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So you found an injured bird
Is the bird REALLY hurt? Just because a bird is sitting on the ground beneath a tree or a nest does not mean it is hurt. If the bird is not limping, dragging its wing, or falling over - LEAVE IT ALONE!!! Young birds out of the nest are not necessarily abandoned.

If you've found a bird in need of adoption or rescue please contact your local Fish & Wildlife Office or click here to call local Audubon Chapter..

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If you spot an animal, particularly a young or juvenile animal, that appears to be deserted or in difficulty, do not catch it right away. Take 20 minutes or so to observe it's behavior.

In the case of a young or juvenile animal, it may simply be waiting for a parent to return. Remember, adult animals will often leave their young to hunt for food and return within a short period of time to feed/care for the offspring.

If you believe the animal is injured, call a rehabilitation center near you BEFORE you pick up the animal. Injured wild animals can be dangerous and need special handling. Keep an eye on its whereabouts and describe its condition to the rehabilitator you reach on the phone. They will give you the proper course of action to take for that particular animal.

If, however, you are unable to reach a rehabilitation center for advice, a good rule of thumb is to wear appropriate clothing and safety equipment. use common sense: if the animal has teeth (like raccoons, opossums), a sharp beak or talons (like hawks), wear gloves and eye protection. Place an injured animal in a covered box (with air holes punched in it), and keep it in a warm, QUIET place. Do not try to administer first aid, offer food or water to the animal, and avoid lifting the lid to check on its condition. The less it sees of you, the less stress it will experience, and the better its chances for recovery will be. Call a rescue/rehabilitation center or, if you're traveling, deliver it to the nearest rehabilitation center, Fish & Wildlife office, or police station. In most cases, these people will be able to direct the animal to an appropriate rehabilitator.

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Q. Won't the parent birds know I've touched the baby and reject it?

The majority of birds do not have a highly developed sense of smell. They will not "smell" a human and reject the nestling if you replace it in the proper nest.

Q. The baby has feathers but can't fly. It must be sick or fallen from the nest, right?

This is not necessarily true. Several species of birds (i.e. jays, towhees, American Robins) continue to care for their young and, in fact, finish the fledgling's education at ground level.

I found a duckling swimming in the pond. I know they need water, so I filled a bathtub and put it in the water and gave it bread. Is this ok?

Downy waterfowl are protected by oil from their mother's oil gland. They do not have the ability to generate this oil on their own. If they are placed in water they cannot get out of, they will eventually become waterlogged and die.

Bread is a common misconception. Adult birds have gravel in their crop that allows bread to be broken down for digestion. Young babies do not have the benefit of gravel and, as a result, the bread will become compacted in their crop. This can cause death.

Q. I brought a baby bird into the house and turned on classical music to soothe it.
Is this ok?

Contrary to popular belief, music does not "soothe the savage beast". Baby birds are wild animals and as such have no experience with, nor need for music. This will, in fact, frighten them and add to their distress.

Emergency Care for Baby Birds

Other bird species such as pigeons, ducklings, quail, shorebirds, hawks and owls are not fed and cared for in the same manner and may not be legally kept. Be sure to consult with a qualified rehabilitor as soon as possible with these species.

From the smithsonian National zoo.

The first and most important step is to make sure the birds are warm. Birds that have fallen out of the nest chill very quickly and are susceptible to pneumonia. You can warm a small songbird up easily simply by holding it in your hands. Next you want to identify the species of the abandoned nestling. The two most common species are the House Sparrow and the European Starling.

House Sparrow:
Clear chirp similar to that of an adult.
Orange gape inside the mouth.
Rather small nestling.

Noisy squawking bird with a slurred chirp.
Large, bright yellow bill phlanges (mouth flaps) which can be as large as 1/8 inch wide.
Orange gape inside mouth.
Larger nestling.

If the nestling does not fit any of the above descriptions, it is probably a bird that cannot be legally kept. You should contact a licensed wildlife rehabiltator immediately.

Nestling Songbirds

Care: Babies with no feathers, a little fuzz or pinfeathers need a soft, snug, cup-shaped nest of tissue in a small container - don't use cotton, grass, or old bird's nests. The cup-shape is necessary to support their bodies, sprawling may cause them injury. Plastic berry containers make an excellent framework for a tissue nest and are easily cleaned. Warm chilled nestlings in your hands, then put them in the tissue-nest container and put it on a heating pad (low setting), hot water bottle or under a light. Never put them in direct sunlight, they may overheat. Put the nest (and pad) in a larger box for safety. Handle the birds only when necessary. They should always feel warm to the touch.

Diet: Feed bits of dog or cat kibbles soaked in hot water (sugar-water for the first day or two) mixed with hard boiled egg yolk and baby cereal. The bird may be dehydrated at first so it is important that the food be moist. White or wheat bread moistened with sugar-water can be used as an emergency diet for a few feedings only. Put food in the back of the nestling's mouth when it gapes. Feed them every to 1 hour during daylight. Initial feedings with very weak birds can be given every fifteen minutes, tapering off as the bird regains its strength. Give each bird a few pieces per feeding. Do not put liquids in nestlings' mouths.

Fledgling Songbirds

Care : Young birds that are mostly feathered and learning to fly need safe, roomy cages with sticks from the yard as perches, fastened securely. A cardboard box with sticks fastened through it and a screen cover will do in a pinch. Fledglings don't usually need extra warmth. Handle birds only when necessary.

Diet: Dog or cat kibbles soaked in hot water; chopped, canned dog food; lean raw beef; and soft fruits such as grapes, plumped raisins, or canned peaches. Cut food into small pieces and feed every hour or so during the day, several pieces per feeding. Drops of liquid can be given off the tip of your finger, one drop at a time.

Once the bird is moving around on its own its time to start weaning away from hand-feeding. Offer portions of its favorite food items and bird seed in the cage. The curious fledglings will peck at the seed and begin to feed themselves. A few days after self-feeding has started you can faze out hand-feeding. Take care not to make water pans to deep.


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