Blue Highlands Bird Rescue

This 24-hour avian crisis centre located in Brora has 31 years of experience in bird care and is specialised in beak reparation/reconstruction and broken wing rehabilitation.

Rosy Starling found in Ardgay. / © Blue Highlands Bird Rescue Centre
Oystercatcher. / © Blue Highlands Bird Rescue Centre
House Martin. / © Blue Highlands Bird Rescue Centre

Hundreds of birds with broken wings are rehabilitated and returned to the wild every year. From Ostriches to Swallows, Snowy Owls to razorbills, they never know what will come through the gate, or from what circumstance. So when a poorly male Rosy Starling showed up on the doorstep, thanks to a fast-acting supporter, members of the staff were well-prepared for the small patient, but were scratching their heads as to why this species was here.

Rosy Starlings are not endemic to the UK. Sightings are rare to say the least, but in the last few years, a slight uptick in visitors has been noted nationwide by avid bird-watchers. This little traveler had arrived thin, exhausted, and suffering from a respiratory infection which had grounded him. Directors Lady Hadassah Sarunac Broscova and Jane Wilson had already seen more than 20 victims of this particular infection and had been able to save 3/4 of them. It had primarily hit the Corvid community hard, beginning with Rooks earlier in the season, then moving like wildfire through the Crows and Hoodies.

“We knew it was bacterial, because it had responded well to Synulox. One of our apprentices in Caithness was walking the local rookery daily to find 2-5 fledglings grounded and gasping. This went on for a couple of weeks before cases began turning up from other towns and villages. The Rosy Starling however, was the first case we had come against that had proven the bacteria had jumped species. One rookery lost an entire generation, save the few we were able to bring in,” Broscova explains.

After 17 days of care and antibiotics under close supervision in the Centre’s small surgery, the Rosy Starling fully recovered. He had regained a healthy body weight and was released to return to the wild where he belonged.

When asked about the Rosy’s unusual presence here in the Highlands, Broscova said, “For some strange reason, we seem to consistently receive rare birds. Over 33% of the birds we rehab and release are endangered Red or Amber Listed species. We’ve had 10 Fulmars in 12 months, all successfully raised and/or rehabilitated. Most centres never see one at all. It’s quite possible that our location is part of the reason for this. We are in an area well known for its heavy migratory traffic. With magnetic poles slowly shifting, climate change etc., I think we are not seeing an isolated case of a Rosy Starling being blown off course. Rather, I think we are witnessing the tiny trickle which will eventuate in a river of new, annual visitors of this and other species, heretofore absent from our shores.”

This Highland Avian Centre not only serves as a crisis centre, but also has an educational arm which reaches out to various groups, Universities and organisations in an effort to raise awareness of the rich and unique avian heritage which belongs to Scotland in particular. Its third aim is its Encore programme, which is a vital species survival project. It is squarely focused upon captive breeding of extinct-in-the-wild and endangered species for the express purpose of preventing those species from being relegated to the pages of a book. Offspring are either wild-released or provided to other endangered species programmes with the same aims in order to promote genetic diversification.

Blue Highlands is heavily relied upon not only by the public, but also by the Caithness SSPCA, various law enforcement agencies, and other conservation and wildlife crisis centres. It has quadrupled in the last two years, yet still remains almost entirely self-funded. Medical supplies, over 15 different food varieties for the vast array of different birds that come into care, and new enclosures to meet specific species’ needs are amongst the most urgent needs. To help them go here. Their motto is “Any Bird, Anytime”.

by Hadassah Sarunac Broscova

Last Updated on 10 September, 2021 by Kyle Chronicle

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