How to rescue Baby Birds
If you’ve found an abandoned baby bird there are a few things you should do to help save its life
My cats really disappoint me this time of the year. I love them dearly but I don’t love their natural instinct to hunt small animals. I found them with a tiny bird the other day and rescued it from certain death. But what to do with it?
If you’ve come across a baby bird too, here’s some guidance on what to do next. If you do need to take the bird into care though, you should take it to the professionals. Call a local wildlife rescue or veterinary clinic for advice.
Does the bird need rescuing?
- Is the bird injured? If so then take the bird inside and call your local wildlife rescue authority or veterinarian. Here on the Isle of Man, ring the ManxSPCA at 01624 851672
- When they learn to fly fledgling birds will often land on the ground. Watch it to see if it flies away – I recently came across a bird that wouldn’t fly away at first but after half an hour it clumsily flew off.
- How old is the bird? If it’s fully feathered it’s a fledgling. If it’s still fuzzy or has visible skin, has basic pin feathers on its wings, and/or has the characteristic large mouth of a tiny bird then it is probably very young and may need help.
- Can you spot the nest? If the baby is uninjured and you can see where it came from then try to get the baby back to the nest.
- Is the young bird in a place where it could be injured? Traffic? Animals? Little people? Best to put it in a box and move it to a safer place in the same area and/or keep dangers away from it. If it flies away, that’s the best conclusion. If it doesn’t after thirty minutes*, take it inside. Also keep an eye out to see if the parent birds are flying down to feed it.
- *Only leave the baby outside if it’s warm enough. If it’s cold and/or the baby’s skin looks blue then place a heating pad/hot water bottle under the box. The parent birds might still be feeding it which would be the best source of nutrition for it until the bird is brought under human care.
How to handle the bird
- If the bird needs to be rescued, catch it gently and keep in a small box that has ventilation holes. A soft cushion of toilet paper or a clean rag will keep it comfortable
- Young birds need to be kept warm or they could die. A hot water bottle filled with warm (not hot) water placed under the box will help. Make sure the baby doesn’t overheat by feeling the temperature of the bottom of the box with your hand. It should not be hot.
- If you need to pick the bird up always wash your hands after handling it
- Keep the bird in a warm place away from loud noises, pets, small children, and cold drafts.
Feeding baby birds
- Some birds are vegetarians and some are worm and insect eaters. The best thing to do is not to feed the bird and simply call an animal rescue for advice. If you feed the bird the wrong thing you could make it ill.
- If for some reason you are unable to get the bird to a rescue immediately you may be given advice to feed it.
- Emergency foods for baby birds are: boiled egg, wet cat/dog food, hard cat/dog food moistened in water. More info
These tips are a general guide and the best thing you can do if you find an ‘abandoned’ baby bird is to call a local wildlife rescue. It’s hard to determine if the bird will need help and the experts in your area will be able to give more precise instructions, especially when dealing with your specific bird species.
Sadly, the baby bird I rescued yesterday died. I just rang up the veterinary clinic that I brought it to and was told that the little guy didn’t make it. It probably died of shock which is very common for animals who have been injured. Try not to beat yourself up if this happens to you too.
If you’d like to prevent outdoor cats from catching birds I’ve been recommended with this product: Birdsbesafe® Cat Collar Cover. It certainly will make the cat look silly but the bright colours are visible to birds and make it a lot less likely for them to be caught unawares!