I’d been on the road for a couple of weeks and returned home to Wonboyn Lake to recharge my batteries.
“Pam the Postmistress has an unusual baby bird,” my husband added as he gave me all the news. “She’s not sure what it is and neither do most of the locals.”
I hot-footed it over to the Wonboyn Store to check out this mystery bird, camera at the ready to record the event.
Pam had cared for injured and orphaned wildlife for years and was always the first port of call for any animal or bird in distress. Her home – rescue central – became a crèche for baby birds as their stressed out parents utilised her back veranda as a drop off point for baby magpies, lorikeets and parrots. The adult birds would leave their babies in her care as they had a day away looking for food and perhaps some peace and quiet.
I was not surprised that a local had dropped in this new chick – and was curious to see what she had rescued this time. Wonboyn Lake, on the edge of the Nadgee Wilderness area, has quite a list of predators putting orphaned animals and birds at risk. Dingoes, foxes and birds of prey are high on the list with humans travelling a little fast in their cars a hazard too. Pam and other caring locals often rescued animals and birds needing human help.
In Pam’s lounge room settled snugly in a nest of soft fabric on the floor was the new arrival.
“What is this one Susie?” Pam asked as she lifted the very young chick out for me to examine.
The gawky chick resting in the palm of her hand was the most beautifully, ugly baby bird l had ever seen. On its shiny, red, bald domed head sat a shock of downy fluff. Blue sticks fanned across its body with no feathers formed as yet on what one day would be wings.
Pam gently sat the chick on the carpet and instantly it was clear that she had a baby lyrebird, as it attempted to raise itself up on quite long legs. Its elongated feet and claws made it easy to identify. The chick was a very vulnerable young one. It was clearly in need of care.
“It was found under a local’s washing line so they dropped it in for me to save. We don’t think it would have lasted long on its own,” Pam said, worried.
We discussed food sources and l suggested worms as her best bet. She had spent a small fortune over a few days on mealy worms and was concerned that she might have misjudged the dietary needs of this hungry baby bird.
I had met an orphaned lyrebird many years ago at the Healesville Sanctuary – Chook was raised from an egg and quickly imprinted on humans showing interest in selected visitors to his walkthrough aviary. I wandered into his enclosure and in a flash he perched on my arm and started displaying. It was an amazing experience.
I could see that this little chap had formed quite an attachment to Pam in the few days it had been in her care. I dangled a worm enticingly above its little beak and it ate the worm with enjoyment. Water was dribbled into its gaping beak with an eyedropper. It waddled across to Pam like a toddler taking his first steps as soon as she appeared in the little chick’s line of vision.
Years ago l had briefly saw an older chick on the Wonboyn Road only to see it disappear into the bush when l stopped the car – this little bloke was the youngest lyrebird l had ever met. I quickly took as many photos as l could without disturbing him too much.
Pam was concerned about his diet and realised, with Christmas approaching and her family due with their dogs, that raising this little chick was simply not an option.
Our local WIRES carers were more than happy to complete the rescue of our littlest lyrebird – the first they had cared for as well. We are blessed to have such dedicated and well informed people living not far from us. The tiny chick is being cared for on a bushland retreat and will be released back into his home area when fully grown.
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