TECHNIQUE

Accommodation of Casualty Swift, Nightjar, Swallow & Martins (Wildlife Casualty Management)

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: Apus apus - Common swift, Caprimulgus europaeus - Eurasian nightjar, Delichon urbica - Northern house-martin, Hirundo rustica - Barn swallow, Riparia riparia - Sand martin.

These species are from the families Apodidae, Hirundindae, Caprimulgidae.

Nightjars rarely present as casualties and there is little specific information regarding their care. 

Short term (Immediate/Emergency) Accommodation:

Swifts:

  • A box with a towel draped inside for the bird to cling to in an upright or slightly sloping position with the tail feathers clear of the ground.
  • Should be placed in a warm location initially, e.g. in an airing cupboard, by a radiator etc. (V.w5, V.w18, D62)

Swallows and martins:

  • Small box with soft sheet or towel as substrate.

Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation:

Swifts:

  • A box with a towel draped inside for the bird to cling to in an upright or slightly sloping position with the tail feathers clear of the ground. (V.w5, V.w18, D62)

Swallows and martins:

  • A bird breeder box with natural perches may be useful.
  • A room adapted as an indoor aviary, with natural branches on which the birds can perch and plenty of space to allow flying may be used.

Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation:

  • Swifts cannot be kept long term. It is essential that they be released before the end of the normal period in which they would migrate away from the UK for the winter.

Swallows and martins:

  • Every effort should be taken to release these birds before the end of the normal period in which they would migrate away from the UK for the winter.
  • If it is unavoidable that an individual of these species must be kept past the time of migration, suitable aviary accommodation must be provided to keep the bird until the following spring; release will be possible only when birds of the same species first return to the UK for the summer.
  • Heated accommodation may be required if these birds are kept over winter as they do not normally winter in the UK.

(V.w5, V.w26)

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.
    • 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)
Notes
  • --
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Long term accommodation is not appropriate for swifts; these birds must be released quickly.
  • It is essential that swifts be released before the end of the normal period in which they would migrate away from the UK for the winter.
  • Every effort should be taken to release swallows and martins before the end of the normal period in which they would migrate away from the UK for the winter.
  • Pay particular attention to maintaining feather condition as these small birds rely on their plumage for flight, are difficult to maintain in captivity long term and must leave the country at the correct time of year for their annual migration. Feather damage which would prevent flight and delay release is therefore particularly serious in their rehabilitation.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Bird breeder cages, wooden with a vertically barred front, may be found in many pet stores.
  • 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 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 1911-2000; 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
References

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