Warmer months bring newborn baby birds. During this time, it is not uncommon to find a baby bird fallen from the nest or fluttering around close to his/her home tree. Although Mother Nature is the absolute ruler over life and death, there are a few situations you may come across in which you may be able to help young birds.
What To Do If You Find a Baby Bird?
Most of the time, the best thing is to leave a baby bird right where you found him. As helpless and frail as baby birds may appear, they are there for a reason, and they probably have parents who are watching them from somewhere nearby. To assure yourself that a parent will return to the baby, keep your eye on the young bird for up to three hours from a discreet distance. It’s important to watch for the duration of that time in order not to wrongly assume abandonment, because it’s very easy for one of the parents to slip into the bush, feed the babies, and leave again by the time you’ve gotten up to get a glass of water or answer the phone. It’s also critical during this observation time that you refrain from disturbing the reunion. If the parents are continually frightened, they may never come back. Stay out of sight and try to keep all dogs and cats out of the area. If you have to place the young bird in a box up in the tree remember that touching the baby will not cause the parent to abandon her.
Do your best to keep the young bird out of danger, but remember that some things are out of your control. For example, a snake may come along and eat the baby bird. It is probably best not to try to save the bird, or to kill the snake. This is nature in action. A hawk might soon come along and eat the snake!
One last important consideration to make when watching baby birds is to be aware that certain species nest on the ground. And remember, bringing up birds is often a two-parent job. If the female parent has died, the male may continue where she left off, and vice versa. Be observant, cautious, and, above all, try to remember whose baby she really is. If you’re certain that the parent bird has disappeared for good and left a nest full of offspring, call us at the phone# above.
How to Help During Each Developmental Stage
Baby songbirds have three main stages of development, and in any of these stages they are very vulnerable. In the “pinkie” stage, the bird is newly hatched, pink in color, and completely without feathers. Pin feathers begin to develop in the “baby” stage, along with soft down on the head and back. The final stage before adulthood is the “fledgling.” The bird will be fully feathered and will begin to learn how to eat on his own, although he will still receive care from the parent birds.
Fallen Pinkies or Babies (Locatable Nest)
If you happen to find a fallen pinkie or baby bird, locate the nest and put the bird back. The parent birds will usually resume care for the hatchling once she is back in the nest. It’s absolutely a myth that a parent will reject a baby if she is touched by human hands. Wild animal parents are devoted to their young and will not abandon them.
Fallen Pinkies or Babies (Unlocatable Nest)
If you can’t locate the nest, put the hatchling in a small cardboard box with a soft t-shirt or thick dry brown grass on the bottom for bedding. The bedding will provide warmth and a stable surface to grip (as opposed to the smooth and slippery surface of cardboard). Then situate the box in a tree closest to where you found the bird on the ground. If you can see the nest but it’s too high for your reach, situate the cardboard box in the same tree but on a branch that’s reachable. The parent bird may take a few hours to get used to the new nest, but will eventually resume care of their young.
The procedure differs slightly for a fledgling bird. Fledglings are often mistaken for birds that are injured or unable to fly when, on the contrary, they’re actually learning how to fly. A fledgling will hop out of the nest to perch on surrounding branches, or flutter to the ground, where she will spend several days to several weeks being taught by the parents how to pick up seeds or catch insects. A parent bird will actually guide the fledgling into bushes during the night to hide her from predators. If you find a fledgling in a high-traffic area such as a sidewalk or a street, move her into the cover of some nearby bushes. Otherwise, leave the bird where you found her as long as she is reasonably safe from harm.
Young Birds in (Seemingly) Odd Places
If you discover a young bird out in the middle of an open field with no trees in sight, before coming to the conclusion that he has been abandoned or misplaced, try to identify the species in a field guide. Killdeer, meadowlarks, horned larks, nightjars and some species of sparrows are good examples of birds that nest on the ground in open areas. They leave their young in the cover of tall grasses or brush while out searching for food. Again, a parent bird may leave their young for up to four hours at a time, so be patient!