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Baby Finch Rescue

17 Apr 2014 10:21:51

Baby Finch Rescue

Baby birds flock at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and just in time for Easter school holidays!

At WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo we have a thriving flock of native finches. This self-sustaining population in our open-air aviary includes zebra finches and even a few red-browed finches as well. These birds are notoriously small, only weighing about 30 grams on average - that's about the size of a golf ball! Therefore as far as feathery animals go you can't get anything much cuter than a finch, except for a baby finch of course.

Baby finches can be distinguished from adults in zebra finch populations due to their lack of colour. They remain grey or white with a few black lines on their face or wings. These juvenile finches are either known as chicks or fledglings. Chicks are usually just hatched and remain in the nest under mum and dad's care. Fledglings on the other hand have developed the muscles and feathers necessary for flight, but are still learning how to master it. Finches who have recently 'fledged' are still dependant on their parents at this stage for food.

Unfortunately sometimes these baby finches don't always get the support and food they need. Bigger chicks may push smaller chicks out of the nest and fledglings might fall from their home tree when trying to fly. These fallen finches are okay, but they don't have the strength or means to get themselves back into the nest and into the protection of their parents. We noticed this reality at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and our keepers started a great program to help these baby finches.

Firstly, when a baby finch falls out of a tree it can't travel very far and is often so small that most people won't notice it. Our keepers cup their hands around the small birds and scoop them up from the ground. Their hearts are usually racing very fast at this point and it's important to get the finch into a secure and warm environment to ensure they are not too stressed. Most keepers at our zoo prefer the top pocket of their work shirt as a temporary home for these tiny creatures - it fits them perfectly!

At this point the keeper will wave a finger over the opening of the pocket to check the finches response. The finch will usually open its mouth and start chirping as a natural reaction to mum or dad bringing food. This is a simple test to let the keepers know that the chick or fledgling is okay.

If it is a chick, the keepers will place them in a make-shift nest and will try and feed them a gooey seed mixture from a syringe. This replicates the process of how parent finches regurgitate food into their young's mouths in order to feed them. If the finch is a fledgling, it is put in a trick-box full of seed. The box is designed so no predators or threats can enter, but once the fledgling can fly over a certain height it can then leave the box and join the other finches in the aviary.

A recently rescued baby finch, now named Rocky, was just a chick when he was found. Because he was rescued at such a young age, he has become very friendly with the keepers. They are currently teaching him (as a fledgling now) to fly short distances when his name is called. We predict he will be a bit of a star at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo when he is older.

So if you would like to see our finches and are looking for something to do these school holidays, be sure to visit WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and join in the furry and feathery fun!

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