*Young wild animals have very specific nutritional requirements, and even a few days of an inadequate diet can cause irreversible damage to their bones, fur or feathers.
The instructions below will help you determine if the baby bird can be reunited with the mother.
If you have found a baby bird that is not fully feathered, look directly up and see if you can locate the nest. Then make every effort to place it back in the nest. The parents will not abandon the baby if you have touched it or the nest. Birds (except for vultures) do not have a highly developed sense of smell and do not care that you have touched the babies.
The parents can come and go very quickly when feeding their young, so you must be very diligent in watching the nest. The best clue as to whether or not the babies are still being cared for by their parents is the appearance of the babies. If their eyes are bright and shiny, and they appear alert, then the parents are still feeding them.
If the nest cannot be located or if it is too high:
Try fastening a small basket lined with dried grass in the tree as far up as possible. If you use something like a margarine tub, make sure you have poked some small holes in the bottom so that rainwater can drain out. Place the nestling in the basket and watch diligently from a distance to see if a parent comes to feed it. If the parents do not return within 2 hours, or before it gets dark, you will need to bring the baby inside and call a wildlife rehabilitator.
If you find a baby bird that is fully feathered but cannot seem to fly, it is a fledgling. This bird is learning to fly and the parents will continue to feed it and teach it to forage for food while it is learning to fly. This is true of most bird species, including songbirds, hawks and owls. (The exception to this rule would be swallows and swifts – they leave the nest able to fly and if found on the ground are in need of assistance.) After they are out of the nest, birds learn to fly from the ground up into low branches. Parents will guide the fledglings into the bushes at night to hide from predators. If possible keep your dogs and cats restrained for the few days it takes for the fledglings to learn to fly well enough to get out of harm’s way.
If you found the bird in a high-traffic area, move it to a safe area under the cover of bushes. Parents communicate with their young by a series of voice calls. As long as a fledgling is placed in its home territory, the parents will be able to locate it and move it to a safe location. At a distance, (indoors is best) watch continuously for one hour for the parents to return. If the parents don’t return, then the bird needs to be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator.
If the bird you have found is truly orphaned or is injured, it will need assistance. Please follow these instructions:
- Place the bird in a small box lined with soft rags. Close the lid and keep the bird in a warm, quiet place. You can make a nest out of a small margarine tub lined with Kleenex or soft towels.
- Set the box on a heating pad set on LOW (under the entire box if the bird has no feathers, under half of the box if the bird has feathers).
- Do not put the bird in a birdcage. This can cause too much stress and damage the feathers.
Do not attempt to give the bird any food or water. The hole to their lungs is in the middle of their tongue and you can easily injure the bird by trying to feed it. Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for further instructions.
A special note about hummingbirds:
If you find an injured or orphaned hummingbird on the ground:
Lift it along with the material it is sitting on, and place it on crumpled tissue in a shoebox with holes in the lid. Always use tissue or paper towels, NOT cloth—the bird’s feet may become entangled in the cloth.
Call LouAnn Partington at 931-841-9781 immediately. Hummingbirds have very high metabolisms and can quickly go into shock without food. Hummingbird babies that are fed sugar water or commercial hummingbird nectar for more than 24 hours may develop crippling deformities.
Young hummingbirds secure themselves to the nest by weaving their tiny toes around the nest fabric. So firm is their hold that if lifted from the nest, most often the legs are left behind. Never attempt to remove baby hummingbirds from their nest