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Home > Birding Center > Wild Bird Information > Wild Birds in Need

How to care for wildbirds in need

We receive many e-mails
from folks with birds they have rescued and wanting to know how to care for them.  There is nothing more un-nerving for a bird lover than to see a bird in apparent need of rescue.  But what is the right thing to do?  Rescuing wildlife is difficult, often unsuccessful, sometimes illegal and each situation often requires a different response.  There are no easy answers but below are some guidelines you can follow in some of the more common situations.

Birds or fledglings on the ground

Usually, we advise to do nothing - because the parents more than likely know where the baby is even if you don't see them nearby.  If the baby is in danger from a natural predator, the parents will likely show up to drive it off.

However, if there are unnatural predators in the area (see Cat Predation on Birds), we try to use good judgment.  We will speak to the cat's owner and ask them to confine their pet.  Or we will stand guard, if need be.  If it appears that the fledgling has no  chance of survival against a cat - as a last resort - we will afford rescue and notify a qualified Wildlife Rehabilitator.

Keep in mind that it is illegal in most US States to harbor wildlife and that all baby birds must be returned as soon as possible to the wild

"... are   friends   indeed!"

  Bird has hit the window

Most birds survive window collisions and just need some time to recover from the shock.  The problem is that they may be vulnerable to predators while they are waiting to recover.  You can cover a stunned bird with a kitchen colander in order to help protect it while it recovers.   Lift the cover every 5 to 10 minutes to see how the bird is doing and if it is recovered it will fly away.  This however is only necessary if you have cats or other predators close by and the bird is in need of protection.

"It is illegal to disturb a bird's nest"

Fallen or damaged nest
While it is also illegal in most US States to disturb a wild bird's nest, you can return a fallen nest to its original location.  Place any surviving nestlings back in the nest and the odds are good that the parents will return to the nest as long as it is placed in or very near the original location.

If the nest has been damaged add a few drainage holes to a plastic container and place the remainder of the nest in it.  Again place the container with the nest and nestlings in or near the original location.

Injured or sick bird
Unless you are properly trained, injured birds should be transported to a certified Wildlife Rehabilitator.  See HERE for a list.  If you don't see one near you, you might also try your local Game & Fish Department, Animal Control Office, Humane Society, or veterinarian as these agencies and individuals are often familiar with local wildlife rehabilitation facilities. 

If a bird appears to be sick, you should not handle it.  Rather, report it to a trained professionalin order to avoid contact with diseases.