How To Take Care Of A Baby Bird In Order To Save It

How To Take Care Of A Baby Bird In Order To Save It

Feature Photo: MichelleHodgson/ Shutterstock

Should you ever come across a situation where you need to know how to take care of a baby bird in order to save it, it begins with an assessment. Usually, as the weather starts to get warmer, baby birds are in the process of learning how to fly for the first time. While most of them are successful, there are some that don’t seem to get it right. Unfortunately for them, their attempts result in a crash landing on the ground. Often, folks who come across these baby birds go with the assumption the grounded fledgling may need their help. Most of the time, this isn’t true. Like children learning how to ride a bicycle, a fall doesn’t always result in injury. Most of the time, the baby bird will simply pick itself back up and try again. However, there has been an odd exception.

Youthful Stubbornness

Like people, sometimes there is the odd baby bird who thinks they’re ready to fly the nest when the reality of the matter is they’re not. Like human babies, baby birds watch their mothers. Whenever the parents fly to and fro from the nest, the nestling’s instinctive nature knows sooner or later they’ll be able to do that, too. On rare occasions, a baby bird will make the attempt to take their first flight before their little wings are able to carry its weight. What these certain nestlings don’t seem to realize is they need to reach the stage of fledgling first before they can actually try flying. The difference between a nestling and a fledgling is the feathers. Fledglings have them whereas nestlings don’t. There may be the odd nestling that will have a few feathers but not enough to allow them to fly. Unfortunately, not every nestling knows this until it’s too late.

Usually, it’s the nestlings we find the most often on the ground that needs our help. Unlike fledglings, they’re unable to pick themselves back up and try again. Should you find one on the ground, make sure there is no sign of injury first. If there is none, then you may be able to save it. Should it be a fledgling, you’ll observe it has a mix of fuzz and feathers. Whenever you come across these, they’re either hopping on the ground or hiding underneath bushes. Some of them may even be perched on a tree’s lower branches. If there is no sign of injury on their part, simply leave them alone.

Unlike nestlings, they don’t need your help. Unfortunately, too many well-intentioned caregivers assume fledglings need their help and try to intervene on their behalf. This ends up taking the fledgling away from their home and has been known to do more harm than good. So again, do an assessment first to make sure the baby bird you’ve come across is a nestling, not a fledgling. Also, assess to make sure whether or not the bird shows any sign of injury.

More About Fledglings

Should you come across a fledgling, how you can tell whether or not it’s healthy enough to be left alone will come from its body language. Is it standing upright with their wings tucked tightly against their bodies? If so, then odds are that bird doesn’t need your help. The only real exception to this rule may come in the form of abandonment. If you know for certain the baby bird’s parents have abandoned the nest with no sign of return, then you may choose to intervene if that is your wish. Perhaps you know the parental bird was injured or killed and now the baby birds have been orphaned. Now, if this is the case, you have an important decision to make. Do you let nature take its course even knowing there’s a possibility the baby birds won’t survive or do you get involved and try to help?

Whenever you come across a fledgling on the ground that does appear to be injured, odds are you’re going to find something that’s a bit off. It could be the feathers are either matted, ruffled, or wet. Are they drooping? Do you see any sign of blood? Does it look like their little legs are having trouble holding the baby bird’s weight? Is it lying down? How are the body and head? Are they tilted to a particular side?

If you encounter a baby bird that feels cold to the touch or is shivering uncontrollably, odds are it’s in trouble and could use your help. Furthermore, check the bird’s immediate environment. Are there threats of other animals nearby that may be stalking it? How far out in the open is it? If there is considerable distance between where they are and the nearest bush or tree, odds are the fledgling is in danger of becoming an unfortunate victim of circumstance in a world that has no sympathy for the weak and vulnerable.

More About Nestlings

If fate has it you’ve come across a fallen nestling, check for signs of injury, shaking, or weakness. If there is none, odds are the nest it fell from is really close. Ideally, you want to pick up this baby bird with clean hands or gloves so you can gently and safely put it back into the nest as quickly as possible. If you’re able to do so, great. If not, then you may need to come up with a nest of your own.

This is easy enough to pull off by simply using a bowl-shaped container. If you have a small plastic container that can accommodate the bird, this will do. Small baskets will also work, or, if you must, use a cereal bowl. Before placing the bird inside your makeshift nest, make sure it’s well-padded with something soft, like tissue paper. You’ll also need a non-slip material so the nestling’s legs don’t sprawl out. This could cause a deformity as the baby bird won’t be able to stand on its legs well enough for its tiny bones and tissues to develop properly.

Ideally, you want this makeshift nest to be fastened in a sheltered area as close to the tree as the nestling’s original location when you first found it. You also want to be sure cats and dogs aren’t going to pose a threat to the baby bird’s survival. Just because you may not have found the baby bird’s nest doesn’t always mean there isn’t one nearby. For as long as the parents of the nestling are within ten yards of it, they will go to the nest you’ve created so they can feed their baby. However, make sure you give them their space to do so.

This is one of those moments where you need to get out of the way and let nature take its course, at least for now. After you’ve placed the new nest, go find something to do for the next few hours. If the baby bird has a parent nearby, odds are they witnessed what you did. They will check it out for as long as they deem it safe enough to do so. As soon as they do, they’ll pick up where you left off. You’ll know after a few hours when you return to the nest to see any sign of progress. Perhaps you’ll be fortunate enough to see from a safe distance the parent feeding the baby bird you’ve taken the time to save.

If you happen to have a portable camera of some kind, like a baby monitor, you can always install one in place. This way, you keep an eye on the baby bird even while you’re somewhere else. Technology has it today where you can use the connection between the camera and your cellphone to allow you to see what’s going on, even from a great distance. However, if you don’t have such a thing, simply wait about three to four hours before going back to the baby bird’s nest. Odds are you’ll be able to tell if the nestling’s parent has paid any attention to it or not.

The Next Step

Should fate have it the baby bird is either orphaned or injured, then you may have to take the next step as its new caregiver. This starts by using either clean hands or gloves to safely pick the bird up and place it in a paper towel-lined cardboard box. You could also use a plastic container if that is your wish. Right now, you are that baby bird’s lifeline so you need to make sure whatever new home you’ve created for it will be an ideal environment. This includes ensuring the box or container will be kept somewhere that’s safe, warm, and quiet. If you have a motorized heating pad, make sure it’s placed on the lowest setting before situation half of the box or container on top of it. This will help give the fledgling or nestling the warmth it needs. If you don’t have a heating pad, simply heat up some water, put it in a bottle, and securely place it inside the box.

If you have small children and/or pets in the home, the safest place for the bird is out of their reach. If this means keeping the bird in a closet to ensure its safety, then do so. Ideally, you want the bird to be in a secure environment that’s dark, quiet, and warm. The less intrusive the baby bird’s immediate surrounding the better. Remeber a bird wont sting you like a bee, but it can still guve you a painful peck, so be careful.

Relaxation plays a key role in the baby bird’s survival. When it doesn’t feel stressed or threatened, it will be encouraged to move around, and rest. Noticed there is no mention of feeding the baby bird or offering it a drink. That’s because the first priority here is to help the baby bird calm down and relax. It just had a traumatic experience. Already, you’ve answered the call to rise up and at least give the baby bird a fighting chance for survival. Once you’ve done this, there is one more step you need to take in order to ensure the baby bird you’ve just rescued has an even better chance to survive its ordeal.

Make The Call

Now that you’ve done your part to come to the baby bird’s rescue, you need to make a very important phone call. You need to contact someone who is trained to properly handle the care of a wild animal. As cute as that baby bird is, it’s still one of wildlife’s precious creatures. Whether it’s a fledgling or a nestling, putting the remainder of its care into the hands of a wildlife rehabilitator will greatly improve the odds of its survival.

The quicker you do this, the quicker they can help you make arrangements to safely transport the baby bird to where it needs to go for further care. There is no time to waste here as every second counts. PETA has a full list of wildlife rehabilitators, each of them organized by state. You can also reach the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as its part of their job description to look out for the health and welfare of animals that live in the wild. Contacting either of these services gives the baby bird you’re trying to save the best odds possible to survive.

If fate has it that there is no choice but to feed the baby bird something before its delivered to someone better able to care for it, wildlife rehabilitators will tell you what to do. Listen to that person and follow their instruction exactly as you’ve been told. This will likely be the case if you live a considerable distance away from the nearest community that has a facility that can take the baby bird. Usually, someone will be sent to your location if they’re able to get out to you. If not, then it’ll be up to you to follow whatever transport instructions are given to you by whichever authority you’ve made contact with.

When it comes to saving a life, including a baby bird’s, there is no time to waste. You also can’t afford to make assumptions. Be absolutely certain of the baby bird’s condition first before deciding to take on a caretaker’s role. The best way to take care of a baby bird in order to save it is to understand the situation exactly how it is. The goal is to first ensure its safety before attempting to try anything else. Important factors such as the bird’s immediate environment should be your top priority.

Resources:

https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/WildlifeRehabilitatorsbyState.pdf

https://fws.gov/

How To Take Care Of A Baby Bird In Order To Save It article published on BabyCareGuru.com© 2023

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