In the article “What To Do If You Find A Baby Bird” by Melanie, the author discusses the appropriate actions to take when encountering a baby bird that has fallen from its nest. While our instinct may be to intervene and “rescue” the bird, it is often best to leave it alone. The article provides a helpful flow chart to determine the age of the bird and whether or not it requires assistance. The author emphasizes the importance of returning hatchlings and nestlings to their nests, while explaining that fledglings, although appearing awkward and helpless, are in a natural stage of learning how to fly and should not be disturbed. The article also provides guidance on when to contact a wildlife rehabilitator. With this valuable information, readers will be better equipped to handle finding a baby bird in a compassionate and responsible manner.
Determining the Age of the Bird
When you come across a baby bird, it’s important to determine its age to know what steps to take. Baby birds go through three stages of development: hatchling, nestling, and fledgling.
Hatchling: 0-3 days old
Hatchlings are newly hatched birds that haven’t even opened their eyes yet. They have no feathers and may appear mostly “naked,” with only a few wisps of soft down. At this stage, hatchlings are completely dependent on their parents and are unable to leave the nest.
Nestling: 3-14 days old
Nestlings are slightly older than hatchlings and are starting to develop their feathers. However, they may still appear odd with tube-like casings around their feathers. Their eyes are beginning to open, and they are becoming more aware of their surroundings. Like hatchlings, nestlings are entirely reliant on their parents and should not leave the nest.
Fledgling: 14 days and older
Fledglings are fully covered in feathers. Although they may still be small and lack their adult shape, they can hop around and flutter their wings. Fledglings are ready to leave the nest and learn how to fly. However, their parents will stay close by to care for them and provide guidance.
What to do if you find a hatchling/nestling
If you come across a baby bird with few or no feathers, closed or barely opened eyes, and it cannot move around on its own, it is likely a hatchling or nestling. In this case, your priority is to locate the nest and place the baby back inside. These young birds cannot travel much on their own, so the nest should be close by.
It is perfectly fine to touch the baby bird, as contrary to popular belief, parent birds do not recognize their young by smell. They will not reject the baby just because it has been touched by humans.
If you cannot find the nest or if it has been destroyed, you can create a makeshift nest using any available materials. A small basket with sides no higher than 4 inches and lined with dry grass is ideal. Use a wire to secure the makeshift nest to a branch or shrub. Place the baby bird inside the nest and position it in a tree as close to where you found the baby as possible. Then, wait to see if the parents return.
What to do if you find a fledgling
If the baby bird you find is covered in feathers and is hopping or flopping around on the ground, it is likely a fledgling. Fledglings have already left the nest and usually do not go back. Even if you see the nest nearby, it’s best not to put the fledgling back in it as it will likely just hop back out.
If the fledgling is in a dangerous location, you can gently move it to a nearby branch or shrub for temporary protection. However, ensure that the new location is not too far away from where you found the bird, as its parents are most likely in the area gathering food and taking care of other babies.
If you have outdoor pets, it’s advisable to bring them inside until the fledgling has moved on. This will prevent any potential harm to the bird.
When to call a rehabilitator
In most cases, intervention is not necessary when you come across a baby bird. However, there are situations when it’s appropriate to seek help from a professional wildlife rehabilitator.
- Injured bird: If you notice any signs of injury, such as blood or visible wounds, or if you witnessed an animal attacking the bird, it’s essential to contact a wildlife rehabilitator.
- Dead parents and no nest: If you find a baby bird and both its parents are dead, it’s best to seek assistance from a rehabilitator. The baby will be unable to survive without its parents.
- No parents return in 24 hours: If you have created a makeshift nest because the original one was destroyed, and the parents haven’t returned within 24 hours, it’s time to contact a rehabilitator. They will have the necessary expertise to care for the bird appropriately.
Finding a wildlife rehabilitator is relatively easy. You can search online by typing the name of your state followed by “wildlife rehabilitation.” Alternatively, check your state’s department of the environment website for a list of licensed rehabilitators. Remember that it is illegal in most places to keep wild birds in your possession without proper authorization, so it’s best to leave it to the professionals.
Remember, if you find a baby bird, it’s important to determine its age and assess the situation before taking any action. In most cases, leaving the bird alone and allowing its parents to care for it is the best course of action. However, if there are signs of injury or abandonment, don’t hesitate to reach out to a wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. By taking the right steps, you can ensure the well-being and survival of the baby bird you’ve found.