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Amuse Bouche

Posted by Mummy Dearest on Jun-11-2006


Article and photos by Elaine J. Friedman

The rehabilitation of songbirds in the corvid family – crows, ravens, magpies and jays – is far from typical. Over the years I have encountered many pitfalls in rehabilitating these intelligent passerine species, but it has always been a distinct pleasure. In this article I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned through my experiences with them and describe what has worked for me. Take my ideas and adapt them to what works for you!

Let’s start with food. The following diets are appropriate for jays, crows, magpies and ravens. There are many diets out there, but I have raised corvids from just a day old using these, and the birds developed into healthy, well feathered fledges.
Baby Bird Food Recipe
(Gaping Birds or Force Feeding)

* 1 cup Science Diet® Puppy (or Growth) dog food
* 1 cup water
* 1 teaspoon Superpreen® Bird Vitamin Powder
* 1 teaspoon calcium powder (ground calcium/Vitamin D pills)
* 1 shelled hard-boiled egg
* 1 4.5 ounce jar of Gerber® Baby Banana

Combine all ingredients except water in a food processor. Grind together. Add water until mixture is a fine paste. Store in the freezer in small containers. Thawed product must be discarded at end of day or earlier if room temperature is hot. Dilute the thawed recipe with a small amount of water if the mixture is too thick for your use.
Kibble Mix For Self-Feeding Birds
(Should be supplied with supplements)

For a bird just learning to eat, the major part of the diet in addition to the hand-fed Baby Bird Food should be kibble mix decorated with a few tempting supplements to stimulate exploration.

* 4 cups Science Diet® Puppy (or Growth) dog food
* 2 cups water
* 1 teaspoon Superpreen® Bird Vitamin Powder
* 1/2 hard-boiled egg
* 1/6 cup fruit such as apples, pears
* 1/6 cup green vegetable such as zucchini or cucumber
* 1/6 cup yellow or orange vegetable such as carrots, squash

Mix together dog food plus water plus vitamins. Let the mixture stand until water is absorbed. Chop vegetables, fruit and egg in a food processor.

Mix all ingredients together. Store in refrigerator.
Don’t go overboard on any one item. An unbalanced diet is not good for any species of animal.

* Chick
* Mouse
* Hard-boiled egg with shell on Unsalted nuts of all kinds, especially what is wild in your area
* Insects
* Veggie chunks
* Veggie tidbits like frozen corn kernels (corvids love this!)
* Fruit chunks, berries
* Fruit tidbits for the pecking/exploration stage – try some raisins
* Cooked sweet potato – great for Vitamin A
* Colored kibble bits (like Kit And Kaboodle® cat food)
* Peanuts, unsalted, in the shell, cracked and out of the shell

Note: When ravens become selffeeding, their diet is largely whole meats or carrion. Even in the final stages of hand-feeding they will reject the Baby Bird Food Recipe and only gape for cut up meats like rat, mice or chick. Adult crows also appear to prefer a largely whole meat diet when housed in a rehabilitation environment.

Chick ? Mouse ? Carrion ?

On a lighter note, when The Father came into the kitchen and saw the voliere that The Girl and I put together for Max, he said that it looked rather nice just there.

The Girl and I putting together the voliere was a study in masochism : remember, it takes me three hours to re-plug all the do- dads for my computer. And she and I had just completed a shop- until- you- drop tour of The Big City… and it was 30 stinkin’ degrees in the shade ( but , I hit the sale of the century : I found a pair of Keate jeans- usually 170 euro- on sale for 23.50. I kid you not. Down side : they are a 26, not a 27…so I went for a coke light at McDonald’s on our girl’s day out and blessed the chap that invented spandex). Only my early training in helping The Boy to put convoluted lego sets together helped me decipher the teeny how- to – put- your- voliere- together drawing.

But it is up. Max stands on the lowest perch. He has figured out how to drink from the water container and enjoys rolling his head in it. He cannot eat on his own, but caws when hungry. I used to be mighty scared of young crows, with their evil blue eyes, but now I use my thumb or forefinger to get the food into the back of his throat. He only eats a little at a time, like a baby, but very often, like a baby.

His left wing hangs at an odd angle ( remember, Max was dumb enough to perch- I kid you not- on Buddy’s head. Buddy did not like that one bit at all…) but he does not appear to be in any pain.

I dote upon Max because of all the other birds that I placed back in the wild, all of the other birds that died. I dote upon Max because it distracts my attention.

Oddly enough, only The Boy tries to feed Max. But The Boy still hesitates when it comes to actually putting one of his fingers deep into Max’s… what ?… mouth ?

Again, I haven’t the proper vocabulary for my life.

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