You’ve Found a Baby Bird

Here's what to do when you find a baby bird on the ground.

Now that nesting season is upon us, it’s not unusual for our customer service team to get phone calls from customers saying that they have found a baby bird on the ground, and asking what they can do about it. Here are some answers that might help.

If you have found a baby bird on the ground, try to resist the temptation to “rescue” it. It’s almost impossible for the average person to provide the proper care and diet for baby birds. They require live insect foods and need to be fed about every 20 minutes. Sadly, baby birds seldom survive when people attempt to take them in and feed and care for them. In most cases the best thing to do when you find a baby bird out of the nest is to simply leave the bird alone. If the baby is feathered and hopping on the ground, or perched on a low branch, you can be sure the parents are close by, watching over it and feeding it. It’s normal for some baby birds to leave the nest before they are fully ready to fly. The sooner you leave the area, the sooner the parents will be able to come back and tend to it. However, if you have unrestrained outdoor dogs or cats, put them inside immediately and keep them inside until the baby bird is gone.

Rarely, you may find a live baby bird on the ground that has no feathers and is obviously not going to survive without your intervention. Look for the nest and if possible, place the baby back in it and then leave the area. The parent birds will not abandon the baby because you have touched it. Birds have a very poor sense of smell and they won’t be able to detect your human scent. If you can see the nest, but cannot get to it for some reason, an acceptable solution would be to nail a small, open container as near to the nest as possible. Line it with dried grasses and put the baby in it for the parents to find. They will hear and recognize the baby’s chirps. Or, if a nest has blown down with eggs or babies in it, you can nail a small basket to the tree where the nest was and put the remainder of the nest with the eggs and the babies in that. Watch from a distance to see if the parents come back.

If you have watched the nest or baby bird for several hours and there has been no sign of the parents, it would be best to call a wildlife rehabilitator for advice. Your local SPCA or Fish and Game Department will help you find one. Don’t move the baby bird or eggs until you have heard from the rehabilitator. They may prefer to retrieve the baby themselves or have special instructions for you. Rehabilitators are licensed to do this work and are specially trained on how to take care of injured or abandoned birds and animals.

–R. Brune

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