The young chick, estimated to be about three weeks old, was found on the ground under the willow tree where the birds nest, after either falling or being pushed out by a sibling. Pagel House owner Lyn Dugmore rescued the young chick, but had no idea what or how to feed it, so quickly sent out messages to everyone she knew who she thought might be able to help.
The first suggestion was Pronutro, but this proved to be very difficult to get down the bird’s throat due to its stickiness- the young chick has no swallowing reflex. She was then put in touch with African Dawn, a bird and wildlife sanctuary at Thornhill, which also caters for bird rehabilitationAn expert talked her through the whole feeding process, including how to hold the chick with its head tipped right back to open the gullet and then push the food down. Lean mince, moistened with water, was the suggested food, or meal worms- Lyn used very finely chopped pieces of kudu steak, which went down a treat!
On Saturday, Lyn was ecstatic as the chick reached its next milestone, when it would take small pieces of meat from her hand. Much as she would have loved to keep the chick to raise herself, she realised that it would not be practical, and on Sunday she bid a sad farewell to young Kopertjie when he was taken to African Dawn, where it will initially spend some time in quarantine. In the sanctuary’s 20 years’ existence, it has never had a young hamerkop chick, so staff and volunteers there are very much looking forward to the challenge of rearing the young bird.
Three years ago, the Pagel House hamerkops were also in the news, when a record six young chicks were hatched from a single breeding pair. There were no chicks in the last two years, but Lyn thinks there is at least one other still in the nest now as the parents are active around the nest, bringing food. Normally the young fledglings only leave the nest when they are fully grown, somewhere between 40 and 55 days. Guests at Pagel House mid December may well be in for a treat!