We rescued jackdaw Saber as a juvenile bird in June 2014, after we managed to free him from his entanglement in an insufficiently deployed and damaged nylon bird net. We found him hanging head down on his leg whilst his wing was twisted and entangled in the loose strands of the damaged net. Saber must have been trapped in this position for a prolonged period of time, as he was very weak, barely responsive and in shock. Saber suffered severe soft tissue injuries to his left wing, a subluxated hock joint and a paralysis of the left foot caused by nerve damage.
Sabers ordeal can be used as a sad example to illustrate the dangers of insufficiently installed and maintained nylon bird netting. This kind of netting is one of the most expensive and at the same time one of the poorest performing bird control products available. It is well established that there are alternative, more effective and more importantly humane methods available to address genuine problems caused by birds. However, it is also a known fact that the ‘traditional’ pest control industry is a big money making business. Therefore it does not come as a surprise that nylon bird netting is most commonly recommended by pest control contractors due to its profitability. The lifespan of this product is extremely limited and almost completely dependent on the quality of installation and whether the netting is maintained throughout its lifetime. This kind of netting needs to be regularly re-tensioned to stop the product stretching and becoming ineffective, which is something the client is not necessarily being told. Nylon bird netting expands and contracts with extremes of heat and cold and therefore quickly becomes baggy if it is not re-tensioned regularly. When netting does become compromised as a result of a small tear, or when hog rings come away from the retaining wire, birds and other animals will be able to enter the netted area and become easily trapped, as did Saber. In this context it is worth noting that when birds do become trapped behind poorly installed or degraded nylon bird netting installations, it is not the pest control company, which has installed the netting, but it is the property owner who is legally responsible for the welfare of the trapped birds (Animal Welfare Act 2006 & Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981).
Despite the severity of Saber’s completly avoidable and tragic ordeal, which has been caused by human ignorance and incompetence, Saber recovered and adapted very well. Due to his injuries, Saber was not releasable and moved eventually into one of our communal jackdaw aviaries. He settled in very well and managed to find his place in spite of his impairment. Although he was one of the younger birds in the aviary at the time of admission, it did not take him long until he secured his place in jackdaw society, and soon after he became the leader of this small jackdaw flock. Almost one year after his admission Saber bonded with Jacqueline, an imprinted and unreleasable jackdaw, who joined the aviary almost at the same time as Saber. We took over Jacqueline’s care when she was about two years old, after she was found, raised and imprinted as a fledgling by a well meaning person. As Jacqueline has been raised by her own, we knew that chances of rehabilitation and release were almost not existing. Jacqueline was unable to communicate and socialise with wild jackdaws, not to talk about all the other essential survival skills she was lacking, which would have been required to survive in the wild. So at the time we have been very pleased that with love and patience we eventually managed to integrate Jacqueline safely into our residential jackdaw community, which is not always possible in those cases of severly imprinted birds like her. It took almost one year until Jacqueline’s social status changed from a tolerated outsider to an accepted member of the flock. And to our big surprise, it was Saber, who made this possible. Thanks to Jacqueline’s charm, her positive attitude and eagerness to learn, she eventually managed to adopt the essential parts of jackdaw communication and behaviour, and did also find her place in Saber’s heart. From this moment onward Saber and his first lady Jacqueline were unseparable, until a few days ago, when Saber fell unexpectedly ill from one moment to the other. Only a few hours later, Saber did fall asleep and passed peacefully away in our care…
Saber, we are very saddened but also very grateful that we had the privilege to get to know each other. You have been very dear to our hearts and you will be sincerely missed! Rest in peace old friend!