What To Do
Gower Bird Hospital - Articles From Our
Happy tale of ten tiny chicks
Ten tiny chicks, each around the size of a
tennis ball, arrived at Gower Bird Hospital.
They were quickly identified as goosanders
and their natural history researched.
The goosander is the largest of the three
sawbills found in Britain. Goosanders breed
on the shores of lakes and rivers. They nest
near the water, usually in a hole in a tree.
The chicks are semi-precocial. This means they
can see, walk, swim and, to a certain
extent, feed themselves immediately after
hatching, but still need their parents.
As soon as the chicks hatch, they leave the
nest and the parent leads them to the safety
of the water. They remain with the parents
who protect them and guide them to food
Goosanders feed almost exclusively on fish –
the beak has “saw teeth” along the edges to
help them catch fish underwater.
Our ten tiny chicks had been found running
along a road in Talley with no sign of the
parent bird - the family must have become
separated while trying to cross the road. Mr
and Mrs Ackroyd from Aberystwyth spotted the
youngsters and scooped them into a box.
Luckily they were on
their way to Gower and were able to bring the birds to Gower Bird
Hospital the same day.
On arrival, the goosanders were extremely
distressed by their unfortunate adventure
and in a very agitated state – burning off
valuable energy trying to escape from the
box. They were immediately put into a
seclusion area with a heat lamp to provide
warmth and a shallow pool of water so that
at least they could drink while we prepared
Having had extensive experience of raising
mallards (another semi-precocial bird) we adopted
the same approach with the addition of
chopped whitebait and mini mealworms to the
The goosanders were then left alone as much
as possible to reduce stress – the last
thing they wanted was a person looming over
them, frightening them even more! A quick,
quiet peek that evening showed them all
snuggled in a group under the heat lamp,
sleeping peacefully at last.
The next morning, some of the food had gone.
We quickly weighed each one while cleaning
the pool and putting in fresh food and were
relieved to find they had all gained a
After a week in the “nursery” they were
strong enough to try one of our outside
aquapens with free access to deeper water
and a covered heated privacy area to dry off
and keep warm
The deeper water was much appreciated. They
swam and dived – all good exercise to build
up their muscle tone. As they grew they were
able to eat whole whitebait, up to six bags
a day! Frozen fish can lose valuable
vitamins so special supplements were added
to prevent any deficiencies in the growing
Ten weeks later, they had developed all
their feathers and thanks to the facilities
and care at Gower Bird Hospital were in very
good condition – completely waterproof, you
can see the water “pearling” off the
feathers in the photograph.
They were released at the lake in Talley
where their parents had originally intended
them to go. Within a minute of diving under
the water, one of them surfaced with a fish
in its beak and quickly ate it. The
goosanders were back where nature intended,
not tame and able to hunt for their own
One of the Goosander
chicks, 10 weeks later and ready for release
Running up a £ 5,000 food bill
More than 90 different species of
birds arrive at Gower Bird Hospital
every year. Species range from
wrens, tits, wagtails, song birds,
woodpeckers, nightjars to all types
of sea birds and birds of prey.
Gower Bird Hospital needs to have a
large and varied larder. Whatever
species of bird arrives it will need
appropriate food immediately.
always have a freezer full of food
for sea birds and raptors, a stock
of corn and various seed, special
insectivorous feed, chick crumbs
for ducklings and live food such
as mealworms and waxworms is ordered
weekly. Every year, the food bill
alone is more than £ 5,000.
This young kestrel needs
natural food – small mammals such as
mice, shrews and voles, which we have
to purchase from Specialist suppliers.
Problems of being on your feet
Any bird in the temporary captivity
of our rehabilitation aviaries is
spending a lot more time on its feet
than it would in the wild, simply
because it can’t fly away.
We are always aware of the foot
problems this may cause and a lot of
effort goes into providing
appropriate perches – small springy
twigs of varying sizes for smaller
birds and thicker branches for
Behaviour studies carried out by
students from Swansea University
have also helped greatly in the
design of our aviaries. Students
watch hours of video tape recorded
through the CCTV system and note the
behaviour of the birds.
For example, blackbirds would be
quite interested in exploring their
new surroundings when first put into
a rehabilitation aviary, but after
just three days would show signs of
boredom and stress.
To relieve this stress, the aviaries
are furnished with as many varying
perches as possible – some high,
some lower, some very thin and
bendy, others more solid.
More plants and shrubs are grown in
the aviary and food such as
mealworms is scattered into leaf
litter so the birds have to work to
find it. The mental health of our
patients is just as important as
Our aim is always to get them back
to full health as quickly as
possible so they can be released
back into the wild.
Gower Bird Hospital relies entirely on donations. If you would
like to make a donation online, click the button below. To send a cheque or donate by monthy standing-order, please print our
donation form and
post it back to us. This form also includes the Inland Revenue Gift
Aid declaration that enables us to reclaim the tax that would
otherwise be kept by the treasury.
Support Us |
What To Do |
Gower Bird Hospital, Sandy Lane, Pennard,
Swansea, SA3 2EW
Tel: 01792 371630
Reg. Charity No. 1053912
The pictures and the text on this website are not in the public
domain and must not be copied or used in all or in part without
prior written permission from the copyright owners.
Pictures: © Chinch Gryniewicz
Text © Gower Bird Hospital