What to do : finding baby birds

Here’s the good news: over three quarters of the “orphans” brought into wildlife clinics don’t need help at all. Most of the time, the best thing you can do for a baby bird is leave it alone. If you spot one, watch it for a while without intervening. Decide which of these three situations you’re dealing with, and proceed accordingly:

1. If it appears to be unhurt, and if it’s mature enough to have some feathers, it’s probably a youngster learning to fly. At this age, birds often jump or tumble out of the nest. The mother will continue to protect and feed it on the ground for a few days while it learns to use its wings. You can help by staying away, and by keeping children and pets at a distance. If the mother doesn’t appear within several hours, or if you’re sure she’s dead, phone your local wildlife rehabilitation clinic (see below) for advice on what to do next.

2. If the bird is a nestling-a baby too young to have feathers-see if you can spot where it fell from. Pick it up gently and put it back in the nest. Don’t worry that your scent will cause the mother to reject it: the truth is, most birds have a poor sense of smell. If the nest is out of reach, create a makeshift “nursery” out of a strawberry box, margarine tub, or similar container. Punch drainage holes in the bottom, and line it with a piece of towel. Then fasten the “nursery” to the tree, as close to the original nest as possible, and tuck the bird into it. Once you’ve left, the parents will reappear and begin feeding the baby, just as if it were at home.

3. An injured bird will need more active help. If it’s been attacked by a cat, it should always receive professional care, even if it appears unharmed. Gently pick it up in a towel, and put both bird and towel into a well-ventilated box. Keep the patient warm and quiet while you contact a wildlife rehabilitation clinic. Never try to feed a wounded bird. Above all, don’t try to treat it yourself. Professional wildlife rehabilitators are trained and equipped to give the bird its best chance of recovery. To find a rehabber near you, check the Yellow Pages under “animal services”.

You can help wild birds even more by making a donation to your local clinic. Money, food, old towels, kitchen equipment-gifts from caring people like you are always appreciated. Without them, our wildlife hospitals could not exist.

5 thoughts on “What to do : finding baby birds

  1. I wish i read this BEFORE i picked the bird….I found one and it looks like a woodpecker but its not they have red heads…this one has a brown one…….help me if you can…!!! 😀 😛

    • Rosa,

      Call the American Wildlife Foundation at (503) 829-9567. They are located at 31812 S Highway 213 Molalla, OR 97038. They can advise you and care for the bird if needed.
      The second option would be the WILDLIFE CARE CENTER AT 503.292.0304 which is part of the Audubon Society. Beware – the policy of the Audubon Society is to “destroy” non native species. A good article on how and when you should care for a baby bird is http://audubonportland.org/backyardwildlife/brochures/babybirds American Wildlife Foundation

      Thank you for caring about this bird! I would love to hear how it works out,


  2. Thank you for posting this article! I’ve found three little birds (two cardinals and a mockingbird about the size of the one in the picture above) on my college campus in the past week or so and I was a little worried about them. I haven’t touched them or gotten very close, but I’ve been checking on them and making sure the mama bird is around. They seem to be doing fine. I’m happy to hear that I’m doing the right thing by not helping them and that what is happening is natural. I’ve gotten quite fond of these little guys!


  3. i wish i had also read this before. i picked up 2 baby birds in the middle of the road and they looked like the one in the picture.

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