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A personal story from one of our carers – the reason we keep caring!

Three weeks in care and this Sacred Kingfisher’s eye problem had resolved itself. Photo by Ateeka Poole.

Due to the Sacred Kingfisher’s love of waterways, the many springs, creeks, lakes and rivers in our beautiful Shire make a desirable place for these birds to call their home. Though they do love to eat small fish they also live on terrestrial prey such as insects, lizards and invertebrates.

Therefore, I guess it was not a complete surprise when driving through the Chittering Valley we came across one of these beautiful creatures being harassed by a crow on the side of the road. The real surprise came when I pulled over to investigate and found that the kingfisher made no visible response to my approach. I was able to lean down and gently pick up this delicate creature without fuss. On further inspection I discovered why.
This young bird had obviously recently come off second best against a vehicle traveling past. It had received some trauma which included sustaining what is referred to in medical terms as a “Hyphema” which is when blood collects inside the front of the eye or in this case eyes, plural. This poor little bird could not see a thing.

As I had not come across symptoms quite this severe in this species, I reached out to fellow Chittering Wildlife Carers (CWC) and to the amazing people at the Bullsbrook Vet seeking ideas on a treatment plan. In the end the plan was quite simple, rest, nutrition and lots of love.

We were soon to discover that this brave Kingfisher had such an incredible will to live. It seemed right that it soon earned the name “Lil Lionheart”.

Fortunately we have an endless supply of minnows from a nearby creek. Though it couldn’t see a thing, the little Kingfisher felt the slippery little fish touching its beak while being hand fed and responded by vigorously devouring any number of them. It was as though its small frame hid a bottomless pit. Over the course of the next few weeks it seemed as though the bird had developed telepathic skills as it gradually began to track our movements. The truth however, wasn’t quite that mysterious. On closer inspection the redness in the eyes was slowly resolving. First one pupil then the other made an appearance and our little Lionheart began to feed for itself by plucking minnows from a bowl of water set at the bottom of its cage. It was quite astonishing at how fast its little beak moves in its search for a quick meal.

Towards the end of its third week in care it was happily flying around a larger aviary and with great precision landing on fine branches. Though it still had a small spot of red in its eyes, it was not interfering with its abilities. Lil Lionheart was telling us it was ready to be released.

The following morning, our young son went to the creek for what we thought would be the last time to collect minnows so Lil Lionheart would be released with a full stomach. We placed a bowl with the minnows on a fence post by the creek and gently placed the Kingfisher nearby. After a few minutes of gazing around at the new environment and having a quick snack, Lil Lionheart took to the air and checked out a few nearby trees. Though we have seen other Kingfishers on our property in the past we were quite taken aback by the sudden appearance of a second Kingfisher who came down to check out the new bird in town. This was followed by a lengthy conversation between the two before they both took to the sky and disappeared down the creek line together.

It’s always a mix of emotions when releasing a patient. A little sadness as you can’t help but make a bond with animals in your care and you know you probably won’t ever see them again. There is also a little worry as to what the future might hold for them. This time however, there was nothing but joy as we could sense both birds’ happiness at their new discovery of each other.
To top things off, on a whim, my son left a new batch of minnows in a bowl on the fence post the following morning “just in case” they might show up again. And guess what, they did! It was like they wanted to say a final farewell and possibly give us a “thank you” for the care and love received. Or maybe Lil Lionheart just wanted to let us know it was ok. It filled our hearts and reminded us why we do what we do in caring for our vulnerable and injured wildlife. It was magical.

Though it’s been a number of weeks since that visit and even though we haven’t seen this pair since, it’s great to know that they’re out there; back where they belong. Feathered jewels in our beautiful Chittering landscape.