Reuniting a Purple sunbird fledgling with its parents

I would like to share with you one of my first cases of successfully reuniting a displaced baby bird. 


I would like to share with you one of my first cases of successfully reuniting a displaced baby bird. This was in my first few years as a rehabilitator and someone brought in a fledgling sunbird around 9 pm. The bird had recently fledged. It could fly in short bursts of 2-3 meters at best. Needless to say, its flight was directionless and uncoordinated. And surely, it would have had to be hand-fed for at least another few weeks.

Never having hand-raised sunbirds, I was totally perplexed by the situation and figured that somehow reuniting the bird would be its best chance at survival. I must admit that the desperation to reunite the bird that day was more out of a lack of option and concern for its survival rather than trying to do the right thing.

Stupefied at best, I spent the entire night reading up on sunbirds. I figured the baby was either a purple or purple-rumped sunbird. I knew where the bird had been found and fortunately, having grown up in the area, I was familiar with the distribution of trees around. By around 4 am, I had short-listed the possible nesting tree. Then, I concentrated on getting recordings of sunbird calls.

It was a simple plan: At daybreak, I would take the baby bird in a basket and place it under the suspected nesting tree. Hopefully, the sunbird recordings would attract enough attention. Of course, the baby bird was calling out as well and that would, in all certainty, attract the parents. But I wanted to be twice as sure. I needed a means to attract them even if the baby didn’t call out for any reason.

So off we went at daybreak. I kept the basket down and stayed across the road, played some sunbird call recordings and watched. The baby bird started calling out as well. Within 10 minutes, two pairs of sunbirds (one purple and the other, purple-rumped) started circling the basket. The purple-rumped sunbirds circled the basket a few times and left in a few minutes. The pair of purple sunbirds stayed. They made repeated trips to the basket and seemed quite concerned.

Sacred I might make the wrong choice yet knowing that was the best I could do for the bird at that time, I decided to open the lid of the basket. As soon as I opened the lid of the basket, I moved away. The baby bird immediately took off. It was no further than a meter away from the basket when both its parents rushed in, one to each side of the bird, and accompanied it to a coarsely vegetated tree nearby. I stayed put and watched for a while. Within 15 minutes of finding their baby, the parents had already started feeding it. They made repeated trips and fed it every few minutes.

I made frequent trips though the morning and observed them from a distance. The little bird was back where it belonged!


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