Being sentient means to have the capacity to have positive and negative experiences, such as feeling pain and pleasure. This applies at the very least to all animals with centralised nervous systems. Sentient beings have their very own unique personalities. We should refer to them as “he/she”, “them/they” or by species. The words “it” or “thing” should not be used to refer to an animal, and “who” is used rather than “that”. If you do not know the gender, then choose one: “he” or “she”. Even if your gender choice is wrong, it is more respectful than “it”. This is an important way of demonstrating the respect we ask others to afford all animals.
Editor’s note: This blog post has been updated on 12/04/2018.
Admission – 30/07/2017
Narziss and Goldmund are two premature house martin fledglings, who have been found on the ground being unable to fly. Their nest allegedly came down for unknown reasons. According to the finder, Narziss has been spotted in the morning being on the ground and unable to fly, but has been left there for reasons unknown. Only as Goldmund has been spotted in the afternoon, also being found on the ground, both birds have been collected by the finder and brought to us. The admission assessment did not reveal any external injuries. However, both house martins demonstrated very obvious signs of dehydration, starvation and exhaustion.
Imprinting of rescue bird is an often hotly debated topic amongst bird lovers, wildlife rehabilitators and rescuers, where voiced opinions range considerably. One extreme approach to this topic suggests that imprinted birds are principally unreleasable, and that once a bird is imprinted that this situation cannot be reversed. The other extreme opinion considers all imprinted birds as releasable and implies that these birds have similar survival chances in the wild compared to birds who have not been imprinted. However, own experiences and those of fellow rehabbers have shown that, and this should actually not be unexpected, the truth lies neither in the middle nor is it to find in one or the other extreme. To find an answer, it seems worth to explore some basic underlying processes, like imprinting, learning, conditioning and habituation.
This short videoclip shows one of those beautiful occasions, where we were privileged to be part of the daily lives of our wild non-human animal neighbours. Just by chance we have been able to document and record a fascinating playful interaction or variation of social play occurring between a wild young rook and a mixed group of rooks and jackdaws as well as a small flock of residential pigeons circling the area. Just a few seconds after the rook had drawn the attention of one of the approaching jackdaws, the rook decided to disengage and to follow the leaving birds.
” Social play is an excellent example of a behavior in which many animals partake, and one that they seem to enjoy immensely. Individuals become immersed in the activity, and there seems to be no goal other than to play. As Groos (1898) pointed out, animals at play appear to feel incredible freedom. “1
Social play observed amongst non-human animals including corvids plays an important part in the emotional lives of many non-human animal species. During our daily interactions with our corvid patients, residents and visiting wild birds, we are frequently able to observe many of these intricate nuances of their fascinating emotional lives, and even get sometimes involuntarily involved in their playfulness and cheekiness. Although many encounters we are able to witness may serve a specific purpose, a purpose we may or may not fully understand, some incidents like the playing rook in the video clip, might just be what it seems – a bird having a bit of fun, nothing more and nothing less.
Our routine aviary cleaning procedures also involve the cleaning of drinking and bathing facilities of our crows. This is usually seen with great anticipation by all our corvids. Birds in general, but in particulat corvids, are very clean birds, and can’t wait to make use of a refreshing bath. We frequently add apple cider vinegar to bath and drinking water, which keeps the water longer fresh and has positive health properties for the birds.
The video shows our female carrion crow Pepper taking advantage of a bath in natural apple cider vinegar, before we have been actually able to add drinking water to dilute the vinegar further. This behaviour can be seen as the equivalent to or a variation of anting, frequently observed in the wild.
Anting can take on different forms. Some birds will pick up ants in their beaks and rub them over their feathers, while others will open their wings, lie down and allow ants to penetrate their plumage. Birds seem to prefer using ants that produce formic acid. Formic acid is being used by ants as a defence mechanism.
One theory on anting is that the formic acid could act as a fungicide, bactericide and insect repellent, while others think that it is the vitamin D content in the acid that birds are interested in. However, birds sometimes use alternative anting tools, such as millipedes and fruit, and in our case apple cider vinegar. Some scientists believe that anting is used to preen feathers and helps to prevent the drying out of the plumage. Another suggestion is that anting has an intoxicating effect on birds, as some birds have been seen to shake themselves and seemingly lose control over their ability to walk.