why must you kill a bird? Poor bird! Birds are our friends! You can watch them outside your window, but please don't scare them away!