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What to do if you find a baby bird

It isn't easy being a young bird. Their feathers are just coming in, and they need to get lots of exercise to strengthen wing muscles for the day when they finally leave the nest forever. But sometimes they hop a little too far and end up on the ground, home of cats, dogs, and other predators that would like to call them "lunch". What's a kind stranger to do? How can you make certain that the bird stays safe and regains its place in the wild?

Here are a few, simple tips to help.

  1. Don't panic! Look around - are the parents nearby? If they are, then you should leave the bird alone. Many baby birds fall to the ground during their first flight. Given time and care from their parents, they will soon be up and flapping around.

  2. No parents? No worries! If the bird is covered with short, developing feathers then it is a fledgling or brancher. These juvenile birds should be put onto a high branch in their tree or another nearby tree, or put into the bushes where they can stay safe from predators. Don't worry about "smelling like a human". Actually, most birds have a very poor sense of smell and won't be able to tell that you helped their baby.

  3. No feathers? Look for the nest. Sometimes baby birds are pushed out by siblings or by other birds, such as the cuckoo. And sometimes they just fall out. If you can find the nest, then put the baby bird into it. Please remember that some birds, like the woodpecker, like to make their nests in holes in trees.

  4. No nest? Make one! If you can't find the nest, then use a small open container with sides and small holes in the bottom for drainage to hold the baby. Put your makeshift nest into the tree and secure it with bread ties or twine. You may want to watch for about an hour to see if the parents will come back, but you'll need to be quiet or risk scaring them away.

  5. Still no luck? Call us for advice! The professional staff of the Wildlife Center can tell you how to take care of that baby bird and make certain that it gets returned to the wild as soon as possible. Please call us at 305-646-4440; if we are helping another animal, please leave a message and be patient. We will return your call as soon as possible.

  6. No worms! Please do not feed baby birds anything without guidance from a wildlife professional. The wrong diet can kill a baby bird, and liquids can easily choke them. If you must keep a baby bird overnight, please keep in a warm, dark place away from pets or children until you are able to transport it. A heating pad underneath half of the box on a low setting can provide heat. Transport it to your local wildlife rehabilitator or call us as soon as possible for advice.

Thank you for your kindness!

Copyright © 2014 Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science