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What Should You Do if You Find a Baby Bird?

Helping Out a Healthy Bird.

If you don’t see any injuries on the bird, but are worried that it has been abandoned follow these steps based on how mature the bird is.

Nestlings: If you find a nestling away from the nest, the best thing you can do is try to return it to its nest. That thing about mama birds abandoning their young because they have the scent of humans on them? Totally untrue. If you can’t find or reach the nest — sometimes they are very well hidden — place the bird in a strawberry box (or any type of small box) that has been lined with tissue. Suspend the box from a branch close to where you think the nest is. Next, and this is very important, leave the area. The bird’s parents are very wary of disturbances, and it might take hours for them to come back and retrieve their young. The longer you linger, the longer this will take.

Fledglings: If you find a fledgling on its own, it is usually best to not do anything at all. The bird may seem helpless and abandoned, but that is almost never the case (unless, of course, the fledgling has been injured). The most you should do is try to keep people and other animals away from the fledgling — placing it back in its nest won’t be much help.

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The Bottom Line: The vast majority of baby birds don’t need your help. Removing a healthy, growing bird from the wild is far more dangerous than letting it stay outside — the baby may not be able to learn the vital skills it needs to survive. When in doubt, contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center.

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Katie Waldeck

Katie is a freelance writer focused on pets, food and women’s issues. A Chicago native and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Katie now lives in Oakland, California.

276 comments

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10:05AM PDT on Jul 27, 2014

I too disagree about giving water. I found a fledgling crow in the parking lot where I work. It was extremely hot that day and he was a fuzzy little ball lying on the searing hot pavement. As I observed him, I noticed he had an injured leg and foot. I got a towel and some cool water, wrapped him in the towel, sprinkled water over his little body and dribbled some from above into his beak as I imagine his mama would do. He was very hot and thirsty and seemed relieved. I waited on a cool spot on the grass under shade of a tree with him, wrapped the towel around him like a little nest and sang softly to him as we waited for animal rescue to arrive. I named him Little Rascal. They first tried to locate his mama as determined by where I found him. When unable to do so they brought him to the shelter. He was transferred to wild care. When I called to check on him, I was told that he had degenerative bone disease and was never going to be able to fly. So they had to euthanize him. It was heartbreaking but at least he knew a little kindness during his brief time on this earth. If you see another in need, do not look away. Do something. He who saves a single life saves the world entire.

1:55AM PDT on Jun 23, 2014

I agree with the posts made by Kamia T. and Angela M. I hope people aren't guided by everything in this article - the worst being suspending the little bird in a container in the tree ???

I've saved a few birds in my time and it is very rewarding to see them rehabilitated to the point where they fly away. One dove I rescued kept coming back and landing on the porch railing as if it had found a new home. It did make me feel appreciated as I had found it hiding away and scared of being attacked by surrounding hungry seagulls.




















11:36AM PDT on Jun 22, 2014

I don't agree with the instruction to NEVER feed or provide water. Several times I've found stunned hummers, and dipping their beaks in the feeder has helped them recover. Plus, if you're like me, there is NO rehabilitator in my entire half of the state, so you do have to do what you can to help them if they're ill. Often just quiet time will help -- especially if they're stunned from hitting a window.

2:21AM PST on Dec 29, 2013

If you are interested in actually raising nestlings and fledglings, join your local wildlife carer group, take a course and learn how to do it. As a long time wildlife carer in Australia, I can confirm that it is very rewarding when you watch your 'babies' fly away.

7:20AM PST on Nov 29, 2013

Gracias.

1:01AM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

find a sick animal or a bird then get it to the vets quick smart and wrap it up in a towel to keep it warm. You do the same if it was a human.... ring a Dr/hospital etc.

8:13AM PDT on Jul 20, 2013

Suspending a baby that has not yet fledged above the ground would not be a good idea as mama has no way to transport baby, unless perhaps it is a bird of prey, and I would suspect that they do not carry their chicks either...Find the nest and place the baby in it, however for one that has begun to fly short distances this is preferable especially if there are predators about, also mama birds attend closely to their fledglings so she should be around somewhere, observe from a distance if possible...Good article overall...Thanks.

11:20AM PDT on Jun 3, 2013

thank you 3/6

5:51AM PDT on Jun 3, 2013

Thanks

3:07AM PDT on May 26, 2013

thank you

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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