Nursing the natives back to good health

An increase in painful paws, wounded wings and everything in between made for a hectic but rewarding start to the year for Blue Mountains-based Wildlife Information and Rescue Services (WIRES) volunteers in the wake of the recent bushfires, hot spells and the usual mishaps to native animals like collisions with cars.

Lower Mountains resident and healthcare worker Rick Turner is one of more than 100 WIRES volunteers from the region that provided tender loving care to native animals suffering from burns or smoke inhalation.

A native bird specialist, Mr Turner said the first thing he noticed following the bushfires was a spike in the number of baby birds that required care.

“After the bushfire came through, the parents of these young birds often didn’t come back to their nests to feed their chicks.

“So we (WIRES) ended up looking after a lot of little birds from species like cockatoos, galahs, magpies, currawongs, butcher birds and wattle birds.

“I also spotted and took into care birds that were on the ground just on the fringes of where the fire was, but quite a few of those didn’t make it.

“Birds have more air sacs and capacity than humans so they are more prone to smoke inhalation.”

Mr Turner said two weeks ago he was able to release the last birds affected by the bushfires, but continues to look after up to 10 injured birds recovering from a range of ailments.

“It was still busier than usual at the end of last year because the bushfires overlapped with the spring breeding season, so you’d also have juvenile birds falling to the ground from their nests during their first attempts at flying.

“Then there were heat spells in January and whenever we get more than two or three hot days in a row, particularly in the lower Mountains, WIRES gets a lot of calls about birds spotted on the ground [not moving].

“These birds require intervention, like being given oral rehydration fluids and being kept in the shade.

“Now I have some orphaned baby blue tongue lizards, a few king parrots and rosellas that became concussed or injured flying into cars or windows.

“I also have an adult sulphur crested cockatoo that was found about two weeks ago beside a busy road in Leura and we can only assume it was hit or flew into a car.

“An x-ray showed it had a fractured wing, so it was treated at Katoomba Vet Clinic and had its injured wing taped at the bottom — it’s healing well now.”

Mr Turner said he’s always been fascinated with animals that can fly and decided to join WIRES after looking after his own injured cockatoo.

“I wanted to see if I could help,” he said.

“As a volunteer you get many hands-on learning opportunities and as there are many Blue Mountains members with up to 20 years or more of experience in caring for different animals, you can learn a lot from each other too.”

To find out how to become a WIRES rescue volunteer, visit www.wires.org.au or phone 8977-3396.

If you find an injured native animal, phone 4754-2946.

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