If You Found a Bird in Trouble
If you found a bird in trouble!
If you find a baby bird, the most important thing to do is to keep it warm and quiet. A source of gentle heat (NOT a light bulb) is especially important for birds that are unfeathered and have only naked skin, or have newly developing feathers called quills. These hatchling birds need direct, gentle heat such as a hot water bottle filled with warm water. The hot water bottle should be covered with a soft, dry cloth and placed in a box. The young bird can be put into a small container lined with tissue so that the legs and body are supported. The bird and container can be put on top of the hot water bottle and the box loosely covered to hold in the heat.
Emergency hot water bottles can be made out of plastic soda bottles, self-sealing sandwich bags, and even surgical gloves filled with warm water with the open end tied in a tight knot. Just take care that they do not leak and get the bird wet, and that they are not too hot. A light bulb should not be used because it will dry out a baby bird, and heating pads are hard to regulate and often get too hot.
Never give liquids to baby birds. Once warmed up, most baby wild birds that are loudly begging for food with a wide open mouth can be given small pieces of berries about every 30 minutes during daylight hours. (Baby doves and pigeons are an exception; they do not open mouth food beg like other wild birds and should not be given berries. Note that baby hawks and owls are carnivores and should also not be given berries.) Place the berries far back into the throat with blunt tweezers or with just your clean fingers. Cut up blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or grapes will provide moisture and sugar.
Make sure to wash your hands well before feeding berries to baby birds. Humans carry bacteria on our hands that can be very harmful to these delicate animals.
Remember that all birds except owls must sleep at night so do not feed them after dark. Take care not to get any food on the bird's skin or feathers. Also note that blueberries will cause a baby bird's droppings to be blue!
Berries are generally a safe temporary food for hungry baby birds but will not provide adequate nutrition for more than a few hours. It is important that they get to a Wildlife Rehabilitator for proper care and feeding. Giving the wrong food or waiting too long can cause metabolic damage to the growing bird.
Adult and older disabled birds that are fully feathered with longer tails may not need heat as they are better able to thermo-regulate than naked hatchlings. However, if they are cold, then provide heat. They should be kept dark and quiet on a towel in a box. Use a rolled-up cloth underneath them as support for any birds that are having trouble standing up. It is very important to keep these birds in a quiet environment with no human or pet sounds in order to reduce stress. Quiet rest in a dark box is most important for sick or injured adult birds, and they should not be given food or water except on the advice of a Wildlife Rehabilitator. Fledglings can be given berries if they are warm and food begging.
Birds that have flown into a window usually recover within 1-3 hours with box rest. While they may appear to be awake after hitting a window, they are most often in a state of unconsciousness and will allow themselves to be picked up easily. Place them on a cloth supported in an upright position in a dark box. If they cannot stand or fly normally after 3 hours maximum of such rest they cannot be let go, and should go to a Wildlife Specialist for medical care.
PLEASE NOTE: Never put a wild bird in a cage, because unlike domesticated birds, wild birds have no understanding or experience of cages and may try to escape between the bars. An escape attempt like this could result in further injury, especially while in a car during transportation to a Wildlife Rehabilitator.
It is best to put a wild bird that needs help in a dark box, on a towel. Being in a box actually calms a wild bird, because it feels safe and less vulnerable to predators. Placing a wild bird in a box helps it to feel like it is hiding.
A box with a lid is best so that the bird is in the dark, and a few small air holes will help with air circulation. The size of the box should not be too large. A box that allows the bird to turn around comfortably without hitting the walls or lid is best, as this will limit activity and the possibility of further injury to the bird.
below please find some tips for emergencies and self help
Tips for emergencies
- If you find a baby bird:
When a baby bird falls from a nest and you can reach the nest, you should put it back. Be certain that it is the right nest. Make sure that the baby is healthy and not hurt.
Watch from a distance to see that the parents feed the nestling after you put it back into the nest.
A healthy nestling should feel warm. It should be active and alert, and have bright eyes. The tail will be less than 1/2 inch long. Baby birds are always ready to eat and may even beg to you for food!
If you find a healthy fledgling on the ground, you should keep people and pets away from it. A fledgling has more feathers and a longer tail than a nestling. It should be able to hop well. Hide and watch to be sure that the fledgling is being fed by its parents about every 30 minutes.
Please note: children should not handle wildlife. If you are a child who has found a baby bird outside of its nest, please get a grown-up to help you. Back to the top.
- How to make a substitute nest:
Punch drainage holes in the bottom of a large plastic bucket. Place the nest and the babies in the bottom of the bucket. If you don't have the old nest, or if the old nest is wet, put twigs and dry leaves under the babies. Secure the bucket close to where the original nest was by nailing or wiring it in place.
The bucket should be at least 5-6 feet from the ground, and not in direct sun.
Then hide and watch to make sure that the parents feed the young birds. If the adults don't come for 3-4 hours, or if the babies are hurt, they will have to be raised by a Wildlife Specialist.
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- What to do if the babies are hurt OR if the parents are gone:
When you find a baby bird that is hurt or has not been fed by its parents for 3-4 hours, you should call a Wildlife Specialist.
Licensed Wildlife Specialists or Wildlife Rehabilitators know how to help wild baby birds that are hurt or sick. Rehabilitators also know how to raise baby birds if the parents are gone.
You can find the names of rehabilitators or wildlife clinics by calling the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, the Audubon Society, and most veterinarians.
Until you can get the bird to help, keep it quiet and warm on a towel in a box. Never give water or milk to a baby bird.
You should not try to raise the baby wild bird yourself. It is against the law to keep wild birds. They can die or be harmed by the wrong food or incorrect handling. Some may need medicine, or to be in an incubator. Most wild baby birds must be fed every 15 minutes for 12-16 hours a day!
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- How you can help prevent problems for the birds:
Keeping cats indoors, especially during the day in the spring and summer will save many birds.
By waiting until fall to remove bushes or dead trees, you can help a nest of baby birds to fledge.
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