Belfast Telegraph

A wing and a prayer for starling chicks dealing with cat attacks and nest falls in Northern Ireland

By Allan Preston

Starling season is well underway in Northern Ireland - but it's a dangerous time for many hatchlings.

Wildlife rescue worker Debbie 'Doolittle' Nelson has been working round the clock at her sanctuary in Nutts Corner to care for baby birds that have fallen from the safety of their nests.

No less than four of the baby birds are being nursed back to health, one who fell from a Ballymena nest and "three troublemakers" who fell into a cavity wall in Belfast.

"It was very good fortune that there was a hole inside the house with a stopcock in it which gave access to the little ones," she said.

"Sadly, they are just a little too young to be outside yet and putting them back in the nest wouldn't have been practical ... so they've come to 'Chateaux Doolittle' till they're more developed."

Since taking in the starlings, famous for their spectacular aerial displays known as murmurations, Debbie has rescued three baby birds lifted from their nests by cats.

The "little scaldies" were found helpless in Bangor, Ballyhalbert and outside Moira.

"Unfortunately, it's that time of year, baby season as we call it, they're all in the nest now," she said.

"When people let their cats outside they are going to find them and bring them into the house."

Featherless and with eyes still shut, she admits it's even hard for the experts to identify the species.

At this critical stage, Debbie commits herself to a "labour of love" of feeding them every 20-30 minutes from dusk to dawn.

"It's hard work but it's worth it when you get them to fly and can get them released," she said.

Debbie says that birds can be returned to their nests if they are still young and featherless.

If it's unclear, she advises keeping them warm in a woolly hat or a rolled up sock.

She warns the wrong amount of food or water can be lethal for certain species, so advice should be taken first.

Belfast Telegraph

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