A few weeks ago, when on our usual early morning walk along the playa in Spain, (Being retired, we now spend several of the cold months in our holiday home). We found several little dead birds under a tree, we then noticed two were still alive, a Spanish man also looking, lifted the two little surviving birds back up into the tree. We returned about ten minutes later, to find the two little birds on the ground again, one of these on it's side and almost dead. The other one, which tiny and only had a few feathers coming through on it's wings, was sitting and looking lost and alone. I picked it up and cuddled it gently in my hand under my jacket to keep it warm, until we arrived home. It was looking very frail and frightened. I rolled a little bit of kitchen paper towel to use as a gentle feeding tool, I crushed some seeds from my breakfast Muiesli and mixed it with a little soya milk and water and tried to trickle a little into the baby's beak. After a few attempts, her little beak moved a little, she seems to be taking a little of the liquid. I tried feeding several more times that day. In the evening, I made a little bed in a dish lined with cotton wool, covered with a cloth and put my thermal gloves around the chick for extra security and warmth. I put the dish into a cardboard box lined with a towel, putting a thin towel over the box to keep it warm and dark. I didn't expect to see her alive in the morning, I was almost too frightened to look. To our suprise, she was still alive and looked a little better. I tried feeding again, and managed to again trickle a little of the food into her beak. (At this point, she was so tiny and had so few feathers coming through, we didn't know what breed of bird she was). I continued trying to feed regularly, and she now looked like she was trying to squeak as her little body was making the movements, but no sound came out. Later that afternoon, when making another attempt to feed, she managed a faint squeak and her little gape opened wide enabling me to give her a good feed (making quite a mess trying to get food into the little moving gape)! From then on she went from strength to strength, growing more feathers and losing the baby down. She had two little tufts of down on her head, so she was named "Tufty". We had friends and neighbours catching flies to add to her feeds for extra nutrition, and managed to get some special wild bird seed from the Spanish pet shop, which contained a variety of seed and insects, I crushed this and also crushed fresh peanuts and sometimes some mashed hard boiled egg, mixing this with a little water. By now little Tufty would run to me, tweeting very loudly for her feed, when she saw the little plastic green bottle cap and plastic feeding spatula I'd cut from a margerine tub. She now had a very good appetite. She loved sitting on our shoulder or head, and preened the new feathers coming through for hours, leaving us covered in what looked like dandruff! She was stretching her wings and legs regularly, and eventually tried to fly, and landed clumsily on the floor, (luckily there was a thick rug)! She was flying a little further each day, and landing on all sorts of things, now very efficiently. She would now fly to me for a feed. She was so completely trusting, we could just go and pick her up, or she would climb on our finger. She now seemed to like perching on high things, and mostly ended up on the ceiling fan. We had to buy a nice very large cage, which she seemed very happy with. We were then able to put her outside on the back patio wall, where she had a lovely view of the Campo and trees and hills, and watch all the other birds including siskins. We realised by now with her markings, she was a little Siskin. When the sun became a little to warm at the back, she then used to have the cage on the front patio table, where a White Wagtail with a deformed foot regularly visited for food we put out. Tufty watched her with interest. The wagtail had found a mate and he shyly visited and we realised they must be feeding young as well, as they were both collecting food in their beaks and flying somewhere nearby very frequently. (We named the wagtail "Hoppalong" because of her deformed foot) It was strange, when Hoppalong saw me feeding little Tufty in the cage, she became even more tame and would be eating on the table only about a foot away, and would watch with interest as I fed Tufty, who would be tweeting very loudly and gulping her feed. We become very fond of little Tufty, she was such a lovable character, and we'd seen her grow up. She loved sitting on my finger and I would take her to the window, where she became very good at catching the little fruit flies. I used to nuzzle her little newly feathered chest with my nose, and she in turn would tickle my nose gently with her beak. She loved sitting on our heads and "preening" our hair. The big problem was, that we soon had to leave Spain to return home to UK, we only had a few days left and we felt quite sick at the thought of what was to happen to our lovely little Tufty. Lots of our friends in Spain thought we were completely mad to get so attatched to just a tiny bird. We didn't know of any bird santuary's nearby. Luckily our neighbours, who were staying in Spain for a few weeks longer, said they would look after little Tufty, as they'd been watching with interest as she grew. They looked after her for a few more days, then one day when they'd put her on the back patio in her cage, she had become quite agitated and was trying to get out of the cage to fly towards the trees where there were some Siskins. So he got little Tufty out of the cage, she sat on his finger for a few seconds, then flew onto his shoulder, and then towards the trees and birds. We were all very worried at what would become of her, being so trusting and tame. The great news is, five days later, little Tufty returned to their back patio wall, and cocked her little head on one side when they called her. She looked very well and perky. She then flew up onto our roof and had a look around for a minute, before taking off towards the "Sisking trees". I contacted RSPB initially in case someone had been through a similar hand rearing, and could offer me some advice. I contacted "Doggie" with the good news of the happy release into the wild, and he suggested I post the story on a new post to enable more people to read it. I thought the information might be of help to anyone else who finds themselves being foster parents to a baby bird! Also with so much bad news at the moment, it lovely to be able to share some happy news! Thank you to Doggie and Birdmadliz for their suggestions and support. It's been a wonderful and very interesting experience. we'll never forget our little Tufty. (2nd photo taken after we'd had her for a week).
In reply to doggie:
What a lovely story, well done for saving the little one :) Tufty is a Greenfinch not a Siskin by the way.
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In reply to aiki:
Everyone loves a happy ending, loved your story. Thanks for sharing
Of all creatures, man is the most detestable, he is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain. ~ Mark Twain
What a lovely story and well done
a good laugh is better than a tonic
In reply to Barnsley lad:
That made a fascinating read tuftymum - something that will always stay with you. You did a fantastic job there. Thanks for sharing it.
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In reply to ChristineB:
I'm so glad your efforts had a happy ending for little Tufty. You have super pictures to remind you of your time with him. He really is a cutie pie.
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Hi Aiki, thank you, it was a very enjoyable experience for us, especially knowing she's now free and enjoying life with her kin, and nice to be able to share it with other bird lovers. We also thought she was a Greenfinch at first, but she is a Euranian Siskin.
In reply to Tuftymun:
We also thought she was a Greenfinch at first, but she is a Euranian Siskin.
We also thought she was a Greenfinch at first, but she is a Euranian Siskin.
We'll have to agree to disagree about that :) The important thing is that you rescued a bird in trouble and returned her to the wild, which is awesome.
Nice story. I agree with it being a greenfinch though. Not that it takes anything away from your achievement!
In reply to Robbo:
Ha Ha, Hi to the Greenfinch believers. As I said, we at first felt sure she was a Greenfinch, but when we saw the Greenfinches and Siskins feeding together nearby, the Siskins are much smaller, about the size of Blue tits, where the Greenfinch is almost the size of a Sparrow. Also the yellow wing markings are slightly differently positioned, but the young do look very very similar. Tufty is about the size of a Blue Tit and as agile. She's lovely whatever she is and bought us lots of laughs and pleasure. It's lovely to hear everyone's comments, and so nice being able to share the experience with so many interested bird lovers.
Sorry tufty, she is a Greenfinch.
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