How to help a baby bird that fallen out of the nest

In the spring and early summer many birds have little babies. Sometimes things can go wrong and baby birds can fall out of their nest. What to do if you had found one? Most people don't have it in their hearts to walk passed a helpless little creature without even trying to save its life. If you had found yourself in this situation there are some serious decisions to be made and little guy's life depends on it.

First and foremost, before getting to benevolence part, be aware that there are only 3 species of birds in US that are not protected by law:
  • Common city pigeon (aka rock dove)
  • European starling
  • House sparrow (aka English sparrow)
That still does not mean that you can keep them as pets. Further legal information can be found here. State, county and town laws may impose additional restrictions. So, the general rule of thumb is: if you didn't get it via proper retail channels, you should not keep it. Most people are simply not equipped to give the round the clock care to wild baby birds. Chances of its survival are minimal if you are unexperienced. Also understand that birds raised in captivity lack survival skills only learned in the wild, so releasing them eventually is simply not an option.

You must figure out a course of action and you must be quick about it. Avoid contact with the bird unless necessary. Keep everyone, especially children and pets away.

Confirm that baby bird is indeed in need of help. It is possible that it is a fledgling. These babies have developed feathers, and still in care of their parents, just on the ground not in their nest until they learn how to fly . If such is the case, secure the area from disturbance the best you know how, and just let it be. The nature will take its course. However, if the baby is a nestling it will need help. Nestling have underdeveloped, or very few if any feathers and tend to have a lot of yellow on the corners of their beaks.

Check if the bird is injured:
If injury is serious the humane course of action will be euthanasia. Contact animal control or animal hospital immediately. Each circumstance is different, so not everyone should take matters into their own hands.

If nestling's injuries are very minor or none proceed with the following course of action:

  • Do not call the police, fire department or animal control. Abandoned baby bird is an emergency, but not the kind those departments take care of.
  • Wild bird parents will accept the young back in their nest with human scent on it. Further, most parent birds will "adopt" the young, as long as they're from the same species. Your first course of action should be to locate the nest the bird fell out of. Be mindful and leave nothing but footprints when looking for the nest. By disturbing the environment you may risk scarring off the parent birds. If you had found the nest, be quick about putting the baby back. If you located it, but can't reach it, improvise by making your own basket nest (make sure it has drainage for accumulating water) and hang it as close as possible to the nest. Parents will find their baby. DO NOT hang around as it will scare off the parents. Observe from a far distance and be discreet. If bird is abandoned for more than 5-7 hours, proceed on to the instruction below.
  • If you're unable to locate the nest or bird has been abandoned, you have to temporarily house the baby bird until you find the placement. They have to be kept in a secure warm and quiet place with no bright light. Place a towel in a box and line it with tissues or cotton balls. Baby birds are surprisingly mobile, so make sure they cannot crawl out of the "nest" for their own safety.
  • Avoid disturbing the bird, but you'll have to feed it every couple of hours. Do not feed it pure water, fruit or any other processed foods such as bread. Take dry cat or dog food (hard boiled egg works too), soak it in a water, roll it into tiny pieces and carefully feed it to the bird. Worms, maggots or tiny bugs are ideal of course, but do not feed it things such as canned pet food as it will upset the bird's stomach. Mixing water with food will keep the baby bird hydrated.
  • Once the bird is stabilized your next step is to find placement. The only appropriate place for a wild baby bird is wildlife rehabilitation center. If you're unsure if there's one in your area, call your local animal hospital, HSUS local center or your State Wildlife Agency for a reference. You can also locate a rehabilitation center in online directory here or here.
  • Admit the baby bird to the rehabilitation center as soon as possible. The sooner you will do it, the greater chances it has for survival. Please make a donation to the center when giving the bird. Your support ensures that they help the little guy and many others like him.
Starling the lucky

It's 1:30AM and I'm awoken by the high-pitched noise I hardly think I've heard before. Looking out of my window I see one of the street cats hanging over something. Flashlight, bath robe and 5 minutes later I hold a baby-starling-bird that could have been cat's dinner. As pissed off cat gives me the death glares, I carry the bird inside for overnight stay.

At the break of dawn all attempts were made to find the nest. There was no luck. Starling baby ate really well and rested before the long drive to the new home in the morning. I'm happy to report that now he's joined other orphan birds in Raptor Trust Rehabilitation Center. Please check out their website, and if possible visit or extend donation support. These people are truly wonderful and do so much to preserve precious wildlife resources in New Jersey area.

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