Few things are more ingrained in me than compassion for animals. Most of us want to help an injured or dying creature if we recognize it is in danger, especially if it is a helpless baby.
An abandoned baby bird is so vulnerable. The small delicate body of fluff is so sweet and innocent. This makes us want to protect it from the elements at all cost.
What to Do if You Find a Baby Bird in the Wild
If you perceive you have found an abandoned baby bird, the best practice is to LEAVE IT ALONE. This may sound heartless, but there are many reasons why this is the best practice. Most young birds found out of the nest are “fledglings”. Their eyes are open. They actively hop around and enthusiastically flap their wings. Their bodies are mostly feathered. They have balance and could perch on your finger.
“Nestlings” are younger than fledglings and have bare skin or fluff instead of feathers. Their eyes are usually closed, and they cannot move about very well. Rarely are they found on the ground.
If you find an abandoned nestling, this is an instance where you can help. Look for the nest and put it back. It is recommended you wear gloves. If you use your hands the mother will not abandon the baby. They might, however, abandon the nest if you get too close and there are eggs. Concerned parents are usually watching from a short distance.
If you find the nest is destroyed, make a substitute shell from a margarine tub or berry basket. Poke holes in the bottom. Line with parts of the old nest, dry grass, or similar material. Hang it from a branch or bush nearly. Watch from a distance to see if the parents visit within an hour. If you are sure the mother is dead or no one comes to the nest, call a wildlife rehabilitator.
Why is a Fledgling on the Ground before it Can Fly?
Almost all bird species will leave the nest before fully flighted to learn how to forage on the ground. This is usually seven to ten days before they fly on their own. Fledglings are encouraged to leave the nest for several reasons.
Surprisingly, it is simply a safer place to be. A brood of squawking birds will only attract attention from marauders. Raccoons are known to search the bushes nightly. The family may be moved frequently to diffuse the potential menace.
Should one chick die in the nest, parents will attempt to discard that baby. Insects are attracted by the smell. Sometimes ants who came to devour the deceased bird will sting and kill the rest of the brood.
What if the Abandoned Baby Bird is in Immediate Danger from a Predator or Other Circumstance?
If possible, wear gloves or use a small face cloth to move a fledgling to a safer location. Put it in a nearby bush or branch. Some birds may have ticks or lice and zoonotic diseases that are transferrable to humans. Wash your hands as soon as possible after handling any wild animal. Do not place it in a hidden location where the parents are afraid to enter.
What if You See Blood and Know it is Injured?
A bird that is weak and shivering or has been attacked by another animal does need your help. Gently pick it up and carefully put it in a small box or cage. It is important to keep the abandoned baby bird warm, dark and quiet. Small birds are unable to create heat by themselves.
If you are using a bird cage, it would be best to invest in a bird cage cover. If a box is the only available container, make sure there are plenty of holes to allow for air. Loosely cover it with a towel. Minimizing stress to an already traumatized bird is crucial. Covers are important to regulate and stabilize air temperature.
Airflow is important but excessive drafts are dangerous to birds. Harmful dirt and dust will also be curtailed. If you must keep a bird for twenty-four hours, these are the best options. It will have a sheltered and secure place to find rest.
Do not attempt to give the bird any type of food or water. Only a trained person is skilled to correctly administer this task. If fed improperly, aspiration can cause respiratory infections. Death is often the result. The only exception to this rule pertains to hummingbirds.
Dip a straw or Q-tip into a mixture of one-part sugar to four parts water. The hummingbird will drink the droplets. Repeat this process every thirty minutes for babies and every hour for adults. Let it have as much as it wants. This is not proper nutrition but will keep it alive until help can be reached.
Immediately call the closest professional veterinarian or licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Other resources in your area would be you state wildlife agency and Humane or Audubon Societies. Often, wild bird stores or your local animal control officer may be valuable resources.
What if You Want to Keep the Abandoned Baby Bird?
Remember, IT IS ILLEGAL TO KEEP WILD ANIMALS. These laws are in effect for the safety and well-being of animals and humans. Each bird species has specific diets that must be followed. This is imperative to proper health and growth.
Baby birds need to be fed every ten to twenty minutes. Food needs to be pushed down their throats, not just fed in a cage. Improper care will ultimately torture the bird and result in death.
Danger from predators and the environment is eminent. However, we must understand and accept that this is how nature designed the life cycle. Human contact with wild birds should be kept to a minimum.
It is a well-documented fact that birds have a higher rate of survival in the wild. In a well-meaning attempt to comfort and help, we may be causing more harm. We should not Intrude in the natural rhythm of nature. In some cases, we may be causing stress and unnecessary discomfort to the abandoned baby bird.