Orphaned Wildlife:  Birds

Q:  Baby birds fell from their nest and I touched them -- will the parents reject them now?

A:  It’s a myth that birds abandon their chicks if a person touches them.  Unlike other animals, birds are not sensitive to the human scent.  Just put the baby birds back in their nest if safe to do so.  If the baby birds are cold to the touch, you must gently warm them before placing them in their nest.  This can be done by gently cupping the birds in your hands for a few minutes, or by placing them in a container on top of a heating pad set on low.  You can make a temporary heating pad by filling a ziploc bag with warm water and then wrapping a cloth around the bag.  If using a heating pad device, do not place the baby birds directly on the heating pad as they will get burned.

If the original nest was destroyed or is too high to reach, hang a wicker or woven stick basket close to where the original nest was.  Woven stick baskets* make perfect substitute nests: they resemble natural nests and allow rain to pass through so the birds don’t drown.  However, make sure the basket isn’t too deep – adult birds will not jump into anything they can’t see out of.  You should watch for an hour to make sure that the parent birds return to the new nest to feed their chicks.  If they don’t return, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your area.

*These are the kind of baskets that flower arrangements come in.  They can be cheaply bought at supermarket florist departments or garden stores.  Most people have them around the house.

Q:  There's a bird outside that can't fly.  Is he injured?

A:  If it’s summertime and the bird is almost full-sized, fully feathered, but has short tail feathers, he may be a fledgling.  Often birds leave the nest several days before they are able to fly.  This is normal, as birds learn to fly from the ground up.  Stand back and look for parent birds who will fly over to feed their fledgling a few times per hour.  For several days, the fledgling may remain on the ground but the parents will supervise and teach their young how to hunt for food – so it is very important to leave the fledgling there!  Also, be sure to keep your pets indoors during this period.

If there are stray cats or dogs in the area that you can’t control: put the fledgling in a basket and hang the basket securely from a nearby tree limb.  Hopefully, this will keep the bird off the ground for the few extra days he needs before he can fly.  However, if the bird appears injured and/or alone, or in imminent danger, contact a wildlife rehabilitator right away.