This Southern Giant Petrel was brought into us by Department of Conservation. The bird was extremely tired and anaemic and we doubted we would be able to keep it alive. Thanks to Vet Kirsty for being a super duper blood collector. And thanks to Lisa from the Wildlife Hospital in Dunedin for the advice and reassurance along the way.
For the first 24 hours he was given lots of warm electrolytes via a large tube. He was kept in a warm, noise-free environment, but we struggled to find the right size cage for him to move around in. When the blood results came through it was clear that this guy was lucky to be found in time as his bloods results showed he should practically not be alive.
However he soon moved onto fish slurry, a very smelly smoothie made with three types of fatty fish, electrolytes, vitamins and extra protein cat food. For this he had to caught carefully with the least amount of stress and be held during the tube feeding.
I was always at the sharp end of the bird and protected my hand that opened the large powerful beak with a garden glove.
We did this twice a day and soon he started to put on weight, and then he was able to be moved outside into the aviary where he could move more and be away from the comings and goings of everything.
We gave him a trough that he could splash around in and started giving him whole fish. He soon took to that and although we fed him some mice and one day chickens as well, he preferred the salmon. Soon he was easily going through about 6-8 fish a day and coming back for more.
Follow-up blood tests were next and levels were hugely improved, as was his weight, which increased from 2.1 kg to 4.9 at release time.
It was time to make sure he was waterproof ( spraying him with salt water and allowing him to swim and preen afterwards). Next I arranged with DOC for a release site and a band so he could be added to the National Bird banding data.
DOC rangers Rob Chappel and Lisa Kearney joined me on the trip to Port Jackson, about 2 hours drive from Kuaotunu. We found a great spot that overlooked both sides of the peninsula, with ocean views all around and great drop off areas and grassy platforms to sit and wait for the right wind and time.
It was sad not to be able to see him take off after all those weeks of hard work, but he had decide that in his own time, and it was a long drive home again so bye bye beautiful Giant.