Any worthwhile discussion of baby birds will wisely lean heavily towards young shorebirds, which are surely among the most adorable of all immature avifauna. And despite our evident New World bias here at 10,000 Birds, we have a fondness for Old World shorebirds like thick-knees. We’ve shared plenty of pictorals of adult thick-knees, also known as stone-curlews or Dikkops, from Senegal Thick-knee (here) to Beach Stone-curlew (here) to Bush Thick-knee (here and here). But thick-knee babies are the cutest Charadriiforms you’d ever want to see.
Mervyn van Rooyen in South Africa experienced the wonder of a wee thick-knee in a way very few of us ever will. One could have been just another cat-triggered tragedy (keep your cats indoors) turned into an unforgettable experience…
My wife and I (retired) had a truly wonderful experience at the end of 2011 when our cat brought in a newly hatched Dikkop. We raised this little fella to a young adult. I had to put Pro-Nutro on my tongue and and lift his beak in order to get him to eat he was so young. He lived with us for eight weeks and six days and had the run of the garden at night. We knew he would leave once he could fly and a week after he finally got off the ground he was gone. This is what we wanted but it made us very sad! He became very special over those few weeks. He wasn’t allowed in the house but every now and then we would hear a “piep, piep, peep” and we’d know he was inside calling us. He actually didn’t like to be alone and even made friends with the cat who would sit with him for hours. A very special experience!! The best is he has been back to visit three times but always kept his distance.
Mervyn shared some of Dikkie the Spotted Dikkop’s baby pictures:
Presenting Dikkie the Spotted Dikkop
We bought him a mirror because he kept looking at his reflection in the glass of the door
A second after this photo was taken he grabbed the cat by the tail, but only for a fraction
of a second because he received a stiff clout from the cat.
Showing off to my wife. He only did this for her. It didn’t seem
aggressive – he seemed to be communicating with her.
I swear he was saying goodbye here. This was taken the last full day he was with us.
Dikkie (that’s the name we gave him – and he would come running when I called him!) was just delightful! With a name like Dikkop, I expected him to be stupid because Dikkop means Thick Head, but that was certainly not the case! In actual fact, the last Sunday morning he was with us he had a late morning sleep with us in bed! Unfortunately no photos of that. He came looking for us — presumably because we were late in getting up. My wife said, “Put a towel on the bed (for reasons you will know) and let him spend time with us here.” I put an old towel on the bed between us and put my hand on top of him which he always liked and we all had a snooze!
Many thanks to Mervyn for sharing this terrific tale! All photos © Mervyn van Rooyen.
Baby Bird Week is our celebration of the young, the cute, the adorable, the twee. We certainly spend enough time on adult birds here on 10,000 Birds so we figured it would only make sense to fawn over the fuzzy bundles of fluff that grow up to become the objects of our fascination. Whether you seek out waterfowl, songbirds, or seabirds we will have baby birds to match your obsession.
Baby Bird Week will run from 15-21 July, Sunday until Saturday. Make sure to check back every day or even multiple times a day to keep up with all the baby bird goodness!
Crushingly adorable. The picture of him and the mirror is hilarious…what an awkwardly shaped bird!
Wow! Thank you Mervyn for sharing such a unique experience!!
That is a great story. thanks for sharing.
An amazing story! I also liked watching its eye color change as it grew. Thank you!
What a wondeful story. Our attention was recently drawn to an event next door to our Lodge when a bird, later identified as an adult spotted Dikkop, was seen wrestling with what appeared to be a small boomslang. The end result amazingly, was the boomslang dissapearing down the throat of the Dikkop! End of fight! The two adult birds are now nesting (they have two eggs) nearby. We are constantly observing their behaviour and antics and aim to witness and catalogue the hatching of her two chicks. If all goes well and if we are able to, we will post a photo or two.
For what it’s worth, the Dikkie episode took place over a year ago and he has been back several times. Most of the time we hear the typical dikkop call in the garden (at night) but early in the morning we hear the Piep – piep – Peep call that we are familiar with when he came into the house over a year ago. I swear he is calling us! Then we allways know that it is him. I have tried to coax him to come to me but he keeps his distance. Sad but still warm experience.
What a great story and happy ending !!
I am currently attempting to raise a little Dikkop Chick that was deserted by its parents. He hatched 2 days after the first chick and was very weak if compared to the other chick.
The Chick was barely 2 days old. I noticed that the grown dikkop bird ate snails, because there are usually snail shells in the garden in the morning. I had no idea what to feed the little chick, but got he bright idea to feed him snails. I shelled the snails and fed it to him with a tweezer. It is now 7 days later and he seem to be a strong chap now. He eats up to 4 small snails every two hours when I feed him. I also give him some of my cat’s Friskies wet food. he seem to love it!
I hope he survives my feeding! I named him Pietie.
Hi. I picked up a small dikkop yesterderday. I really dont know what to feed him. Could anyone please help? (Im having trouble typing this. He keeps running on the keyboard! 🙂 )
I think it depends on whether he has imprinted himself to his parents. If so you’re going to have some difficulty because he won’t let you feed him. Someone brought one like that to me a few weeks ago (because of my”Dikkie” experience) and he eventually died because (I think) he didn’t know how to eat and wouldn’t take food from me. With my wife’s help I managed to carefully open his beak and pop some boiled egg in but I think that was too late. If he hasn’t imprinted to his parents you can teach him to eat by putting things like Pro-Nutro on you tongue and offering it to him. Once he starts taking that introduce him to boiled egg. Eventually, when he is a bit bigger get meal worms for him from a pet shop. He’ll battle to get the technique of eating worms right to start with but once mastered your troubles are over. He’ll make a pig of himself!
We have a baby dikkop now for 2 weeks, it is becoming a problem at the office, if it doesn’t sleep on my lap it makes such a noise you have to pick it up.
Would you like to maybe take over and rear him/her as you seem to have made a success with your previous dikkop.
Please let me know.
okay so i found a baby dikkop this morning and put it in a cage. it seems healthy and keeps chirping. I’m not sure what to feed it or how or pretty much anything but i’ve put it in a cage with some water. any ideas on how to look after it?
Dikkop birds do not drink water. They get their food from the wet food they eat. So do not worry if it does not drink water.
1. Snails without shells chopped up if it is large snails. Small snails crushed with shells works well.
2. Scrambled egg, with lots of moisture.
4. Raw chicken livers, wet.
The chick will not attempt to fly until it is 30 – 40 days old. It will stay and run around on the ground. You may think that is cannot fly at all!. When it reaches about 35 – 40 days it will get lift with its wings and will fly away when you least expect it.
Let us know how the little one is doing.
The one I raised stayed indoors (I let it out in the garden in the mornings for about 15 minutes.) The chick will follow you every where. It also poo’s every where. However, it is very rewarding to eventually see it healthy and flying off to a new future.
The little chick is doing wonderfully. i’m not sure how old it is but i’m excited to see how it progresses 🙂 Thanks for the advice it really helped. 🙂
Oh yes, the parents live at the park across from our house. I was wondering if you would know if we could get them back together would the parents take the chick back? I have of course already handled the chick so i’m not sure????
I do not think they will take the chick back. I think that they raise the chicks according to how well they eat and how strong they are and keeps on feeding the strongest chick the better food.
The one I raised was very weak when I found it. It was 2 days old and could hardly walk. I tried to introduce the chick to the parents a couple of days later, but they saw it as an intruder and chased it away aggressively. In fact I could not dare leave the chick outside in the area of the parents.
I have a 2000 sq meter plot. The Dikkops have been nesting here every year for the past 4 years. So far they only raised 2 chicks successfully. So the survival rate amongst them is very low. By the way I also have 9 cats, but that does not put the breeding pair off!
Let us know how you make progress and GOOD LUCK!
Hi Sandre 🙂
So things are going really wonderfully with the little dikkop. I’ve named him Valentine as he i found him on valentines day. He stuffs himself with food and has definitely either grown or got fatter. I have learned that birds poop, A LOT. cleaning is a mission. I was just wondering, if you have 9 cats, how do you keep them from trying to eat the dikkop? Because I have 3 cats but the one is way too interested in the bird!! I have to keep him in a closed room to keep him safe.
The cats are another story. The parents that have been breeding here have taken over the bottom corner of the garden and the cats are well aware of them, because they chase the cats off their part of the garden!
When I introduced the chick, the cats were very interested at first. The chick was VERY small. I then sat on the carpet and let the cats sniff it. That seemed to do the trick and they decided that it was not meant for them. However, I still did not trust the cats and kept the baby Dikkop apart from them until it was about 25 days old and could hiss. I then walked in the garden with the Dikkop and at least 5 of the cats on tow! Quite a sight.
I solved the poop problem by putting down newspaper and covering fresh poop with small pieces of news paper. I then changed the newspapers every other day. The chick was quite clever and made a big racket when it heard me in the kitchen which is next to the room where I kept it. If I let it, it would follow me everywhere. (The poop stopped me from allowing that!)
It is quite weird that Dikkops do not drink water. Remember to give it wet food for moisture.
Thank you very much for your replies!
Hi I was the most amazing story. On Friday night I saw the same bird you and wife were nursing. They are amazing birds and I love bird watching I find it very relaxing and rewarding.
We have a Dikkop family that moved onto our property a couple of months ago. They recently had babies and we delightfully keep a close eye on them. It is priceless! We also have a Kiewiet family and they are also very protective over the Dikkop babies.
Two dikkops have taken up residence in the bottom right hand corner of my back yard. They have only laid one egg which is very exposed in a bed of cacti type plants. I feed 2 ferral cats in this corner and the two dikkops hiss at me and the male spreads his wings and mock charges me whenever I come to collect the cat bowls and bring fresh food. I really think that once the chick hatches that it will be easy prey to these cats. A meerkat regularlly visits my yard. I think it is waiting for an opportunity to snatch this egg. I really hope this egg hatches and the chick survives. My two cats are now old and do not pose a threat at all.
We rescued a 5 day old dikkop this morning, have been watching for weeks in anticipation of their arrival as they made their nest next door to us. We managed to open his beak and feed him some water mixed with egg yolk. Any suggestions? We would love to help this little guy. The parents with the other sibling remain next door. He must have been the weaker one as we found him in the drain, very week.
I’d hate to sound like an expert on Dikkops ’cause I’m not but a bit of boiled egg (especially the yoke) should do the trick. Be careful about force feeding him. We took one on a little while ago and he wouldn’t eat. I suspect we did something wrong because he died. If you can get him to eat boiled egg you’ll be on the right track. After a week or so go to your local pet shop and buy him some meal worms. He’ll battle to figure out how to eat them but once he gets that right there will be no stopping him!
thank you so much Mervyn!!!!! We have been giving ‘Pebbles’ egg yolk with a bit of water every 1-2 hours, but confess have had to open his beak to get some in. We now find him tweeting away every hour, feed him and he goes back to sleep. Hope this is all a good sign?
We also gave some pronutro porridge, is that ok?
Sorry, last comment, will try the boilled egg next 🙂
Try putting a bit of Pro Nutro on your tongue and then keep lifting the tip of his beak with your tongue. You should, after a while, feel him tasting the food and then he’ll keep eating. You only need to do this once or twice and he will get the idea of feeding himself. That’s when the boiled egg comes into play.
I fed the one I found snails. At first I took large snails and cut them up into small pieces. (bit of a mess) If you take smaller snails you still have to remove the shell. On about 4 weeks I gave it small snails whole with soft shells.
Dikkops does NOT drink water as they get the moisture from their food. I also gave them scrambled egg and made sure that was moist.
They are meat eaters and need lots of protein. I think a mixture of snails, scrambled egg and maybe worms will do the trick. You are in it for 2 months. They are not keen to leave, bute one day he will up an fly away.
All the best
They are meat eaters. Give snails, worms and scrambled egg. All the stuff is moist. That is how they take water in. They do not drink water.
All the best
Baby ‘Pebble’ as we named her did well through the night. I have however taken the chance to reunite the chick with it’s parents. The mother took her under her wing!!! Hope this is a good sign. Will they bring up both chicks? It was such a precious moment when the chick ran to it’s parents 🙂
I’d say his chances are pretty good. I suspect the adults only abandon very weak newly hatched ones. If you’ve managed to get food into him I’m sure he’ll be ok. We’ve had Dikkop adults with two chicks in our garden fairly often.
Thank you so much for all the help and advice, I’m almost sorry we won’t get to take care of him . . . but seeing the family together is so precious. 🙂 Won’t ever forget the sight of that little chick running to his mom xxx
Hi so,I found a baby dokkop today,he was wondering around in my garden and calling for his mom an dad,and sadly,when my brother got home he said he saw the mommy and daddy on the road and they were dead so I decided to be the surrogate mommy for little hennie,he’s a very chatty little guy with a healthy appetite,my only concern is that I have two cats who are quite partial to having birds as a midnight snack,and since I only found hennie today I’m keeping him in a little basket with Ali’s,does anyone have any ideas for a little happy place for my baby that the cats can’t get to him,I would love to keep him as he’s already stolen my heart but I’m so worried the cats get to him????
Hennie is a lucky little guy. Best to feed him a diet of snails, scrambled egg and maybe worms. They do not drink water, so make sure his food is moist.
I kept Pietie, the Dikkop I raised for 2 months, until it flew away, in a little pen made from the plastic type of mesh which I made into a circle. It was about 40 cm high. He stayed in the pen. To make the cleaning easier I put newspaper on the floor and changed it every day.
I also kept Pietie in a basket for the first 2 weeks, but he quickly got too big for it. I have 9 cats and had the same problem as you have. I kept Pietie in a separate room, away from my cats. However, they soon learnt too live with him. However, I only allowed “supervised” contact. Dikkops are quite arrogant and will his at your cats as he gets older.
Every morning and evening I took Pietie for a walk in the garden. They lost the other chick as well, but did not want anything to do with Piete. After about 2 months Pietie flew away and I never saw him again.
Good luck. You are going to have a unique experience.
I have a pair of Dikkops with a chick – they have decided to take up residence in the garden….. I do have cats, (3) and one is a problem, so will lock them all up at night. Do I leave these birds, or make a special fence around the area? Do I let the lawn mower mow for instance? They did lay eggs during October, but abandoned them, when i fenced it all off. So off the went, and lo and behold they arrived yesterday or the day before with the baby. There may be two, but I have only seen one.
The baby fell in the pool last night, we saved it and this morning it is running around the garden with its parents.So hopefully it has imprinted with the parents. I do think may bad cat chased it into the pool. However, the question is, how do i manage the garden now? Being summer up in Joburg, the grass grows very quickly.
I would appreciate suggestions on how to manage this family.
You have a problem on your hands. The 2 Dikkops that visit me returns every year to lay their eggs in my garden. I had 3 cats which were no problem, but I now have a Tom cat that is a huge problem. He already caused them to abandon one set of eggs.
Dikkop birds got their name for a reason (I think) they have absolutely no sense of fear. The adults are aggressive and fends well for themselves. The chicks are defenceless and is vulnerable until they learn to fly —– that takes two months !!
Fencing the garden will not help. They hate being enclosed. They prefer fresh cut grass.. The will then lay their eggs in the middle out in the open. I think it is so they can see danger approaching.
When I had a chick in my garden, I did not cut the grass in the area it lived in.
Now what to do. Chasing them will not work. Keeping the cat in for 2 months is impractical. Hope they do not lay eggs in your garden again …… also impossible.
The sad case is to let nature take its course. The 2 Dikkops that visit me every year now moved across the road to a neighbour’s garden. Also not safe. Unfortunately they lock on to the area they pick to mate in.
Good luck and let us know how it turns out.
I am so god that my friend forwarded this blog. My family and I are experiencing a very similar story. My boy and his dad saved a Thick-Knee chick from the claws of a cat… and it has been with us for the passed week. We have been chasing grasshoppers and feeding them to Long Legs… it also eats boiled eggs and moistened kitty kibble. It has to be kept in the house, unfortunately, because there are several cats in the vicinity and our garden is not fenced off. We do take it out to enjoy the sun and a run around but is supervised constantly. Our dog and cat are kept out of the room for its own safety. it is time consuming but definitely a wonderful experience… I am growing attached to it and it keeps coming towards me when I feed it or sit down to keep it company. Thank you for sharing this story… it is amazing and we cannot wait for it to grow bigger and survive the wild especially that the vet warned us that usually little birds do not survive when raised in the house.
HEllo i found a dikkop but it dosnt want to walk the bird did walk and then i put him in water just to cool him off and now it strugles to walk i think its his foot but the diere kliniek said theres nothing wrong its just he dosnt get the food he must please help me
I have just received a baby Dikkop and an egg busy hatching. Any advice will be helpful at this stage.
I’m feeding meek worm , pronutro. And ringers lactate. I’m a nurse.
I found a baby dikkop on the road. It was cold and wet lying in the rain and hurt, I picked it up and put in a box with tissue to absorb the water took it to work and put in front of the heater. Not only did it survive the day but it survived thru the night too. Now I don’t know what to do with it. Can u advise please
Hi Our two Dikkoppies, now 11 days old; eats small snails shell and all.
I break the shell of the big snails and they then pull the messy bits out and eat it.
They both also drink plenty of water, so make sure that water is available.
Other than that we feed them half cooked chicken livers.
Just a fact check… Dikkops do drink water.
I rescued and handeeared a Dikkop.
He/she loves water and even takes a bath.
I mainly feed kitten pellets softened with hot water, handrearing food then mealworms. I will be feeding crickets and other insects when he/she is older. A high protein diet is crucial.
I have rescued a guinea fowl, a rock pigeon and a tiny dove all being handreared currently with African Grey chicks.
They are in a hot box.
Our Dikkop is free ranged in my home. Sadly I won’t be able to release him/her as they’re more domesticated.
I have handreared numerous birds and mammals. From domestic to wildlife.
Hi, fantastic experience!
10 day’s ago saw 2 chicks with their parents in the street as I always go out when I hear them at night.
Woke up with a bird sound that I’m not familiar with.
They never come through the yard fence but there they were..just outside my patio gate with 1 chick that was moaning a lot.
Opened the gate, ran in to get my camera and then all 3 was standing in front of the entrance door.
Could see that the chick was hurt..eye closed and cut behind the ear. Bend down and picked her up..parents made soft comforting sounds. Walked inside to the kitchen with her to check what to feed.. actually just dumbstruck not knowing what to do next.
Then behind me was both mom & dad..in the kitchen.
I said..”it’s okay I will attend to her injuries and feed her” They literally turned around as if they live in my house, walked straight back to the entrance.. through the gate and yard fence while I watch them with baby in hand.
Feed her immediately with all the wonderful comments input from everyone..her beak a little scew and I know that since her accident she could not eat and could see very little. But I will manage…they brought her to me… God’s Angel’s will assist.
Will update on progress!
Many thanks to you all!!
How did it go with the Dikkop chick?
I have been feeding the Dikkops in the park opposite our house for the last 7 years.
I give them a generous handful of dried mealworms.
At present we have 2 adults and 2 eggs.
I see a number of earlier postings that Dikkops don’t drink water. All the Dikkops we have had drink a lot of water and a couple play in the water.
We once had a Dikkop with only one leg. We called him Dickie because of his dikkie leg.