Wildlife Conferences


Wildlife Rehabilitation Ireland


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Read the REHABILITATORS section of ADULT BIRD first
Extra species specific information for long term husbandry below



  • Capture

Attempt capture from a position between the bird and the water
Wear goggles and protective gloves to protect from beak injuries
Use coat/net/towel to throw over bird
Pin bird gently but firmly to the ground by the neck
Carefully restrain wings by wrapping with towel
Keep head covered – darkness reduces stress
Use one arm to hold bird’s body under one arm, use other arm to control head
Rubber band around beak will aid in control of beak 
NB CARE with birds with internal nares, (Pelecaniformes e.g. cormorants) beak must remain partially open in order to breathe – insert gag e.g. syringe, toothbrush, before controlling with rubber band.

  • Housing

Minimum disturbance, quiet environment
Supplementary heat source initially
Good hygiene and suitable ventilation – ammonia can cause respiratory problems
Ulcers common in captivity – potentially result in euthanasia
Soft and easy to clean substrate essential e.g.:
Rubber matting, Astroturf, deep layers of blankets, netting platforms
NEVER use straw or hay for bedding - aspergillosis
Rocks, upturned buckets/ boxes will be utilised by birds and will prevent faecal soiling
Access to water except for oiled or sick birds
Water deep enough for bird’s feet not to touch the bottom.
Padded ramp and platform to assist bird out of the water
Skim water surface / replace water regularly to remove fish oils which impair waterproofing
Initially indoors in a large cage/ high sided box with substrate as above
Then move to small indoor pool with platform, half of which is heated from overhead heat source
When using the water and no longer in need of supplementary heat, move to an outdoor enclosure:
With access to water to bathe and exercise in -watch for water-logging
A solid covered area over part of the platform (covered with suitable substrate)
A net over and around the entire enclosure to prevent the occupant flying off

  • Handling

Wear protective goggles and latex gloves
Control head and beak
Prevent wings flapping by restraining them against the body
Cover the head and/or examine in dim lighting
Replace in container and/or provide oxygen if laboured breathing




See general RELEASE section above first
Seek assistance from expert organisations with knowledge of the whereabouts of particular species at different times of year. See CONTACTS page

Species specific considerations
Bird must have reached normal body weight before release

Commonly stranded pelagic birds

Normal body weight (g)









Black guillemot






Release where originally found is unlikely to be appropriate for most seabirds
Ideally release where found, if unsuitable then another suitable marine environment
Diurnal species should be released in the morning
Release gannets from a cliff overlooking the sea
Release shearwaters and petrels close to a cliff edge at dusk
Avoid releasing in an area where outdoor lights may cause disorientation
Hard release mainly suitable technique; take out of box and let bird fly/walk off
DO NOT release out at sea or throw off a cliff

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