Spur-winged Plover – meet Shaggy!
Introducing Shaggy, my half-grown plover! Named for the artist who sang Mr Bombastic (ok, especially for the first line… Mr Lover Lover… as soon as I acquired the baby plover all the songs with ‘lover’ in them became changed to ‘plover’. As you do. Ok, as I (and my family!) do. So, after a few rounds of “Mr Plover Plover” between myself and Sister V, he had earned his name.
Shaggy is a Spur-Winged Plover, they are naturalised to New Zealand – in Australia they are called Masked Lapwings, just to confuse the issue! They make some amazing noises, from a squark, to a trill and peep, all the way to that scary ‘Ring Wraith’ noise that you hear after dark. People don’t like them because of that noise, but that’s a bit sad. Most people I know make much worse noises. Plovers look like penguins, sometimes. If you’ve ever driven down the road and had to do a double-take because you saw ‘penguins!’ in the middle of a landlocked paddock, it was most likely plovers. Or possibly the penguins from Madagascar.
My cousin’ F’ rescued Shaggy from the cat – I’d estimate (based on similarities to chicks!) that he would only have been a few hours old. I was stealing lemons from the tree when I heard the baby bird noise, and found him – he’d leapt out of his box on the dresser, and onto the floor. I would have asked permission to permanently borrow him, but no-one was home (hence the lemon raiding), so I just took him. (In my defence, I had a set-up all ready from the last lot of chicks inside, so I was better prepared than they were, otherwise I wouldn’t have stolen him! Maybe. He was awfully cute.)
I kept him alive by feeding him worms and slaters (woodlice) for the first week, and it was hard work, he ate so much! Then I utilised good old Vet Google, and found a recipe for feeding plovers – which worked, in that he stayed alive and grew very quickly, but didn’t work in that he developed Angel Wing – where the protein in the food forced his feathers to grow so fast that it has warped the wing bones. Argh! Good intentions.. off we go… trotting down to Guilt Hell.
[Please note – that is a bit of rubbish on the ground behind Shaggy, not Plovey Poop. It could have been, though. Birds are MESSY.]
And then I met Dawne and her friendly sidekick from the Bird Rescue centre out towards Whanganui – wow, what a wealth of knowledge these women have! She helped my with a better diet for my Shaggy – basically you cook up mixed veges, and puree them in a blender (or with a stick blender). That’s important, otherwise they pick out the corn and leave the rest, and that can cause other problems down the track. Then I mix in a packet of cat food. That means Shaggy gets vegetables (they eat vegetation and seeds as well as insects) and protein. She also showed me how to bind his wings to try and correct the Angel Wing. Sadly, it hasn’t worked, and I’ll contact her again shortly to see if I should rebind.
If you have an injured or baby bird, you can contact NZ Bird Rescue for advice and/or help. Their website is www.birdrescue.org.nz , facebook profile is http://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Zealand-Bird-Rescue-Charitable-Trust/104318996316012 . If you live in the Manawatu, you could try calling the Massey University Vet clinic for help. If you are from somewhere else in NZ, a list of bird rescue centres can be found on http://www.nzbirds.com/more/centres.html – be aware that they are usually extremely busy with their birds, so a few of the links to other websites don’t work, and it’s best to phone them rather than email.
At the moment Shaggy lives in my small fenced garden, and seems happy enough, although sometimes he breaks out and comes visiting. He’s a real character, not tame but friendly, and I hope to be able to fix his wings so he can fly properly, and then he can choose whether he wants to stay here, or fly free somewhere where hopefully someone won’t shoot him, just because they can. Wish me (and him!) luck!