A contribution by Annemieke Kregting of the Kūaotunu Bird Rescue Trust
A few days ago, I went to pick up yet another kereru (native wood pigeon) found motionless on the ground near a house in Matarangi. We don’t usually collect birds, but let the public drop them off. After carefully scooping the injured bird up with a towel and placing it in a box in the car, I had a look around and noticed so many more huge houses with big windows being built recently.
In the last few weeks, the Kūaotunu Bird Rescue Trust has admitted 11 kereru after striking windows or buildings. So far, only one of them could be saved.
After hitting a window, most smaller birds may just be concussed and will be fine when left to rest in a quiet place in a box. However, as the saying goes, the faster you drive, the bigger the mess. The same applies when it comes to the size of a bird. The bigger the bird, the more the damage will be.
Often when people phone us, they tell us that the bird they’re trying to rescue is fine and has no injuries, but won’t get up.
Wild birds as a general rule are very hard to get close to or capture when healthy, so any bird that is able to be approached and caught by a human will 99 percent of the time have some sort of injury, even though the injury isn’t detectable from the outside.
Birds also have a preservation reflex. This is a mechanism to survive in the wild so as not to look vulnerable to predators. Hawks are very good at pretending they are fine and will freeze, so they may be left alone. Unlike mammals, birds also show no or little pain.
Most birds that are able to, will fly away from us human predators despite the fact that they may have injuries sustained from hitting a window.
Kereru are heavy birds (between 600g and 900g) and when they hit a window or glass balustrades, they hit it with their chest first. Often people say they heard a loud bang and found a kereru on the ground or deck. The injuries that can be sustained range from multiple soft tissue injuries to fractures to the bones around the chest area. Typically they include crop rupture and bleeding around the heart, and fractures or dislocations of the coracoid, scapula, keel and clavicle bones. Usually, there are fractures to multiple bones, which can then puncture not only surrounding muscle, but also organs such as the lungs and heart. Head injuries and fractured beaks are not uncommon either.
Most of the injuries cannot be seen from the outside. These big birds need to be stabilised with pain relief and fluids, followed by us x-raying them to find out how severe the injuries are.
The good news is you can try and reduce the danger of window collisions in birds by placing decals on your windows (or not washing them as often…) The decals stop the reflection the birds see when trying to fly through a window.
You should always carefully scoop up an injured kereru or any bird that hasn’t moved after hitting a window with a towel and place it gently in a cardboard box or basket and cover it, leaving some ventilation holes. Never feed or water an injured bird, unless we have told you otherwise. Keep the bird warm and in a quiet place if you need to hold it overnight.
Find out where your nearest bird rescue centre is and arrange to drop the bird off.
Pictured is a Kereru. Kereru are big birds and can be seriously injured when colliding with a window.