The Wild Bird Hospital in Windhoek looks after all sorts of wild birds that have fallen out of their nests, were injured in collisions with cars, were caught by pets or got hurt in any way.
They rehabilitate the birds before releasing them back into the wild. Sonja Bartlewski started the hospital three years ago after working at the Narrec bird rehabilitation centre at Brakwater. She still works closely with Narrec.
“We found that people do not want to drive all the way to Brakwater when they have rescued a small bird and thus we saw the need of opening a bird hospital in Windhoek for the smaller wild birds,” she says.
She has always been interested in birds and has worked at a zoo in Germany. The big problem with people who find injured birds is that they think they can care for the birds and nurture them back to health on their own.
“People mean well but they actually cause more harm than they do good,” she says.
“People do not know or what to feed the birds and after a couple of days when the bird has deteriorated even more they come and seek help, it is then usually too late.”
It is important that people who rescue a bird take it to the bird hospital as soon as possible. The quicker the response, the better its chance of survival.
People should also never force a bird to eat or drink, as it is in shock and this could kill it. People should also not carry a rescued bird around in their pockets, hands or on their shoulders.
The birds should be kept in a warm, quiet environment. The best is to put them into a closed box with air holes, lined with toilet or kitchen paper. The box may never have cotton wool inside. Rescued birds should not be put into a wire cage and be exposed to a lot of noise, as they are in shock and need a dark and quiet place.
Currently the hospital is looking after swallow-tailed bee eater chicks whose nest was dug up by a dog in Pionierspark.
“Bee eaters nest in burrows in the ground and this is the second time in three years that people have brought me chicks that were dug up,” says Bartlewski.
Three months ago she also received a five-day-old ostrich chick found next to a road. The ostrich has grown up and is now healthy and ready for release.
Among the more unusual birds nursed back to health at the Wild Bird Hospital were a guinea-fowl and little grebes, a water bird. They have helped numerous swifts, doves, weavers and countless others back to health and freedom.
People who want to cut down palm trees in which swifts are nesting can phone Bartlewski for advice before doing so. The Wild Bird Hospital can be reached at 081 149 2313 or 242235.