Finding a baby bird that has fallen from the nest is very common. This quick guide will help you to make the best decision for your situation.
Most people have heard the common advice, “don’t touch the baby bird otherwise it’s mother will smell you and won’t take care of it anymore,” however, rest assured this is simply not true and in fact, could not be farther from the truth. The fact is that most birds do not have a good sense of smell. Birds do however, have strong parental instincts and will fiercely defend and care for their young.
What should I do if I find a baby bird on the ground?
If you find a baby bird on the ground, the best thing you can do for it is to simply put it back in the nest, especially if it is a very young chick. Baby birds can be challenging to care for because:
- Young chicks have trouble regulating their body temperature and require the help of their parents to maintain it.
- Initially, the chick is fed regurgitated food by its parents.
- Songbirds can make 100 or more trips per day to feed their young.
- Birds are extremely messy and defecate about every 10-15 minutes.
What if the baby bird is hopping around on the ground?
If you spot a fledgling (has feathers but wings and tail are short) on the ground, it may be calling to its parents and hopping around or flapping its wings. This behavior is completely normal and is part of growing up for the little bird.
When chicks begin to learn how to fly and leaving the nest (or fledging) they begin by exploring the branches around their nest. Gradually they go farther and farther, and eventually they either hop off or fall off.
This is a normal part of learning how to fly. Birds have strong parental instincts so when their chicks end up on the ground, the parents will stay nearby to keep watch over them (even if you can’t spot them), protect the chick from predators, help them to get food, and encourage them to practice flying.
In this case, it is best to leave the fledgling alone and let the parents continue to care for it. If you are concerned, you can put the bird back in its nest but it will likely just hop out again, so instead try putting it under a nearby shrub and leave the area. Keep pets, children and other distractions away so that the parents will return to the chick.
What if the baby bird if injured?
If the chick is visibly injured or has not reached the fledgling stage yet and you cannot reach or find the nest, it is best to call a local wildlife rehabilitation center. You can get information on wildlife rehabilitators near you by calling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife office in your state.
These centers are licensed and trained to provide care for sick, injured or orphaned wildlife with the goal of returning them to the wild. The baby bird will have the best chance for survival when it is cared for by a rehabber with specialized training in caring for wildlife.