Accommodation of Casualty Game Birds (Wildlife Casualty Management)
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Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management/ Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B.  This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Accommodation which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Alectoris rufa - Red-legged partridge, Chrysolophus pictus - Golden pheasant, Coturnix coturnix - Common quail, Lagopus lagopus - Willow ptarmigan, Lagopus mutus - Rock ptarmigan, Perdix perdix - Grey partridge, Phasianus colchicus - Common pheasant, Tetrao tetrix - Black grouse, Tetrao urogallus - Western capercaillie.

These species are from the families Phasianidae.

Transport Containers:

  • Any dark box of a suitable size; cardboard boxes are appropriate. (B151, V.w5)
  • Newspaper and/or a towel may be used as a substrate.

Short term (Immediate/Emergency) Accommodation:

  • A cardboard box of an appropriate size for the species.
  • Newspaper may be used as a substrate.
  • Air holes should be present for ventilation, at a height which does not easily allow the bird to see out of the box.
  • Warmth may be provided by e.g. using a heating pad underneath the box or an infra red lamp above the box
    • Take care to avoid overheating or burns

Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation:

  • Large cage with the front covered by a cloth such as a towel to provide dim light and minimise visual disturbance.
  • Leafy branches bunched up in a corner may be used to provide cover which the bird can hind behind.
  • A perch should be provided.
  • (B151, B225, V.w5, V.w26)

Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation:

  • Large aviary should be used for 1-2 weeks before release to ensure reacclimatisation and return to normal waterproofing of feathers.
  • Aviary should be secluded and provide minimum disturbance.
  • An aviary topped with soft nylon netting rather than weldmesh or chicken wire is recommended to reduce the risk of injury (scalping, fractured neck) from birds which panic and fly straight up.
  • The mesh of the sides should be sufficiently small to prevent the occupants sticking their heads outside the aviary.
  • Sand over a base of concrete is suitable as a substrate.
  • Turfed aviaries should have a hardcore or pebble-covered concrete path around the edges to prevent poaching by patrolling of birds around the edge of the aviary.
  • Turfed aviaries should have a sand bath area to allow birds to dust-bathe and keep their feathers in good condition.
  • Perches should be available, of varying height and diameter.
    • Two inches (5cm) diameter approximately for pheasants.
    • Natural branches are preferable for perches.
  • Shelter should be provided at one end of the aviary, with at least one perch inside at about 5ft high.
  • Vegetation within the aviary should provide ground cover.
    • In choosing plants, consider the requirement for catching birds and potential problems with nets catching on bushes.
  • Drinking water dish should be provided.
  • (B97, B151, V.w5)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Short-term (Immediate / Emergency) Accommodation is designed to be used for a short period of time only, e.g. prior to examination, to allow basic first-aid to be carried out, while an animal requires intensive care, or while specialist accommodation is being prepared.
    • The most important requirements are warmth, quiet and dark or dim lighting.
  • Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation is designed for the short-term care of individual animals or groups of animals, particularly during treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Hospital accommodation is commonly constructed with hygiene and easy cleaning as the main considerations, but the specific needs of the patients, including behavioural needs, should also be considered.
  • Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation facilities for wildlife are generally larger and more complex than accommodation designed only for temporary occupancy.
    • In general this type of accommodation is not suitable for animals which require daily treatment.
    • A period in rehabilitation accommodation may be particularly important when an animal has been hospitalised for some time.
    • Long-term accommodation may also be required for e.g.
      • Birds which have damaged their flight feathers and cannot be released until these have moulted back.
      • When time required for recovery would make the individual too late for migration.
  • In choosing or constructing accommodation it is important to consider the requirements for handling, provision of food and water, cleaning and disinfection (or disposal) of accommodation after use.
  • Accommodation should be checked daily for damage which might allow escape of the occupants or entry of predators.
  • Disturbance, including visual and auditory stimulation, should be minimised.
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • These birds are generally nervous and adults often do not settle well in captivity
  • There is always a risk of these birds panicking, flying vertically upwards and injuring themselves (sometimes fatally) while in an aviary.
  • Care must be taken to ensure that any wood preservatives used are non-toxic by the time an enclosure is inhabited.
  • If an animal is maintained in long-term care accommodation for a substantial period of time, the animal must have some form of environmental enrichment to encourage natural behaviours (possibly through food presentation techniques, cage furniture that encourages activity, or play items that would be found in its native environment). This is to reduce the risk of boredom as the animal becomes accustomed to its enclosure and the possible development of behavioural problems. (V.w6)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Most materials required for the construction of cages and aviaries may be obtained from standard fencing or farm-equipment stores.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Construction of rehabilitation accommodation suitable for these species requires some expertise.
Cost/ Availability
  • May be expensive, particularly for construction of longer term accommodation; the cost is generally proportional to the size of the accommodation and the strength and durability of construction materials used.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Accommodation for casualty wild animals should be designed to minimise the stress on the animal and to minimise the risk of injury to that animal.
  • Under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence to keep any bird (excluding poultry) in "a cage or other receptacle which is not sufficient in height, length or breadth to permit the bird to stretch its wings freely", except for birds which are undergoing examination or treatment by a veterinary surgeon, during transportation and for limited time periods (aggregate not exceeding 72 hours) for birds being shown at a public exhibition or competition.
  • Accommodation for casualty wild animals should be designed to minimise the stress on the animal and to minimise the risk of injury to that animal.
  • A wild animal in captivity is protected under the same welfare legislation as domestic animals, e.g. Protection of Animals Acts 1911-1964; under this legislation it is an offence to treat a captive animal cruelly or to cause it unnecessary suffering.
    • This includes an obligation to provide proper attention and care.
    • The keeper has a duty to keep all wildlife casualties in a fit manner, in accommodation of a size which allows reasonable movement and with an environment suitable for its normal way of life.
    • (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1, D27, D28)
  • Accommodation which does not fulfil the physiological and psychological requirements of the animal and results in an inadequate level of fitness at the time of release may seriously compromise the survival ability of that animal. Release of an animal which is unfit may be an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 (J35.147.w1, W5.Jan01).
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risk of zoonotic illness must be minimised: Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.
  • An offence may be committed under article 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 if a species on Schedule 9 of that Act, or a species not ordinarily resident in the UK is allowed to escape from accommodation in which it is being housed.
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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