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.
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
Q. 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 ½ 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.
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.