Wildlife Rehabilitation - Care for Orphaned or Injured Wild Songbirds

What to do with a baby bird I found?

Injured songbirds and fledgling babies

Of all the animals rescued by sympathetic humans, injured birds and abandoned babies are among the most difficult to care for. An adult bird, if injured, will likely fly or flutter itself to the point of exhaustion before it will allow itself to be handled. Songbirds are especially frightened by human interaction, and the stress alone is enough to kill them. An injured or abandoned bird of any age needs to get to a professional rehabilitator as soon as possible. Even with swift intervention, the chances of survival are minimal. If you manage to capture an injured bird, or if it is injured beyond the point of struggle, place it in a box with air holes and cover the top. Eliminating visual stimuli and creating a false night will often calm a frantic bird. Keep the bird in a quiet area of the home until the rehabilitator can come and retrieve it. Resist the desire to keep looking in the box. This will only frighten the bird more.

Baby birds are a bit of an enigma to most people. First of all, it is completely false that handling a baby bird will make the parents abandon it. Most songbirds have an extremely poor sense of smell. Second, a baby bird on the ground—completely covered with feathers—is usually NOT an abandoned baby bird. Fledglings learning how to fly frequently fall out of the nest. This is part of the learning process. The parent birds are supervising, and will retrieve the baby when you are not loitering around the nest. It is acceptable to pick the baby up and place it back into the nest if you are able.

A baby bird found on the ground that is featherless is a different scenario all together. For whatever reason this hatchling has fallen from the nest, it needs to be replaced or immediately cared for. Very young, baby birds often eat every twenty minutes of every day. If you can pinpoint which tree the baby (or eggs, even) has come out of but the nest is too high to reach, a substitute nest can be built and placed on a lower branch. Keep in mind, birds that live in nests will not look for a baby in a bird house or vice versa. If a several hour span has passed and the adult birds have not returned, take the baby inside and call your wildlife rehabilitator.

To find a bird rehabber in your area, click on my nationwide directory of wildlife rehabbers or do an online search for one in your area. In the meantime, you can still care for the bird as advised below.

It’s just a baby bird, can’t I dig up some worms for it? No. If the baby songbird has no feathers, it needs to be manually fed. Not all birds eat seeds, and just as many birds don’t eat insects or worms. This fact alone makes it vital to get the baby bird to a rehabilitator ASAP. Emergency bird food can be made out of cat food soaked in water, but feeding a bird takes special knowledge of the bird digestive tract.

You CANNOT feed a baby bird water directly. Hatchlings are unable to close their airways so the liquid can be delivered into the crop. The only way to hydrate a baby bird at home is to soak a piece of dry cat food until it is moist and then syringe feed the slurry directly into the crop. When a baby bird opens their mouth, you will see the tongue, the hole for the airway, and the hole for the crop. If you do not know which hole is which, do not attempt to feed the bird. Humidity is very important for baby birds. A baby bird that is not fed the appropriate amount of water-soaked food will draw needed liquid from the crop. Without this moisture, the food in the crop becomes too dry to pass into the stomach.

Which opening is the crop? The crop is the opening in the back of the throat, behind the tongue. The airway is the opening behind the tongue in the floor of the mouth.

Birds are incredibly difficult to rehabilitate without professional guidance. Temperature alone can be the undoing of raising a baby bird. Hatchlings with down feathers should be kept in an area with air temperature between eighty and ninety degrees Fahrenheit. If feathers are damaged, the bird will not be able to regulate its temperature.

Birds also need at least six hours of darkness in every twenty four.

When will the wildlife rehabilitator release the bird? When the bird is old enough to fly and feed itself, the rehabilitator will release it. There is no need to teach the bird to fly; this is completely instinctual. The bird’s cage outside will be left open to encourage security while it establishes a life back in the wild.

Cages, food, space, resources, and continuation of knowledge are all draining on a wildlife expert’s limited funds. Most states do not offer monetary support for rehabilitators unless they are contracted by the state. Help of any kind is always appreciated.

Here are some other advice articles for wildlife rehabilitation:
What to do with a baby bat I found?
What to do with a baby deer I found?
What to do with a baby fox I found?
What to do with a baby opossum I found?
What to do with a baby raccoon I found?
What to do with a baby hawk or eagle I found?
What to do with a baby reptile I found?
What to do with a baby mouse or rat I found?
What to do with a baby songbird I found?
What to do with a baby squirrel I found?

Here is a story of a wildlife rehabber dealing with a difficult macaw situation: Hi David. I first started volunteering at the wildlife rehab park in october 2009, just my spare time, and some donations to help with advertising costs. i mainly just did the office work and pr work, thats all i had time to do, i had a full time job and gave both my days off to the park.. the director before me warned me, but i didn't see what she did, and i wasn't her...one of the previous volunteers came back to the park under his request.. she was still friends with the last director but acted like she wasn't.. i warned carl about her.. but he said i just didn't know her....lol.... immediately, her and carl started moving macaws around, i lost track who was where, and so did he.. this girl announced she was in charge of the macaws now.. she actually moved most the macaws. one day she redid the office and when i came in to do bookwork i couldn't find anything, i asked her leave that part alone, she went out and threw a fit to carl and guess what, she got her way.. this is a girl not a woman.. she and carl talked one day about getting the birds back that carl had GIVEN to the last director for putting in a year at the park, even though she brought the park to its knee's , there was $18, in the bank when i took over.. anyway, this girl said she could go break in and steal them back, i told her that was a felony charge, carl laughed and said he would just go over and turn them all loose, i said no, they might not be able to fly or know where to get water or food or a cat or dog might get them.. good lord he gave her the birds. later that night i called carl and told him i could not be any part of anything illegal, and that he was encouraging it by laughing with her , he said you don't know me yet, i wouldn't do anything to hurt the park.. so i went back after a few days but stayed clear of the girl. and as i thought, she played him like a fiddle and when she left her and her friend bashed the park so bad on craigslist the park lost business ALOT..the girl was an inside volunteer, for someone else.. so when she left we could only identify half the macaws.. we had to get other volunteers to tell us who was who.. everything went smoothly until a month ago. the park was paying 2 volunteers. one day carl came in the office and asked how much was in the register, he told me to give him all but $50 and then to write a check and pay the electric bill, which brought the park account to $50.. then he told me to forget about the money, it was never there.. and then he said we were going to tell the volunteers there was no money to pay them anymore. they would have to go back to volunteering with just gas money.. i volunteed to give the girls money out of my own pocket.. i wasn't sure what he was up to yet, but i had a feeling he was ruining his own bussiness, but why?? 1 month earlier carl had come out and told the volunteers that the macaws were to only get pecans from now on.. no fruits or veggies or anything but pecans, and most were molded and rotten.. but we were told to feed them because he paid for them.. at that point the volunteers had got together and decided to feed the macaws food every chance we got.. i started collecting feathers to make an excuse to feed the macaws fruits or veggies.. and if the macaws did not perform right, which meant come down and take peanuts out of peoples hands, he would not allow us to feed them at all.. 2 weeks ago he said noone was to feed them except him.. if we couln't follow his orders to not feed anything but pecans he would do it himself. carl put a mcaw in the open flight that was a pet, that bird stays by himself and the others don't let him eat, he was loosing weight, i told carl but he all he said was ok.at this point me and another volunteer made sure he ate well, by hand feeding him and keeping the other macaws busy.. i worry for him now... e. i told carl that pb was paying tourist attractions for lost revenue, and volunteer employes for lost wages.. he said good, i told him i could file and maybe get the parks lost tourist costs and recover the money to pay the volunteers, what they lost.. he asked me why the volunteers were getting any of the money, he said any money that becomes of that belongs to the park. i told him i was sure they would like to have their money and that their husbands would like for them to get paid, he said that was tough, all that money was going to the park.. (i was not being paid so i was not on the lawsuit.) i was fighting for the other volunteers money.. i couldn't figure out why he was being soooooo greedy. i didn't file the lawsuit. the park had several birds donated in just weeks and they were all in cages in the entrance of the park, the cages were way too small for them.. the volunteers tried to get them out as much as possible.. carl said they were fine.. i disagreed.. then 1 week later the birds were all moved to the parks small cockatiel cages.. those cages are only big enough for only 1 pair of cockatiels, way way toooo small for an amazon or a mini macaw etc.. the volunteers could barley get there hands inside the cages to get the birds out with out getting cut by the bar edges.. and the birds had started plucking them selves... THIS IS WHAT THE PARK WAS SUPPOSED TO PREVENT, BY TAKING IN BIRDS AND GIVING THEM BETTER HOMES.. at that point i left the park for good.. i tired my best to protect them and feed them and love them.. and i miss them all.. today when i went to get my bird back from the park, carl told me while we were walking back to her cage, that someone had come on the property last night and opened the cages and some of the small birds flew away...YEAH RIGHT.. there are over 50 macaws in the park.. and believe me, they will let u know when somone is around... you can hear them from blocks away.... one of the birds that was donated is now with me, the owner went and got it back when i told him what was going on and he gave her to me.. i have a few other birds that owners are trying to get back to give me.. well, thats some of it... theres more my name is katherine

Please be kind to wildlife! Our wild animals are intelligent, and believe it or not, they definitely have emotions!
If you have any questions about this wildlife rehabilitation website, just email me at dseeveld@gmail.com