If you’re outside during the spring season, sooner or later you will probably find a bird or injured animal. For most of us, our first reaction is to adopt the helpless creature. First, ask yourself is it injured? Is it really an orphaned baby? Nine times out of ten the answer is no! Look for nests in nearby trees and shrubs. They are usually well hidden and hard to get to. If you can find the nest, simply put the bird back. It is a myth that the parents will not care for young birds that have been touched by human hands. In fact, birds have a poor sense of smell. Case in point, great horned owls kill and eat skunks without even noticing their overpowering stench.
Baby birds have an overwhelming percentage of survival in the wild. If kidnapped, that percentage drops dramatically! In fact, while in the wild baby birds will often leave the nest at 12-14 days and be completely on their own within 2 more weeks. If taken to a licensed rehabilitator, that time is increased by weeks. While it takes the parents approximately 4 weeks to cut their apron strings, a rehabilitator will have a bird in their care for at least 6-8 weeks. Take into consideration that a rehabber will have many birds during a breeding season.
Also, do not attempt to raise a baby bird yourself. If you should decide to take this on, all but three species of birds (starlings, house sparrows and pigeons) are federally protected and it is illegal.
Consider the following as well: Nestlings must be fed every 15-20 minutes from sunrise to sunset. Providing a proper diet, clean living quarters, and fresh water daily are essential to a bird’s survival. Adult birds teach their young where to look for food and how to avoid predators. These things are impossible for a human to do.
Here are some guidelines to follow should you find a distressed bird:
FOUND A BABY BIRD:
If the young bird is found, leave it be and observe him from a distance. His parents will find him and you should notice the baby being fed within the hour. If not, contact our Hotline 804-598-8380 for a local licensed rehabilitator.
If he is in immediate danger of outdoor pets, scoop him up and put in a nearby bush or shrub out of harm's way. Put your pet inside or somewhere it cannot harm the bird and keep an eye out for predators.
If you find a baby with little or no feathers and you know where the nest is, then return the bird to it’s nest, if the nest is out of reach call our Hotline 804-598-8380 for assistance.
If the baby/fledgling is cold to the touch, take it inside to warm before placing back in the nest.
Nestle the bird in a warm towel or use a hot water bottle with a towel between the bird and the bottle. You may also use a heating pad on the lowest setting with a towel between the bird and the pad.
Place the bird in a warm, dark and quiet place away from children and pets. This is not a time for show and tell; it will only stress the bird and possibly cause death.
Do not attempt to feed baby birds or fledglings. If not properly fed, they could drown. There is a small opening in their tongue that could get blocked.
If you cannot find the nest or the bird appears to be sick, injured or your pet brought the bird home still alive, then contact our Hotline 804-598-8380 for a licensed rehabilitator.
BIRD NEST DESTROYED:
If the nest has been destroyed, you can construct a makeshift nest using a small basket or Cool Whip type of container. Put holes in the bottom of container for drainage (before putting the bird(s) in it). Line the container with material from old nest or dry grass or leaves. Wire your nest to a branch or place it security in a branch fork close to or in the same spot as the old nest. The parents will still care for the birds if they are able. Place birds into new nest. Do not attempt to feed baby birds or fledglings.
FOUND BIRD TANGLED:
If the bird is caught in something simple; such as twine or string have someone assist you in: Holding the bird in a clean towel; Using baby scissors, gently cut knots out of the string/twine. If there is no signs of other injuries; return bird back to bush or shrub; Any signs of injury, then contact our Hotline 598-8380 for a licensed rehabilitator.
FOUND BIRD WITH WING INJURY:
If a bird allows you to catch it and does not attempt to fly away then it probably needs assistance.
If blood or bone is showing it probably will need assistance.
Place bird in a small box with lid and contact our Hotline 804-598-8380 for a licensed rehabilitator.
BIRD COATED IN OIL OR GLUE:
If bird is fully coated in oil or rubber material; contact our Hotline 804-598-8380 for a licensed rehabilitator. Do not attempt to remove the oil or cut the feathers.
If you are not able to contact a rehabilitator you may try a small amount of Dawn dish detergent on the feathers and rinse in warm water. However, this can cause much stress on a bird and it is best that a trained rehabilitator handle it. The bird must be kept warm to alleviate shock.
Place bird in a small box and contact a licensed rehabilitator
BIRD LYING ON ITS SIDE:
If the bird is alive but not standing contact our Hotline 804-598-8380 for a licensed rehabilitator.
FOUND A BIRD'S EGG:
If wind knocked an egg out of nest;
And you can locate the nest, gently place egg back into nest.
If nest cannot be found, place egg under a small shrub or bush.
Do not try to incubate or keep the egg for any reason. Chances of survival are very slim and it is illegal to keep any portion on a bird’s nest or a bird itself.
BIRD CAUGHT IN MOUSE TRAP:
If bird is caught in a sticky mouse trap, use a small amount of oil to remove the bird from the trap. Do not cut the feathers to remove. Once the bird is free, contact our Hotline 804-598-8380 for a licensed rehabilitator.
BIRD CAUGHT IN HOUSE:
If bird is caught in house;
Lock up all pets;
Darken room by closing blinds, shades, doors;
Leave only one exit (large, bright, sunny) opening for the bird to escape.
You may also wait until evening when the bird relaxes for sleep, gather the bird and place in a small box until morning. Release first thing.
The above is from our local wildlife rehabilition organization. But it's likely a comparable group exists near you, and even has a hotline you can call.