Here is an email about bluetits received in 2006

Hello
First of all thank you for your informative site. The information regarding Tits has saved 4 babies. 
I need to know when I should move the babies to an aviary in the garden. They are in a large cage (26"H x 24"W x 16"D) indoors at the
moment and feeding on white maggots, from tweezers very well. They are not picking up food for themselves yet.
The background to these 4 Blue Tits is as follows;
We have been watching this box with a mini camera so were able to see all developments. Both parents were lost to Sparrow Hawk, female
first and male 4 days later. The male continued to feed for last 4 days. The babies were fully fledged and almost ready to leave the nest. At this
time there were 6 babies, one left the nest on the day the male was lost but the others stayed in the nest. By the next morning there was no sign
of the male and one of the babies had died in the nest box so we decided to intervene and feed them ourselves.
I am not sure at what stage I should move them to a larger area so that they can fly more and learn about their surroundings and become independent.
My other concern is varying the food. They are eating mainly white maggots some mealworms and occasionally paste made from dried egg food. Is this OK?
Please can you help?
Many thanks
Eileen

REPLY
Hello Eileen
Well done for rescuing the four orphaned babies and taking over their rearing. I was just discussing sparrow hawks with a friend today; they
are beautiful birds and they have to eat and feed chicks too, but it does feel unfair when they kill parent birds working so hard to rear their own babies.

Baby bluetits are still fed by the parents for quite a time after leaving the nest, The length of time depends on how quickly they learn to feed themselves
as well as the availability of food. I suggest taking them outdoors in their current cage in good weather, when you are in the garden and can keep an
eye on them.  Put them near the nest site or wherever you propose to release them if possible, so they get an idea of the geography. Ideally you need to
keep them mainly indoors until they are all eating some food for themselves and their tail feathers are more like an adult's in length.

Chopped maggots are the easiest food to give in tweezers and are very nutritious but a tiny pinch of SA37 or similar avian vitamin and mineral
supplement once a day in the food would ensure they get everything they need.  Some dry foods to tempt them to feed themselves are obtainable from
good pet shops (Sluis is one make, or ask them for robin food! ) Otherwise Haiths stock some good stuff (www.Haiths.com) such as Golden chorus,
Prosecto and mealworm crumble. A small fat ball hung up in the cage might also tempt them to peck.

I wouldn't move them outside until the weather is a bit less changeable, unless you can cover at least half of the aviary roof and the windward side with
a tarpaulin, to keep them sheltered.  As they don't have parents to call them in out of the rain, the babies do tend to be a bit lacksadaisical and need
protecting from themselves at first! That's why we don't provide a big dish of water in case they bathe for too long and get cold. They need thin twigs to
perch on at various heights and some of those rope nesting pockets or even a nest box might be advisable for shelter in case the weather turns cold again. 

 In an outside aviary we offer them food from tweezers every 2 hours throughout the day, but  provide alternate feeding options  such as:

1 Fat-balls hung from a wire in the roof and placed near twigs for the birds to perch nearby until they learn to hang on them. 
2 Hanging plastic peanut nets or wire mesh peanut holders.
3 Small plastic budgie-feeding dishes (the sort with wire prongs on the back) hung at various heights and containing Prosecto or Sluis Insectivorous
       food with a couple of live maggots or small mealworms on top to catch their attention.

4 A small dish of drinking water
5 Rose prunings or other plants with colonies of greenfly for them to investigate.

 Eventually, after a week or two (it's rather variable I'm afraid) they become a bit shy and sometimes refuse to come for the food. If you can spy on them
and see how well they are feeding, you can judge when to let them out. They need to be able to fly up to twigs high up in the aviary and to eat all the
different sorts of food to be capable of surviving outside.

 Open the aviary door early in the morning on a fine day, but prop it open so they can get back in for the food if they need to.  We still go back to the
aviary and the nearby trees 2 or 3 times a day to offer food in tweezers and always find that after about 5 days they don't come back to us.  Usually,
on their first days outside they come and perch on your head or the food dish, but it doesn't take long before they find fresh caterpillars and bugs.

Well, I think that's emptied my brain of information, but if there's anything you're not sure about, so write again and I'll try to help.

 Best wishes to you all!

Hello
Thank you for all the information, which I am finding very useful.
We have made our arbour into a temporary aviary by covering it with pond netting putting a second layer over the exposed front so that the sparrow hawk will not
be able to get near if it returns. We have furnished the aviary with a large branch off an oak tree and it backs on to a thick hawthorn hedge, we plan to release them into it.
We put them into the aviary today as they were obviously needing more room. This will be their first night outside. As for eating they will peck at the egg food quite
readily but are not interested in anything that wriggles unless it is offered to them on tweezers.
I thought you might like to see them so far and attach 2 photos taken today.
Many thanks
Eileen
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