Has the Bird Been Orphaned?
Watch for the parents… if a bird on the ground has downy feathers, and is able to walk or hop, watch continuously for 60 – 90 minutes from a distance of 50 feet. Watch carefully as the parents will fly in and out quickly to feed their fledgling baby.
These are birds that have feathers and short tails and can perch, hop or walk. They are learning to fly, a process that may take a few days. The parents are close by, and continue to feed the babies as they hop and flap building up enough muscle strength to take flight.
Parents will guide the fledglings into the bushes at night to hide from predators. Fledglings should be left alone unless the bird is going to be run over by a car, and there is no shrubbery or other cover nearby to put the bird in. Cats kill millions of fledglings every year according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services surveys, printed on their web site. Songbirds are struggling to survive as they lose habitat to suburban development. You can help songbird populations survive by working in your neighborhood to keep cats indoors during the songbird fledgling season in late spring. Even a few less cats on the prowl may save the lives of a few songbirds.
If you have the bird in a box, checking the feces will help determine if it is orphaned…
- Clear with white poop (or green bile) indicates a baby bird is not being fed, and is likely abandoned.
- Color in the poop indicates that the parents are feeding the baby, and the bird should be put back where it was found.
To return a fledgling after it has been brought indoors:
- Touching a bird will NOT prevent parents from feeding their baby.
- Simply put the bird back in a bush near where you found it.
- Keep pets and children indoors.
- The parents will return to their baby. Parents will look and listen for their baby for up to 48 hours after their baby went missing.
Fallen Baby Birds
Naked and pin-feathered birds should be kept warm while trying to locate their nest. The babies will get chilled quickly. Baby birds can be returned to the nest! Parent birds will even be a foster parent for an abandoned baby of the same species and age of their own young. A single baby must be returned to the original nest with its siblings. Parent birds will only sit on and feed the babies in one nest. If the nestling cannot be returned it will need to be raised by a wildlife rehabilitator. Parent birds will continue to feed their babies after you have touched them!
An entire nest of birds can be placed in a small tissue-filled wicker basket or large butter tub with drainage holes in the bottom. Tie the basket or tub securely into a tree with strong twine or wire in a location safe from crows and hawks (with some tree-cover). Be sure that a branch shields the nestlings from sunburn.
Blue Jays or Ravens Attacking Other Birds and Nestlings
Jays attack other birds’ nests when they have young of their own because their babies require a high protein diet. Eggs and baby birds provide that. For cavity nesting birds, provide a nest box with a small hole that a jay cannot enter. For open nesters such as mourning doves, robins and mockingbirds, there is no way to protect them.