||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: Delichon
urbica - Northern house-martin, Hirundo
rustica - Barn swallow, Riparia
riparia - Sand martin.
These species are from the families Hirundindae.
If a house martin nest falls with chicks still inside, the
parents may continue to feed the chicks if they are returned to near the original site in
a substitute nest such as a box, a four-litre ice cream tub with an entrance hole cut in
one side or preferably an artificial nest available from the RSPB
secured to the eaves of the house within 12 hours of the original mishap. (D63, V.w27)
If it is possible to contact a local British
Trust Ornithology (BTO)-licensed bird ringer, martin and swallow chicks may be
placed into existing nests alongside similar-aged chicks and be accepted by foster
General bird information:
- On arrival any young bird should be weighed, warmed, and given
supplementary fluids by an appropriate route to counteract dehydration.
- Cold, weak chicks may benefit greatly from a short period, for example 30 minutes, left
in a dark cardboard box at 30-35 °C.(P19.1.w4)
- The age should be determined if possible.
- See: Hand-rearing
of Orphaned Wildlife for further general information.
General Care (including warmth and hygiene):
General altricial/semialtricial bird information:
- Young birds, particularly altricial or semialtricial unfeathered/poorly down-covered
nestlings, have poor ability to maintain body temperature and are prone to hypothermia,
hyperthermia and burns.
- Keep out of draughts but ensure ventilation is adequate. (V.w5)
- A thermometer should be placed beside the nest box to indicate the temperature at which
the chicks are being maintained.
Swallow and Martin specific information:
- Keep in an artificial nest made from e.g. an ice cream tub.
- The artificial nest should be placed inside a larger box and be provided with
Suggested foods include:
[Note: The experience of people rearing Apus
apus - Common swifts strongly indicates that a diet of
insects and insectivore food (based on insects) not meat is
essential for the proper growth and development of swift chicks. (N43.3124.w1)
It is probable that diets for swallows and martens, also, should be wholly
or mainly insects or insectivorous food.]
- Tropican Rearing Mix (Rolf C Hagen).
- Mixed fresh each day for each group of chicks and kept refrigerated
- Mixture of minced meat, insectivorous mix, vitamin/mineral supplement
(e.g. Nutrobal,Vetark Animal Health) and dead mealworms.(D24)
- Strips of ox heart, with scrambled egg; supplement with a "fine
dusting" of SA37 (Intervet UK Ltd) vitamin/mineral powder. (P19.1.w4)
- Yolk from hard-boiled eggs mixed with crushed, soaked digestive biscuits, strips of raw
ox heart, mealworms, ants' eggs, tinned cat or dog food. (D63)
- Offer natural food if available. (P19.1.w4)
- Supplement with a vitamin/mineral mixture such as SA37 (Intervet UK
Suggested feeding frequencies include:
- Feed every hour during daylight. (D24)
- Feed at least every two hours and ensure the chicks are fed at least
eight times during the day. (D63)
Suggested feeding techniques include:
- Feed by gavage directly into crop, using small syringe with a teat
cannula attached. (B151)
- Feed mix may be given using a paintbrush or a blunt-ended pair of
- Assisted feeding may be required for some chicks until they start to gape
for food. (V.w27)
- Offer water using a moistened paintbrush between mouthfuls of food.(V.w26)
- Clean the chick's face and bill after each feed.
- A wet paintbrush wiped around the face may be used for removing spilt
food while minimising handling.(V.w27)
- Feed until the bird stops gaping.(B151)
General altricial bird information:
- For young nestlings remove the faecal sac produced after the first
cropful of each feed, using tweezers.
- These sacs are delicate and care must be taken to avoid splitting the sac
and soiling the bird or the nest.
General bird information:
- Regular weighing provides a good indication of growth, however a balance
must be chosen between the frequency of weighing for accurate monitoring of progress and
the stress which may be caused by repeated handling.
- Individuals in a brood or being reared in a group must be individually
identifiable in order to allow the progress of each chick to be monitored.
- Temporary identification may be made possible using small colour marks
applied to the feathers. An appropriate non-toxic material such as coloured correction
fluid (e.g. Tippex) or nail varnish may be used for this purpose.
- Alternatively, for larger chicks, lightweight leg rings made of flat
plastic may be used. These are available in a wide variety of colours. Rings must be of an
appropriate size and changed as the bird grows.
- Once eyes open, offer appropriate adult food but continue supplementing
with hand feeding.
- Wean after about two weeks.
- Wean onto "clean" white maggots (which have been starved for 24
hours), mini-mealworms, waxworms or medium-sized crickets.
- See: Accommodation
of Casualty Swifts, Swallows & House Martins
General bird information:
|Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
- Live food is available from many pet stores.
- Proprietary food mixtures and supplements are available from pet stores or mail-order
- Tropican Rearing Mix (Rolf C. Hagen (UK) Ltd, Castleford, West
Yorkshire, WF10 5QH)
- Nutrobal (Vetark Animal Health, PO Box 60, Winchester, SO23 9XN)
- SA37 (Intervet UK Ltd., Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge CB4 0FP).