When I worked in wildlife rehabilition we handled more calls about baby birds than any other species. Here is some information that will help should you see a young bird on the ground.
- If a baby bird is feathered and can walk, hop and flap it’s wings – LEAVE IT ALONE. Even if you don’t see mom, she sees YOU and she is keeping an eye on her fledgling. Most baby birds spend 2-5 days on the ground before taking flight. “But what if a cat gets him?” While it’s understanding how worried you are, this is a system that works. Both parents of this fledgling started out on the ground too
- If the baby is naked or fuzzy, look for the nest nearby. If you can’t find it or it’s destroyed, get a strawberry basket and line it with bunched up paper towels and secure it to a branch where you think the nest was located. Go somewhere where momma can’t see you and wait. Sometimes a few hours will go by but mom will come back and continue to feed the baby. If several hours go by and you are absolutely certain mom has not returned, call your local wildlife rehabilitation center for advice.
- You can definitely pick up a baby and return it to the nest. Birds have a poor sense of smell and the stories about mom not returning to the nest once humans touched it is an old wives’ tale.
- If you are trying to contact the wildlife rehabber and the baby seems cold and lethargic, you can warm him up a couple of different ways. If you have a heating pad, you can put the makeshift nest on top of it. Don’t let the baby come in direct contact with the pad. Alternatively you can fill a spring water bottle with hot water, stick it in a sock and put that next to the nest you made.
- Do not feed the baby! When I was at the wildlife center we received nestlings that were fed all kinds of crazy things including milk. Birds are not mammals and they eat a very different diet than we do. The rehabber will have a special formula ready when you arrive.
- If you need more information, an excellent source is The Audubon Society https://audubonportland.org/wcc/urban/babybirds . Also, you can find your local wildlife rehabber here: https://wildliferehabinfo.org/ContactList_MnPg.htm