Accommodation of Casualty Waterfowl (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: Aix galericulata - Mandarin duck; Anas acuta - Northern pintail, Anas clypeata - Northern shoveler, Anas crecca - Common teal, Anas penelope - Eurasian wigeon, Anas platyrhynchos - Mallard, Anas strepera - Gadwall, Anas querquedula - Garganey, Anser albifrons - Greater white-fronted goose, Anser anser - Greylag goose, Anser brachyrhynchus - Pink-footed goose, Anser erythropus - Lesser white-fronted goose, Anser fabalis - Bean goose, Aythya ferina - Common pochard, Aythya fuligula - Tufted duck, Aythya marila - Greater scaup, Branta bernicla - Brent goose, Branta canadensis - Canada goose, Branta leucopsis - Barnacle goose, Bucephala clangula - Common goldeneye, Clangula hyemalis - Long-tailed duck, Cygnus columbianus - Tundra swan, Cygnus cygnus - Whooper swan, Cygnus olor - Mute swan, Melanitta fusca- White-winged scoter, Melanitta nigra - Black scoter, Mergellus albellus - Smew, Mergus merganser - Common merganser, Mergus serrator - Red-breasted merganser, Oxyura jamaicensis - Ruddy duck, Somateria mollissima - Common eider, Tadorna tadorna - Common shelduck.

These species are from the family Anatidae.

Transport containers:

  • For short journeys, ducks may be transported in a cardboard box lined with newspaper and preferably with a towel for improved grip. There should be ventilation holes provided and the box should be tied shut, e.g. with twine, to avoid mid-journey escapes. Cardboard boxes are less suitable for long journeys as even with a thick lining they may become wet and therefore weak.
  • Ducks may be transported in plastic pet carriers, again with a towel as flooring and preferably a layer of newspaper beneath this. (D24)
  • Geese may also be transported for short journeys in a cardboard box or pet carrier of a suitable size, with newspaper topped by a towel on the floor. (V.w5)
  • Swans should be transported wrapped in a specially designed "swan bag" which restrains both the wings and the legs. These can also be used for geese. (D24)
  • Alternatively an improvised version may consist of sheet wrapped lightly around the bird (leaving the neck and head free) or a hessian sack, with a hole in one corner to feed the head and neck through, while the excess material is tied behind the swan. A pillowcase may be used similarly. (D24)
  • N.B. do not transport swans or geese inside bags for prolonged periods as this may lead to overheating. (D24)

(B151, D24, V.w5)

Short term (Immediate/Emergency) Accommodation:

  • Warm and quiet.
  • Vetbed or similar for recumbent birds to reduce the risk of development of keel sores.
  • No straw or hay - risk of aspergillosis.


Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation:

Pens with access to water (D24)

  • Provide access to water for bathing after first 48 hours, initially for short periods e.g. five minutes access to water sufficient for bathing is required to maintain plumage condition (B118.18.w18, D28).
  • If become very wet after bathing, ensure the bird can be kept warm while it dries. (B118.18.w18)
  • Provide access to drinking water at all times. (B118.18.w18)
  • Salt water for drinking may be preferable for marine ducks (B118.18.w18)
  • Access to water sufficient for bathing required to maintain plumage condition. ( D24, D28)

N.B. wild waterfowl, rather than e.g. park waterfowl which are used to the presence of humans, may be nervous and benefit from housing with a minimal of human disturbance (B169.43.w43)

Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation:

  • Outdoor enclosures.
  • Must provide protection against foxes and other predators - roofing is advisable.
  • Pool minimum 20-30m square, with depth reaching 0.9m for swans.
  • Grass area or completely grassed.
  • (D28, B224)

Further information on appropriate accommodation for these species is provided in: See: Bird Husbandry & Management - Accommodation Design for Birds

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).
  • Accommodation should be checked daily for damage.
  • 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)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Care must be taken to ensure that any wood preservatives used are non-toxic by the time an enclosure is inhabited.
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 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 1911-2000; 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

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