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What to Do If You Find a Baby Bird: A Step-by-Step Guide

What to Do If You Find a Baby Bird: A Step-by-Step Guide

Identifying Baby Birds in Distress
Not all baby birds found on the ground need rescuing. Fledglings are fully feathered chicks that have outgrown the nest but can't fly yet. Their parents continue feeding them on the ground for a few days until their flight feathers develop. Only intervene if the baby bird is:
  • Unfeathered or with just wisps of down (nestling)
  • Cold, lethargic, or visibly injured
  • In immediate danger from pets, children, or harsh weather
  • Making no sounds (nestlings call frequently)
  • On a busy road or other unsafe location

Step 1 - Locate the Nest
If you've identified a nestling in need of help, first try to locate the nest. Look in nearby trees, bushes, or building crevices. Nests are usually within 20 feet of where you found the baby.

Returning a Nestling to the Nest

  • Use a towel or gloves to gently pick up the nestling and return it to the nest
  • Don't worry, parent birds won't abandon a baby due to human scent
  • Monitor from a distance to ensure the parents resume feeding

Step 2 - Create a Temporary Nest
If the nest can't be found or reached safely, make a makeshift nest using a small box or container with air holes. Line it with tissues, paper towels, or grass clippings. Place it as close as possible to where you found the baby.

Monitoring a Makeshift Nest

  • Keep pets and children away
  • Check every 2-3 hours to see if parents are visiting
  • Provide shade and place a hot water bottle under half the nest
  • Don't attempt to feed the baby

Step 3 - Contact a Wildlife Rehabilitator
If the parents don't return after 6-8 hours, or if the baby appears injured, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator. They have the proper facilities, permits, and training to care for orphaned or injured baby birds.

Never Attempt to Raise a Baby Bird Yourself
While your intentions are good, raising a baby bird requires specialized skills, facilities, and permits. Improper care often leads to sickness, imprinting, and inability to be released. By following these steps, you give any displaced baby birds the best chance for reuniting with their parents or receiving proper professional care. Remember, it's illegal to keep native baby birds, so don't attempt to raise one yourself.

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