South Plains Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Inc.

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Baby Birds 101

Have you found a baby bird and don't know what to do?

Baby Birds 101

       By May, and often weeks earlier, baby songbird season is in full swing. A few guidelines will help you decide what to do if you find an orphaned, injured or displaced wild songbird. Rarely is a bird a true “orphan.”     

So many calls to the Wildlife Center start with: “I have a baby bird in my yard, and it can’t fly.” Our first question is: “Is the bird unable to fly because it’s too young — or is it because it’s injured?” There’s a big difference!

  1. Bring a bird to us if it’s cold, wet, bleeding, has a lame leg or injured wing.
  2. A bird that’s been in a cat’s mouth should be brought in immediately for treatment with antibiotics.
  3. If a bird is listless and in the same place/position for 20 minutes or more, it may be sick or hurt. Healthy fledglings are active and on the go.
  4. TIME is of the essence – transport ASAP in a shoebox/small box lined with tissues. Put a lid on the box with a rubber band around it – scared birds may try to hop out.
  5. Keep any casualty warm, dark and quiet, and never allow children to handle fragile, frightened youngsters.
  6. Do not feed the bird anything or try to give water. Call a volunteer if you live a distance away for advice. NEVER give bread or milk to any wild bird (or mammal).

Old Wives’ Tales:   It’s not true that if you touch a baby bird the adults will abandon it, but you can gently pick up a youngster that’s in harm’s way: if it’s in the street or in a backyard patrolled by a dog, move it to a safer yard nearby - under a shady shrub, or somewhere that offers protection from predators or the elements.

       Bird parents recognize their offspring the same way humans do: by sight and sound. A relocated, healthy youngster will call for food, and mom or dad will respond accordingly. You might not always see the parents, but they may have several fledglings going in all directions simultaneously. Chances are excellent they’re nearby. If you’re not sure, sit somewhere close by and watch for 15-20 minutes.  Healthy youngsters rarely have parasites but if a debilitated bird is on the ground for a period of time, it may attract tiny bird lice or ants. These casualties need help immediately. Don disposable gloves, place the patient in a tissue lined box and transport it promptly to the Center. Wash your hands, and any parasites will quickly be removed. 

When a rescue is necessary, never feed or give water to a bird casualty unless you’ve talked with a volunteer about any extenuating circumstances.

*Songbirds have species-specific diets and require proper nutrition. Stress and malnutrition are the biggest killers of baby birds. Youngsters must be fed their specific diets about every thirty minutes during daylight hours, so always bring them to us promptly. We’re in attendance during daylight hours.

Call 806 799-2142 if you still need assistance after reading these guidelines.

Carol Lee, Founder, SPWRC, Inc.