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Warning to Northern Ireland bird lovers as starling dies in feeder

By Linda Stewart

Published 24/06/2016

The starling died after getting stuck in the contraption
The starling died after getting stuck in the contraption

Wildlife lovers in Northern Ireland have been warned against using a particular type of bird feeder after a starling died inside one.

Animal rescuer Debbie Nelson said the bird died after it became trapped in the coiled wire feeder, which was given away free with a tub of energy balls by a Tyrone-based firm.

Debbie, who travels across Northern Ireland rescuing stricken wild animals after setting up Debbie Doolittle's Rescue Centre in Dundrod, said she was contacted by a woman who had laid out the feeder at her home near the Antrim Road in Belfast and had found the injured bird stuck inside.

"A young starling had got its wing trapped in a coiled wire feeder that came free with a large tub of Peckish Fat Balls," Debbie said.

"This wasn't the first one to get trapped, although the lady was able to free the others. The lady has removed the feeders and they've been binned. I've since heard of other cases in similar feeders.

"This bird sadly had a lot of damage to its wing muscles and also had suffered a broken leg. It died shortly after."

Debbie appealed to people not to use the wire feeders, which are used to hold fat balls.

"Once full of fat balls, and with the weight of moving, feeding birds on it, the spring stretches and then they get caught," she said.

"As the birds fly off, releasing the tension, the spring releases, trapping the birds' heads and their wings.

"It's not only stressful being trapped, but it also leaves them vulnerable to predators if no one is home to free them.

"I hope people who have these feeders in their gardens remove them to prevent any further casualties. It's completely flexible and has no stability to it - very dangerous for any birds, particularly the larger thrushes and starlings."

Debbie said the woman who contacted her about the injured bird was very upset it had died.

"My main aim is making people aware of the feeder issue, and that if they have one or are using this coiled feeder, they should remove it immediately and dispose of it suitably," she added.

"We want to prevent any more birds being injured or killed in the same way."

Debbie contacted Dungannon-based Westland Horticulture, which makes Peckish Fat Balls, to alert them to what was happening to wild birds, and the company said it would not be using the design again.

A spokesman responded by email, thanking her for bringing it to their attention.

"We're sorry about this distressing experience," the spokesman wrote. "Pass our apologies to the lady concerned."

Westland Horticulture also told the Belfast Telegraph: "This must have been a very distressing incident.

"We take all of our complaints seriously and the free feeders will no longer be running with this promotion."

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