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Caring for a Wild Baby Bird

Category Wildlife
The best place for any baby is with their mother, but sometimes you find an orphan. This guide is about caring for a wild baby bird.
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By 13 found this helpful
November 11, 2015

We found these little birds crying at the end of the garden, looking lost, no mother around. We put together some dried leaves and mini twigs in a bamboo basket and wooden cheese box to see if they needed nesting. Surely enough, they got right in and got comfortable.

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We found this site helpful for helping birds:

http://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/bwdsite/learn/top10/nestingbirds.php

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By 15 found this helpful
August 26, 2012

Thor is a 6 week old thrush (bird). Thor was found when his nest fell out of our big oak tree. We brought him in the house and put together a mash to try to feed him with. We weren't sure if it would work, as saving baby birds usually doesn't work.

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The mash mixture was chicken layer crumbles (we have 16 chickens) which is high in protein and other avian nutrients, soy milk for protein, crushed blueberries for antioxidants,and vitamins (plus thrushes love fruit), smashed banana, and a bit of water.

He was fed this mixture every hour for the first week. After the first couple of days and he was growing feathers and beginning to stand, we knew he was going to make it.

Now, after 6 1/2 weeks his routine is to be taken outside during the day, where he flies around eating bugs, flower petals, and berries. He comes to the door and taps on the glass when he wants me to hand feed him some of his mash, which is 4 or 5 times a day. In the evening, at dusk he's waiting outside on his cat carrier house for me to bring him in.

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When he comes in at night he spends time in a big cage (that belongs to our Macaw, but she doesn"t use it), then once the shades are put down he wants in his little cat carrier house for his last feeding and to be covered up for the night.

Some day he may fly off permanently, but in the mean time we're his family and this is his home. The ornithologist I contacted online is the one that told me my bird was a thrush, I thought he was a robin. They're in the same family so I was close! This professor was impressed that Thor had survived and was the one that told me that Thor considered us his family. He suggested we keep him inside during the winter. We'll figure out something, but in the mean time we're enjoying watching him fly around the property, playing with the other birds, landing on our shoulders, and teasing the dogs with his flying acrobatic abilities.

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So if anyone finds a baby bird, try out our recipe as it has proven to work beautifully. Thor likes to land on our heads or shoulders when we're outside. He hangs out watching me as I take care of the chickens and the gardens. He also enjoys teasing the dogs, flying close to them to get them to chase him as he performs his acrobatics. Thor has been such a sweet blessing to our family. His chirping is fun to listen to, especially when he's obviously talking to us. He likes to stand on a finger and just tell us all about his day. I would love to know what he's actually saying, but by the tone I can usually tell if it was fun and exciting or if he's telling me about something not so great.

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He's been a wonderful addition to our menagerie!

By Viktorija from Edmonton, KY

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By 6 found this helpful
July 15, 2012

During the summer, one can often find baby birds sitting or hopping along on the ground. Often, people assume that these babies have "fallen out of the nest" and are in need of human help. People will catch these birds and usually try to give them worms or bread (the wrong food for most young birds) and unfortunately most of these captured babies will die of shock, aspiration from being force fed or given water, or malnutrition from improper feeding. This is a sad situation, heartbreaking for children involved, and should not have ever happened in most cases.

When one finds a young bird on or near the ground, the great overwhelming majority of the time these are young birds which have just "fledged" and they are now being cared for by their parents as they are learning to fly. Most people picture a baby bird growing and stretching its wings in its nest until one day it just flies away as a grown up bird. But in reality, a baby bird does not spend many days at all in its nest, only the very earliest days of its life in which it is truly helpless. As soon as most baby birds are mobile enough to hop and cling to limbs, they will leave the nest, which has often become infested with parasites and which is now much too small for the rapidly growing birds. This commonly happens after just 11 to 18 days! The parents know where their babies are and are still tending them, bringing them food and keeping in contact by calling to them. Sometimes one parent will tend to one or two babies while the other tends another small group somewhere else. This is a completely normal and vital part of bird life and we should not interfere or try to "help" the parents. The parents will continue to teach their babies to fly and how to gather food for weeks or even a month or more.

It is a myth that if a baby bird is touched, that its parents will "abandon it." Songbirds have no appreciable sense of smell. But there is still no good reason to handle baby birds either in a nest or those which can be found on the ground, unless they are in imminent and unavoidable danger. Birds can easily die just from stress or shock.

So if you find a baby bird in your yard, what should you do? If the bird has any feathers at all, it is probably a fledgling and just doing what it has been designed to do... it has left the nest at the proper time. Try to keep your dogs, cats, and curious children away. If the baby is in a high traffic area, such as a sidewalk or street and is in danger of being trampled or captured by animals or children, toss a light cloth over it to catch it and gently place it in a more secluded spot nearby, preferably in a bush or shrub to offer cover. Then move away. The closer you are to the bird, the more likely it is that the parents will hesitate to come near, but be assured that they are probably watching quietly from a distance. Or, in some species the parents may squawk and scold or perhaps even attack you. The closer you remain to the fledgling, the more likely it is that the parents will hesitate to return to it. After all, they don't want to attract your attention to their baby. Parents are incredibly observant and will likely see you even if you attempt to hide nearby. Leave the area and let the parents do their job.

Even though these babies may not yet be able to fly, they can usually hop and climb well. Your continued presence nearby may cause the baby to panic and flee into an unsafe area which may leave it exposed to predators.

As adorable as baby birds are with their large eyes and fluffy feathers, we must resist the urge to handle them or keep them as pets. We are not suited to care for them as their parents are. Also, many people are not aware that in the United States and many other nations it is illegal to have a baby songbird in your possession, or even to keep any part of a bird, its eggs, or its nest. These laws are in place partially to protect birds from well-meaning but uninformed individuals who just want to "help" but who may end up doing harm.

The photos I have shared here are of some fledglings that we found recently at a campground. The white baby is a newly fledged Warbling Vireo. It was on the ground, but then hopped up to perch on a campfire grill. At first appearance, it seemed alone and abandoned, a tempting target for someone to "help" it by capturing it. But in reality it was being fed insects every few minutes by a parent. The adult bird kept in contact with the baby with soft calls, and the baby often watched the parent as it hunted for insects in the leaves just above it, thus learning how to hunt for its future food items. What some people would consider "abandoned" was being closely watched and properly cared for.

The yellow bird is a baby Orchard Oriole which we saw nearby and which was also being tended by its parents. The Oriole baby alternated between sitting on the ground and climbing on weed stems. Its parents saw us nearby and scolded us, so we moved away. (I used a long lens to take these photos.)

These baby birds are undergoing a learning process necessary for their survival, and it is not our place to interfere with that, no matter how appealing and adorably cute they may be. A well-meaning and good-hearted but uninformed person who might have captured these babies would have almost certainly caused their deaths.

Newly-hatched birds are something else altogether, but are much less often found. I may address that some other time in a different posting.

Source: Years of experience observing and learning about birds.

By Shawna from TN, USA

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By 1 found this helpful
June 30, 2008

I grew up with animals and always had a great love for birds. My parents moved to Ontario and I had to sell all my birds :(

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Questions

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July 23, 2007

I found a baby bird on our steps outside and have been feeding it. I need to find a home for it. What do I do?

Gladys from Chelsea

Answers

By guest (Guest Post)
July 24, 20070 found this helpful

There are wildlife rescue organizations that may be able to help or call your local humane society. I knew one woman who kept the birds and raised them (they were too injured to release--like deformed leg, etc.) Good luck and thanks for your kind heart! NickiX

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By guest (Guest Post)
July 26, 20070 found this helpful

Here's some possibilities to look up near you online or in yellow pages. If they can't help you directly they will advise you or refere you to a source near by.

Wildlife Sanctuary
Wildlife Rehabilitation
Local Zoo
Bird or Animal Rescue Groups
Vets sometimes know the groups and what they do as well as have refering resources.

Becareful what you feed the young ones they can't tolerate some things and actually what we sometimes end up doing is not good for them.
I know and learned the hard way.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
July 26, 20070 found this helpful

Usually birds do better without human intervention. They can be "grounded" for a while while they learn to fly. Most times we do them much more harm than good by trying to help. We had a baby robin that was on the ground for about a week. Then he was flying to the picnic table/propane tank, then low tree branches. He got flying good in about 2 weeks.

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July 26, 20070 found this helpful

Dear Gladys!
If you are helping the bird survive, you are doing what very few people on this Earth are capable of doing. I suggest you keep doing it until the Bird learns to fly and decides to leave on it's own.
Maybe the bird will decide to stay with you. What kind of bird is it?

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July 28, 20070 found this helpful

Congratulations on keeping the baby alive! You should be very proud of yourself. Now that it's time for Birdy to go elsewhere, please contact your local ASPCA, Humane Society or the like. They have programs in place for situations like yours. It will be fostered with a trained, licensed wild life rehaber.
Best regards-
Cheryl

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By 0 found this helpful
May 5, 2010

My son found a baby bird in the middle of the road yesterday. It's trying to fly, but still hasn't gotten it down yet. So we put it in a old bird cage for the night and will let it try to fly again today, but here's my question. What do I feed it?

By Sis from lower AL

Answers

May 6, 20100 found this helpful

You need to take the baby bird back outside and put it in the grass. Believe it or not, you are doing more harm then good. When people find baby birds on the ground, they think they have fallen out of the nest and need human help. They don't. Momma birds actually kick out baby birds when they are old enough to learn how to fly. It is a lot safer to learn to fly from the ground then it is from a tree. It sounds horrible to leave them alone, but that is what you should do.

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May 13, 20100 found this helpful

Try a formula of raw sunflower seeds, egg yolk (hard boiled) and evaporated milk. Put in food processor and make a mash of it.

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May 13, 20100 found this helpful

Feed softened kitten food...I have done this NUMEROUS times with 100% success. Good luck

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May 14, 20100 found this helpful

My sister found a baby robin. She fed it Alpo dog food. She had to scoop it out onto an eye dropper. Maybe you could use a stick. This robin, called Baby, used to fly all over the neighborhood and come back to my sister's back enclosed porch. She had this little wooden box that he used to sleep in. One day he just left and never came back, but it was a nice summer with the little guy.

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