For example: Kuaotunu Bird Rescue is closed until xxxx. Please contact Whitianga Vets if you find an injured bird.

P: 07 869 5695 / 027 600 6959

The rehabilitation of wild birds requires dedication and specialised knowledge

At Kuaotunu Bird Rescue Trust there is an abundance of both, plus endless patience, caring and understanding.


The long-term aims when rehabilitating wild birds are to:

  • ensure the bird will be able to survive in the wild once it is released;  
  • ensure that the bird is not imprinted on humans or on the wrong species, or seeks humans for food or company;  
  • reduce stress and human interaction and ensure that the bird remains as wild as possible.

The beginning of the rehabiliation journey

When a bird is first brought to Kuaotunu Bird Rescue, our first task is to stabilise it, in the same way as any seriously injured human or animal needs to be stablised.

However, because of their size and physiology birds are much more prone to stress, and therefore the initial examination and diagnostic efforts often need to be staged so as not to stress the bird too much.

Initial first aid

Initial first aid involves providing warmth, fluids and oxygen. Giving birds fluids is difficult and complex, as most sick birds need to be given fluids orally via a tube or subcutaneously via a needle. This treatment can only be done by experienced rehabilitators or veterinarians.

Pain can be difficult to assess in wild birds as some species react differently than others. In general wildlife will try not to show pain in order not to look vulnerable to predators (including humans). 

A lot of care is taken to achieve the best outcome for each bird that we receive. If necessary X-rays are taken at Whitianga Veterinary Clinic, and sometimes blood samples are required to make a proper diagnosis.

Vets who specialise in wildlife are also often consulted over the phone or via email to assist in diagnosing the issue, or for advice on the most effective treatment.

Birds can stay in our ICU (a very quiet, warm stress-free room) for up to a week depending on their injuries and needs.

Nutrition and food

An important part of our daily duties is to feed our patients, and this is the most complex part of our job. We need to source a wide range of food that is suitable for the type of bird we are feeding.

Unlike mammals, birds have different metabolic rates and systems - some eat mainly insects, others nectar, and some eat meat like mice and fish. Some eat once a day, while others eat all day long. And young birds may eat different foods from adult birds.

Sick and debilitated birds usually require supplementary feeding by tube until they can eat on their own.

Note that the anatomy of birds is different from that of mammals, and even small drips of water into a bird's mouth can result in its death, as there is a high risk that the water will get into its lungs.

Interested in helping us source fresh food for our birds?

Yummy fish slurry

For those sea birds that normally eat fish, but who are too weak to eat and cannot process whole fish yet, we make 'fish slurry'.

Firstly fish (mostly salmon) goes into a burley grinder. The ground fish then goes through a food processor several times, and then through a sieve. To this mixture some or all of the following is added:

  • sardines/salmon/pilchards, etc; 
  • Hills A/D convalescent diet; 
  • electrolytes; and
  • seabird vitamins.

The final result is a liquid that can be syringed through a crop tube. We then freeze this liquid so that we have it on hand when needed.

It stinks and makes a terrible mess, but somebody has to do it!

Releasing a bird back into the wild

The way in which a bird is released differs according to its species and the age of the bird. We release a lot of spring babies from our place, as they just hang around for some food we leave out for them until they take off. We call that a soft release.

Some seabirds, especially petrels and larger sea birds, need to take off from a height, or by boat.

All native birds are protected by law, and our DOC permit allows us to hold birds in our possession for up to 3 months. After that time they must return to the wild, fit and able to fend for themselves.

When release is not possible...

If a decision is made that a bird will not be able to survive in the wild, euthanasia is the best option. Most native birds don't do well in long term captivity, and they can develop stress-related diseases.

Suffering is unnecessary, and humane euthanasia is safe and quick.

Banding native birds

Kuaotunu Bird Rescue Trust is registered and certified to band each native bird that is released. The details of each banded bird is uploaded to the database maintained by the New Zealand National Bird Banding scheme, which keeps track of marked birds, uniquely-numbered metal bands and the certified operators that released and marked the birds.

Becoming a bander is a long process: firstly the operator must become certified, and then undertake years of banding under supervision until the required numbers and level of confidence is reached.

Passing on the knowledge...

We actively encourage our young people to become aware and involved with NZ wildlife.

Over the years many students from various local schools have volunteered their time either during school time or after school. We hope to create passion by involving these young people to do their part in reversing the crisis our birds are facing in NZ.

We also love to give talks to school, kindergarten or conservation groups, or any other organisation that is interested in knowing more about the work of the Kuaotunu Bird Rescue Trust.

In addition to educating the general public, Kuaotunu Bird Rescue is also happy to help the local DOC rangers and veterinary staff, and we make time to provide education on the care of wild birds where and when this is needed.

If you appreciate the work that we do...

Photo: Ian Preece Photography


This product has been added to your cart