Home » A captive bird…

A captive bird…

Wood pigeon chick

I heard a song on the radio that I really like today, The first time  by Roberta Flack, and there’s a line in the song.….Like the trembling heart of a captive bird….. Now this line has little to do with birds in the song, but I have a lot to do with birds, so it triggered a train of thought.

I tried to remember the very first chick that I hand fed, and I couldn’t. I do remember how scared I was though, in fact I was terrified. Young birds appear so fragile and I was afraid that I would damage the bird’s beak while opening it, or choke it by putting too much food in it’s mouth, or crush it by holding it too tightly. 

collared dove chick


I also remember the first time I felt the heart of a trembling captive bird in my hands and recall how my heart sped up and matched the beat, and still does, for to me every bird in my care feels like that very first time, it’s always unique and can never be taken for granted.




When chicks come into the rescue, they all behave differently. Some fight, some try to flee and some lie still, but for all of them, that first feed is literally the difference between life and death. If we can’t get food into them, it’s all over. Some chicks adapt to the human parent easily but others resist us. Fortunately, we always eventually get them going and then it’s all plain sailing.




I love birds, probably more than any other creature. Maybe because they represent a freedom we can only imagine, being able to soar to great heights……oh if only we had wings!!!! 




And what I hate most about the rescue is dealing with wild captive birds, to lose the freedom of flight must be a hideous thing, and yet despite being captive and trapped, wild birds show the most amazing resilience and the overwhelming majority of them survive and are returned to the wild. You have to admire them, they suffer without complaint, no sound ever comes from a wounded or starving bird, they just endure it.




Yesterday I released another bird in my garden, and once again it was like the very first time I ever released a wild bird, it’s something you never tire of…the sound of beating wings and feeling that downdraft as they soar into the sky….well what can I say?


dove chick


Yesterday was the first time this year that there was no hand feeding required…..now it’s all about setting the remaining birds free……


yellow duckling


So, a quick round-up. This year we have released more than four hundred birds, ducks, gulls, curlews, pheasants, pigeons, doves, blackbirds, blue tits, robins, jackdaws, crows…..the list is endless. So…..here are a few more pics of some of the chicks we’ve had in.


jackdaw chick


tawny owl

jackdaw chicks

  Remember these  jackdaws that I eventually met in the wild…



Jackdaw chicks


house martin chick




And all of these are now back where they belong……rather wonderful eh?


54 Responses to “A captive bird…”

  1. What a privilege! Gorgeous chicks.

  2. Jenny says:

    That must be so rewarding. A lovely set of photos and memories.

  3. Jo says:

    What a fabulous post, I do love success stories. What are those birds with the spotty heads five photos from the end? Water birds of some kind as they have webbed feet.

  4. Flighty says:

    A lovely post and terrific pictures. I love the owl, and those blue eyed jackdaws.
    I agree about birds having a special appeal. xx

    • Snow Bird says:

      There is something rather wonderful about birds isn’t there, many of them form relationships with people too, although we do discourage that once chicks can self feed. I love owls, the way their heads turn right around is really odd. Thanks Flighty. xxx

  5. nikkipolani says:

    They’re so quick moving, I’m impressed you got as many photos as you did. And to see the number of birds released — that is amazing! So good to have such a hand in helping their recuperation and release.

    The images of those wide open mouths always make me smile. Birds have to eat so often, it must be like an endless buffet!

    • Snow Bird says:

      Lol, you should see how many shots are blurred, as you say, young birds don’t care to pose for the camera!

      It’s wonderful to be part of a team of people who get these lil’uns back to where they belong….and YES….they NEVER stop eating, EVER!!!

      When they call for food they flutter their wings too…..wonderful it is, being Mummy bird! Thanks Anne xxx

  6. Marian says:

    Wonderful …. I remember the little robin I thought we’d saved in France …. sadly it didn’t survive :(

  7. Glo says:

    Well, I am just amazed at the work you do ~ and what a great feeling it must be to know that you have given life to all of these little souls. The open beak on that black one shows just what an appetite each one has! Thanks for all your tender care ~ you make a such a positive difference in the world around you!

    • Snow Bird says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment Glo, the staff at the rescue are a really dedicated team. It is a truly wonderful feeling to see these birds finally return to the wild….and so many of them have such long lives, they may outlive me. Lol, the chubby black Jackdaw was a wonderful character, with a HUGE appetite.xxx

  8. Bushka says:

    Absolutely Wonderful Post….Moving…yet, so heartening! You do such an admirable jov with these little feathered friends…
    Superb post…excellent pictures! Thanks D! Hugs! :)xxx

  9. menhir1 says:

    What it is to be a non-feathered mum to feathered babes. I know what you mean about doing what’s best for them and safely handling such small creatures. These results are lovely.

    • Snow Bird says:

      Yes, a great honour indeed to get the chance to play mummy. Some of the chicks are so small when they come in they still scare the life out of me re handling them. Thanks Menhir.xxxx

  10. Wendy says:

    A lovely look at some of the chicks you’ve cared for. They’re all gorgeous.
    I love those Jackdaws with their enormous beaks – do they still hang around the rescue?
    It must be wonderful releasing these birds and watching them flying free. To save more than four hundred birds that probably would have died otherwise is such a fantastic achievement.

    • Snow Bird says:

      Thanks so much Wendy. Yes we still see the jackdaws, they go further a field nowadays but do pop in and “swoop” their old mums which is always so moving. They are far too grown up to take food from us though, obviously they have much better larders in the wild, which is great.xxx

  11. Wonderful post, I love wild birds, especially Yellowhammers which we try to spot every year in the country lanes bordering our local farmland. Well done you xx

  12. rusty duck says:

    I do love birds, It’s great that you’ve been able to rescue so many. I once did a day behind the scenes at Slimbridge WWT, and held Nene chicks in my hands whilst they were wormed. Their poor little hearts were beating SO fast!

    • Snow Bird says:

      Good to know you’ve felt that speedy little heartbeat Jessica, it races like the wind doesn’t it, you do feel awful having to touch them at all. Thanks.xxx

  13. How beautiful that you are able to help these creatures. Today is Thanksgiving in the US, a day to spend with family and reflect on what you are thankful for. I’m thankful for people like you. :)

    • Snow Bird says:

      Thanks Casa, what a lovely thing to say. I’m thankful that the rescue exists, it does such a wonderful job with so many different animals.xxx

  14. Ah, The First Time by Roberta Flack…one of my all time favourites, and a track that takes me back to some very happy times.

    This is a wonderful post, and I say BRAVO to you and all the others in the shelter that help to rescue and free these lovely little creatures….I often dream that I am flying above everything…looking at the world from a very different point of view….and even in my dreams, it is so freeing, and so I can only imagine what it must be like to be a bird, and be given back the gift of life and flight.

    thank you so much :)xxxxx

    • Snow Bird says:

      It is such a wonderful song isn’t it, one of my old time favourites too.

      How odd that you dream you are flying, I often do too. I have a recurring dream, I am always on a cliff’s edge and it’s twilight, above my head is a flock of birds, I don’t know which type…..they call to me and I can understand them, they always say, “Come flightless bird, join us in your dreams.”
      Probably a result of having so much contact with birds.

      Oh to be a bird eh, with wings clothed with feathers….sighs….Thanks so much Janet. xxx

  15. elaine says:

    Fabulous – such a wonderful thing to do and fantastic pictures of all the tinies with their beaks that look too large for their bodies always ready with a big open mouth. Lovely post.

    • Snow Bird says:

      Lol, thanks Elaine. Sometimes when they open their beaks wide, they actually become bigger than their heads and all you see are huge gaping mouths….xxx

  16. Linda says:

    It’s wonderful to know that hundreds of birds were rescued this year and after a while were well and strong enough to be set free. I can only imagine the number of hours spent nurturing the creatures in your care, but I’m sure all of you at the centre must consider it a privilege.

    • Snow Bird says:

      Thanks Linda, oh yes, no doubt about it, it is ALWAYS our pleasure and a privilege to be able to help these birds and the other animals.And not that you want them in the rescue, but it is wonderful to see them close up.xxx

  17. godschool says:

    Another totally brilliant, inspiring and heartwarming post … I absolutely love that pic of the little black chick with his beak wide open – you can see his tonsils … if he had any!

    I know what you mean about birds … there’s just something essentially wild about them. It’s inexplicable.

    They are lucky to have you, SB … and you’re lucky to have them too. Symbiosis!

    • Snow Bird says:

      Why thank you Gilly!!! Lol…yes you can almost see the contents of that jackdaw’s stomach, such a funny little guy that one.

      Yes, inexplicable is a great word to describe birds…..Symbiosis….YES!!! And I am SO lucky!!! xxx

  18. Jason says:

    What a great post! Your description of working with the baby birds is very moving. Plus, they have so much personality in those pictures. I’m sure you’re getting lots of gold stars in the Book of Life (if they use gold stars).

    • Snow Bird says:

      Ahhh, thanks Jason, I think the birds deserve the gold stars though, such wonderful uncomplaining patients that they are.xxx

  19. Wonderful post and images. You are really the ‘bird-woman’ of England. We have had some bird news of a sort this week in NZ: the South Island Kokako has been on the extinction list for some time, but there has been a sighting/s on the West Coast. We just have to wait and see what results from our Conservation Dept investigations.. The news has been all about the little Maui dolphin in recent months.

  20. Caro says:

    So many of your photos made me smile – you’ve had some great characters under your care it seems! What a fantastic feeling it must be to know that you’ve given so many creatures another chance at life. Wonderful, wonderful post, thank you!

  21. Snow Bird says:

    Lol….we certainly have had some fantastic characters this year, especially dozens of herring gulls who can be rather challenging to handle! It is lovely looking back and seeing some of my old friends again and great to know they are once more gracing the skies. Thanks Caro.xxx

  22. Patrick says:

    Hey SB,
    I can see it’s very rewarding but I’m so proud of you for your efforts. Keep up the good work.

  23. Mick Marsh says:

    I’ve released a few birds in my time, almost all rescued from the teeth of our cat. Most died from mortal wounds but when they had dogs next door, i used to launch any unharmed ones over their garden so the cat wouldn’t go in and get them again. I never knew what to do with the chicks though so I perched them in the privet although they probably died soon after. I’ve got a bird box with straw in but they’d probably die and it would become smelly and need cleaning.

    • Snow Bird says:

      Oh cats and birds….the cats can’t help themselves can they. Whenever a bird comes in with a cat bite it has to have a jab or the infection it catches from the cat’s teeth will kill it. We feed woody chicks and seed eating birds an egg mixture, by hand, all the rest of the chicks get mealworm or if carrion, dog or cat food. Thanks Mick.xxx

  24. Scarlett says:

    That chick with it’s mouth wide open is still one of my favourite pictures of all time! It’s so lovely to see them released! x

    • Snow Bird says:

      Lol…it is a brilliant little chick isn’t it. Oh yes, releasing birds…..brilliant albeit worrying at times….as you know. XXX

  25. keggy says:

    Awhh !!! How gorgeous. My heart melted when I saw these. Especially the white spotty one at the top of the post. You have done so well to rescue so many hundreds and release them. Thanks for looking after our wildlife xxx

    • Snow Bird says:

      Thanks Kegs, you’d love handling them too. The white spotty one is a young herring gull, it was only a few days old in the pic, needless to say it’s a huge free bird now.xxx

  26. what extraordinary pictures. your volunteering work is a real vocation and a grace and a blessing isn’t it? And such a privelage to hold them in your hands and feel their beating hearts and so on – absolutely amazing experience and such a close encounter with God is how I think of it. Must really warm the cockles of your heart and be very healing and nourishing… though very distressing if they don’t surive.

    Must make you really appreciate ‘life’ etc…. xxx

    • Snow Bird says:

      What a lovely comment, thanks Arose. It is a blessing, you know how it feels now too after your little bouncy robin experience. Yes, the little heartbeat is beautiful and being able to interact with another creature is a great honour. Yes, it sure is an encounter with God and always very healing.xxx

  27. Karen says:

    I’ve been having a look around your delightful blog, what wonderful stories you tell. I love this bird post, it is amazing that all these birds were returned to the wild!
    You do wonderful work.

  28. Snow Bird says:

    Thanks so much Karen, it’s such a pleasure to see birds going back to where they came from.x

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