So you found an injured or lost baby bird…
One of the most common and important bird questions we get at the Aviary is, “What do you do if you find a baby chick in nature?”
What do you do?
So what do you do when you come across a baby bird that is not in its nest? It depends greatly on whether it is a nestling (a chick that still lives in the nest, no feathering) or a fledgling (a chick that is leaving the nest, light fluffy feathering). Nestlings that have fallen or gotten pushed from the nest are almost always in need of rescue. They are too fragile and not capable of living outside of their nests. Fledglings that are not in their nests, however, are exactly where they are supposed to be – exposing themselves to new surroundings. Whether it is a nestling or a fledgling that you find, in most cases, you should never take it from it’s home.
About 80% of baby birds that are found and taken to wildlife rehabilitations are not actually lost. The reason for this common misunderstanding is because most people either can’t find the nest, or they can’t find the bird’s parents. This leads them to think that the chick must be lost or abandoned. However, this is not usually the case.
There are many reasons why a baby bird can be outside of the nest or alone. Nests can be anywhere; up in trees, on the ground, in bushes, etc. If you have come across a lost baby bird that is away from their home, be sure to look hard for their nest before taking them away from their surroundings.
When a baby bird is alone, it’s usually ok! Parents leave chicks while they look for food. If a nestling is alone or has fallen or left the nest, it has a greater chance of surviving if the parents are able to find the baby when they return. If you find a baby alone, especially if its a fledgling, don’t assume that it is abandoned. It simply means it is getting used to life outside the nest.
When should you help?
There are simple steps to figure out if the baby bird actually needs help:
- I found a baby bird and it’s hurt: (unable to move wings, bleeding, weak or injured) If a bird is injured, call or take it to a wildlife rehabilitation immediately.
- Is it a nestling or a fledgling? If it is a nestling, try to find its nest. If you are able to find the nest and reach it safely, gently put the bird back in it’s home. If you unable to find the nest, build a simple one for the baby in a safe place. Observe it for an hour or so just to make sure the parents come back. If it is a fledgling that you find, let it roam! Exploring life outside of the nest is a vital part of a fledgling’s development. Just make sure the bird is safe from potential danger like dogs, cats or kids. Again, observe the baby for about an hour, if the birds parents don’t return, contact your local wildlife rehab.
If you aren’t sure, or if you have any questions, call your local wildlife rehabilitation or the Division of Wildlife for your state. They are happy to help, and keeping birds safe and preventing unnecessary removal from a birds home is what they are there for. We all want to help our local birds and wildlife, and knowledge is how we can. For a fun graphic to hang on your fridge click here.
- Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah: 801-814-7888, 1490 Park Blvd, Ogden, UT 84401
- Utah Division of Wildlife Resources: 801-538-4700, 1594 W North Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84116
- Wasatch Aviary Education Society: 801-424-2589, P.O. Box 651701, Salt Lake City, Utah 84165
- Best Friends Animal Society: 801-574-2454, 2005 South 1100 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84106