What To Do
Gower Bird Hospital - Research
Bird Hospital carries out research into the best ways of caring for sick and injured birds and mammals.
Below are some of the procedures we are using.
|A helminth egg (Syngamus trachea) from a blackbird (Turdus merula).
Bringing science and compassion together to benefit wildlife, conservation and society
Gower Bird Hospital is always looking for ways
to improve facilities for patients. We have made
tremendous progress since registering as a
charity in 1996.
We have always kept meticulous records. Every
patients details are recorded on database
enabling us to answer questions and predict
More than 1600 patients are brought to Gower
Bird Hospital every year and as much history as
possible is noted. So far, the first fledgling
to arrive is always a blackbird in early February!
The microscope is another very useful piece of
equipment. Samples of all bird and hedgehog
droppings are looked at and parasite burdens
monitored and recorded.
We are in the process of compiling an extensive
range of photographs and video recordings which
will be useful to wildlife hospitals everywhere.
The CCTV system is invaluable when assessing
patients fitness. All wildlife will be wary of
predators, and people are seen as predators by
most wild birds.
If a wild bird can see you it will try to disguise
any weakness in the wild a weak specimen is
always targeted as easy prey. Standing next to
an aviary and looking in will produce three
different behaviours: the bird will hide behind
the privacy screens provided, remain absolutely
still or panic and hurl itself at the aviary
walls trying to escape, and in the process may cause itself an injury.
None of these actions give us any idea of the
true condition or posture of the bird. Left alone and
observed through the CCTV, the bird will relax
and may drop a painful wing, close a sore
eye or lift the weight off an aching leg.
When we see the bird is showing no signs of
discomfort, has a normal posture as well as behaviour, its on its way to becoming fit enough to be
Hedgehogs also hide their injuries when
frightened. An infra-red camera was set up in
one of our local soft release pens.
All activity in the pen was recorded onto video
using timer switches. The door of the release
pen was open and the hedgehog under observation
was going out to forage for food and returning
to the safety of the nest box for the day.
Watching the recordings we could see that the hedgehog
was limping badly on one of its back legs. We
took the hedgehog out of the nest box to examine it, and
because the hedgehog was frightened by the disturbance
it showed no sign of a limp the hedgehog even ran
across the lawn. Without the CCTV, we could not
have known the hedgehog was in trouble.
|Simon in the
Increasing our knowledge
|The use of CCTV also gives an
excellent opportunity to observe behaviour.
Footage is recorded and studied, leading to
great improvements in aviary design and the
mental well-being of our patients.
Students from Swansea University use the
facilities at Gower Bird Hospital to carry out
The welfare of our patients is paramount. No
experiments are carried out to induce stress
we record normal activities at the Hospital and
only this behaviour is studied.
We simply wouldnt have the time to do all this
vital but time-consuming work ourselves, but we
do spend a great deal of time supervising the
students and organising projects which are
beneficial to both students and Gower Bird
One student has studied more than 1,000 hours of video recordings of
hedgehogs over-wintering at the Hospital. These
are young hedgehogs too small to hibernate.
Like many other wildlife hospitals, our protocols were to keep hedgehogs
together in a designated room. We provided environmental enrichment by using
dry leaves and bark chippings on the floor, a selection of nest boxes and
As hedgehogs are normally solitary animals, we
were worried that close confinement with others,
even if siblings, could result in stressed
We had already observed signs of sustained fighting and bullying this
simply wouldnt happen in the wild as the
hedgehogs would always be able to move away from
each other. Our concern was that the unnatural
confinement might be leading to aggressive
behaviour and chronic stress.
The hedgehog room was flooded with infrared
light and four cameras recorded the hedgehogs'
activities. Different groups of hedgehogs' were
filmed all-male, all-female, a mixture of
sexes, different sizes.
The study showed that group housing conditions significantly altered the hedgehogs' behaviour patterns.
Housing individuals in groups resulted in undesirable characteristics, including less weight gain,
less time nesting and anti-social behaviour such as fighting.
From a welfare perspective the results suggested that housing hedgehogs alone is the most appropriate practice.
||A still from the infrared CCTV, the screen
has been split into four to record as much
hedgehog behaviour as possible.
| Wildlife rehabilitation centres are an untapped resource for
research and research material.
Potentially hundreds of thousands of wild animals are admitted every year
into rescue centres across the UK. Many of these animals may die or will have to be euthanased due to the extent of their injuries.
Instead of being disposed of they could be playing an important role in disease surveillance and
When things start to go wrong in the environment it often manifests with casualties
turning up on the doorstep of these organisations.
With some basic training to enhance what many wildlife
rehabilitators are already doing, an early warning system for changes in the state of wildlife health and
diversity of disease in the UK could be developed.
Gower Bird Hospital has been engaging in research and supplying research material to demonstrate the usefulness
of such centres in disease surveillance and environmental monitoring.
As an example of disease surveillance the
centre supplied 4% of birds and 25% of the avian species for the surveillance of West Nile virus
in British birds for the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency Diseases of Wildlife Scheme.
Another example is material
supplied for environmental monitoring projects. 15% of the animals in a study on the accumulation of anticoagulant
rodenticides in hedgehogs came from our centre, representing 100% of the sample from Wales.
Gower Bird Hospital relies entirely on donations. If you would
like to make a donation online, click the button below. To send a cheque or donate by monthy standing-order, please print our
donation form and
post it back to us. This form also includes the Inland Revenue Gift
Aid declaration that enables us to reclaim the tax that would
otherwise be kept by the treasury.
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Gower Bird Hospital, Sandy Lane, Pennard,
Swansea, SA3 2EW
Tel: 01792 371630
Reg. Charity No. 1053912
The pictures and the text on this website are not in the public
domain and must not be copied or used in all or in part without
prior written permission from the copyright owners.
Pictures: © Chinch Gryniewicz
Text © Gower Bird Hospital