1. Young birds, such as the robins shown here are referred
to as “fledglings” or “branchers,” and
typically leave the nest and move about on the ground and on
low branches for a few days before they can fly. (Drawing
by Elva Hamerstrom Paulson.)
later, no matter where you live, you’ll come across a baby
bird on the ground. You’ll have to decide whether you should
rescue it or leave it to fend for itself. In most cases, it is
best not to interfere. The natural parents do a much better job
at raising their young than we could ever do. A baby bird that
is featherless must be fed every 15 to 20 minutes from about sunrise
to 10 p.m.! This obviously requires a large time commitment on
the part of the foster parent.
feathered birds: If the bird is fully or partially feathered,
chances are it doesn't need your help. As young birds develop
they soon outgrow the limited space of a nest. The young birds,
referred to as “fledglings” or “branchers”
at this stage, typically leave the nest and move about on the
ground and on low branches for a few days before they can fly
(Fig. 1). Their parents are nearby and continue to care for the
birds, answering their demanding calls with regular deliveries
of food. The scolding calls coming from the nearby tree are likely
the adult birds, voicing their disapproval while they wait for
you to leave.
the fledgling bird should be left where it is. Efforts should
be made to keep cats, dogs, and curious children away from the
bird so the mother can continue to feed it.
this is when people often interfere and take a healthy bird out
of the wild. Not only is this illegal (except in the case of starlings,
house sparrows, and domestic pigeons), but it also deprives the
growing bird of essential care it needs from its parents.
birds or birds with beginning feathers: If you find an uninjured
nestling that has fallen or been pushed out of its nest, replace
it in the nest (Fig. 2). (Note that this behavior is actually
adaptive for some species. This way, only the strongest of the
brood survive and go on to raise young themselves.) If the nest
has fallen down (common after windstorms), replace the nest in
a tree with the baby bird(s) in it. (It is not true that birds
abandon their chicks if a person touches them. Birds have a poor
sense of smell.)
2. If you find an uninjured nestling that has fallen or
been pushed out of its nest, replace it in the nest. It is not
true that birds abandon their chicks if a person touches them.
Birds have a poor sense of smell.
(Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.)
If you can’t
find the nest or accessing it is too dangerous, put the baby bird
where its parents can find it but where it will be safe from cats.
Use a small plastic berry basket, margarine tub, or similar container
lined with shredded paper towels (no cotton products, which tend
to tangle up in birds’ feet). With a nail or wire, fasten
the makeshift nest to a shady spot in a tree or tall shrub near
where the bird was found. Next, place the nestling inside, tucking
the feet underneath the body.
will usually come back in a short time and will feed the babies
in the container just as if it were the original nest. (Often,
you will see the mother going back and forth between each “nest,”
feeding both sets of babies.)
(1) If the
parents don’t find the new nest within two hours, or if
you are certain that the mother of a baby bird is dead;
(2) if the
bird is hurt or sick (unable to flutter wings, bleeding, wings
drooping unevenly, weak or shivering), or the bird was attacked
by cat or dog, call a wildlife rehabilitator immediately. The
longer the delay, the less chance the bird has of surviving. Your
local wildlife office keeps a list of rehabilitators and can tell
you which ones serve your area, or you can look under “Animals”
or “Wildlife” in your phone directory. If a rehabilitator
isn’t available, follow the menu options over the phone
or on the group’s Web site for information on what to do.
(See Wildlife Rehabilitators and Wildlife
Rehabilitation for additional information.)
for a rehabilitator to arrive, pick the bird up with your gloved
hands and place it in a well-ventilated, covered box or paper
bag that is padded with paper towels.
Keep the baby
bird warm and in a quiet, dark place until it can be picked up
by a wildlife rehabilitator. If the bird is cold, put one end
of the bird’s container on a heating pad set on low. Or,
fill a zip-top plastic bag, plastic soft-drink container with
a screw lid, or a rubber glove with hot water. Wrap the warm container
with cloth, and put it next to the animal. Make sure the container
doesn’t leak, or the animal will get wet and chilled.
Do not give
the baby bird any liquids (they get all they need from their food
and very often will inhale any liquid).
hands after contact with the bird. Wash anything the bird was
in contact with—towel, jacket, blanket, pet carrier—to
prevent the spread of diseases and/or parasites to you or your
from "Living with Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest"
Written by: Russell
Link, Urban Wildlife Biologist