|SO, YOU HAVE FOUND A BABY BIRD...
or any bird that might need rescue?
WHAT TO DO!!
(Most of this information will apply to adult & baby birds as well)
First – the LAW!
Wild birds are protected by state and federal laws.
It is illegal to keep them, or to remove their nests until the babies have fledged.
If you find an injured or orphaned bird you may, however, help the bird and get it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.
Some basics on Baby Birds:
There are two types of baby birds.
"Altricial" young are born with no feathers and closed eyes. They are completely dependent on their parents for food and care. They are hatched in well-constructed and protected nests and are called nestlings. Most songbird nestlings are born altricial. When they leave the nest, usually after a couple of weeks, they are called fledglings and are still fed by their parents for a short period of time.
"Precocial" young are born more developed than altricial. They are covered with down feathers and their eyes are open. They will remain with their parents usually until self-sufficient; that time varying in species. Most raptors, geese, ducks and shorebirds are precocial at birth. Precocial young are usually much less in need of our help than altricial.
When you find a baby bird
First determine what is wrong
A healthy bird will fly away from you. If a bird does not fly away from you it is either too young to fly, injured, sick or tame. In any of these instances it may be in trouble.
However, you must first determine if it actually is in trouble or not.
What to do
- If the bird is a nestling (newly hatched), look for a nest and try to return the bird to the nest if possible. (Leaving your scent on the bird will NOT cause the parent bird to abandon it!) Or look to see if the nest has been blown down and is lying on the ground (sometimes this happens after storms). Replace the nest if possible, using wire to re-fasten the nest to the tree. If the nest if not damaged, use a small berry box (with drainage holes) or small basket and line it with parts of the original nest. Place the baby bird into the nest and watch from a distance to see if the parent returns. Some birds, like woodpeckers, owls, chickadees, and bluebirds are cavity nesters, so look for a tree hole being used as a nest. This may be hard to find or to gain access to, but if you do find it you can return the baby to this cavity.
- If the bird is a fledgling (has left the nest, but still dependent on parents), understand that it is normal for young birds to leave their nest before they can fly. They will often spend time near the nest on the ground or in nearby bushes or trees. This is normal. So, if you find a fledgling don’t be in too much of a hurry to rescue it. Use common sense. If it is in an unsafe place, move the bird to a safer location and then watch it from a distance. After awhile, if you are certain it has been abandoned, then place the bird in a box that it can’t get out of. Do not pet or fondle it! You do NOT want the bird to become accustomed to you as that will inhibit its future survival.
- If the bird is injured, or you can’t find the nest, gently pick up the bird in your hands. (Most avian diseases are not transmittable to humans, but wear gloves if you are more comfortable and wash your hand thoroughly after handling the bird.) If the bird is cold to the touch, gently warm it with your hands until you can get it to a warm place. Warming is important, especially for those birds that lack feathers which act as insulation. Place the bird in a temporary “nest”; a small box or bowl lined with facial tissues. Then call a rehabilitator immediately!
- Numbers to call for assistance located on Long Island are:
Volunteers for Wildlife, located in Huntington, 631-423-0982
Wildlife Rescue of the Hamptons, 631-728-9453
(Wildlife in Need of Rescue & Rehabilitation)
N. Massapequa, 516-293-0587
- If you can’t contact a rehabber immediately, keep the bird in the lined box in a warm place (about 85 degrees…if the outside temperature is cold, a heating pad under the box can create warmth without hurting the bird…but watch the temperature!). Do not give the bird water, as wild birds get their moisture from their food. Water placed in a birds mouth can go down into its lungs and kill it. No milk either, as they cannot digest it. Keep the box clean, replacing soiled tissues often (birds’ nests are usually kept clean by the parents). If the bird is healthy (but orphaned) and is begging for food, a small amount of high protein, dry dog food soaked in water can be fed the bird. Place very small pieces into the bird’s mouth (one piece at a time and no more than about 2-3 pieces) and it should swallow normally. Remember, only do this if the bird appears healthy and is begging for food and if you cannot reach a qualified person for assistance.
It is important to remember, the best thing you can do for a baby bird is nothing, unless you are absolutely sure something actually needs to be done. By rescuing a baby bird, you have made the decision to save its life. Therefore, getting the bird to a knowledgeable and qualified person is the most critical and helpful thing you can do!