EMERGENCY CARE FOR BIRDS and FAQs

This page provides information for the most frequently asked questions regarding baby birds, and injured birds, plus a few hints on how to alter odd bird behavior. Additionally, links are provided throughout this page where you will find more specific and detailed information relating to bird care, some include information concerning care of other baby animals. Please note that although it is always kind to try to save the life of a bird, after the initial rescue, it should be done by wildlife rehabilitators who have the knowledge and experience caring for injured animals. Some bird parents feed their babies every 20-30 minutes from dawn to dusk and teach them the basic skills of surviving in the wild. It is a daunting task, parent birds do it effortlessly, but sometimes they need our help.

Please Note: Before attempting larger bird rescues (Herons, Hawks, Owls, Eagles, etc) please read "Personal Safety" and click the Raptors link. (both listed after Immediate Care Info). Please be aware that there are strict laws in most states prohibiting handling and keeping wild birds unless you are doing this for the specific purpose of finding it help and transporting it to a Veterinarian or Wildlife Rehabilitator.

Immediate Care Information:

If you have already rescued a baby bird or injured bird, hereís some information you need to know ĖNOW. When youíve cared for the birdís immediate needs you be may want to continue reading this page at a more leisurely pace.

  1. Do NOT try to force food, milk (they cannot tolerate it) or force water into the birdís beak, thinking that it will revive or strengthen a bird. You may cause more harm and possibly drown the bird because there is a direct route to the lungs at the back of its tongue. Some baby birds like Doves, Pigeons, Quail and Killdeer do not open their mouths wide to eat Ė they stick their beaks into the parentís beak and suck the regurgitated food, so there are different instructions for different birds. See http://aztec.asu.edu/forthebirds/unfeth.html
  2. Provide Warmth: If returning the bird to the nest is NOT possible, it is imperative that you provide warmth for the baby bird. Young birds are vulnerable to chill and pneumonia. When you hold the baby bird in your hand, it should feel warmer than your hand. Warmth can be provided with a hot water bottle or heating pad turned on to low. Snuggle the bird in facial tissue directly against the source of warmth, but be sure it is not too hot!!!. If youíve rescued an injured bird, place it in a well-ventilated box, over a heating pad on low (or hot water bottle) in a dark, quiet place, away from household pets and noise. Sometimes, just allowing a few hours rest and recuperation is all that is required.
  3. Housing: Make an artificial nest from a plastic berry box and use facial tissue for nest material. Do not use cloth, shredded paper, cotton or grass as these may result in injury. The legs of the baby are not strong enough to support it, so rest the baby bird in a semi-upright position so that the edges provide support for the body and head. Do not let the bird sprawl on the bottom of the nest. (If you know the location the bird was found, it is best to place it back in the same area so the parents will find itótheyíve been searching! Contrary to popular belief, parents will not reject the baby because youíve touched it. You can use string or rope to secure the berry box to the limb of a tree or deep bush (a hidden location). Use only enough rope necessary, do not leave any extra string dangling. Watch the nest constantly for at least two hours from as far away as possible to allow the parents to safely reconnect with the baby. The parents will show up for just a few seconds, feed it and take off until the next feeding. If you do not see this happening, continue to care for the bird until you find help.
  4. Contact your nearest Wildlife Rehabilitator When you find your local Rehabilitator from the link below, we suggest you make a hard-copy to keep for future emergencies.
  5. Wildlife Rehabilitators List (Worldwide)

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~devo0028/contact.htm

 

PERSONAL SAFETY Some birds are very dangerous to handle. (Remember Ė Birds have no idea we are trying to help them, they fight rescue fearing they are about to be killed) A heron (large bird-long pointed beak) can easily stab an eye (or both) in a matter of seconds! Wear safety glasses when picking up large birds like this. Raptors have very sharp claws and it is best to wear heavy gloves when attempting a rescue. Also, some bird diseases can be transmitted to humans so it is advisable, if possible, to wear gloves when picking up a sick or injured bird and to always wash hands thoroughly after handling any bird.

Handling Raptors

http://www.birds-of-prey.org/rehabinfo/careFrameset.htm

MORE BABY BIRD INFORMATION

Does a Baby Bird Really Need Help?

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~devo0028/guideto.htm#1b

Tips for Preventing "Human-Made" Orphans

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~devo0028/humanmad.htm

What to do if you find a baby bird.

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~devo0028/advice4.htm

Emergency Feeding Instructions

http://www.csubak.edu/fact/babybird.html

You Found a Baby Bird "Hopping" On the Ground, but Doesnít Seem to be Able to Fly.

Many baby birds leave the nest before they are able to fly. The reason they do this is varied. It could be that the nest became too small to accommodate all the babies (theyíve been growing at a rapid speed) or because parasites have invaded the nest, or because they sense they have a better chance against predators being out of the nest, but mostly because the parents have coaxed them, one-by-one, out of the nest because they knew instinctively it was time for their babies to take their first flight!

The parents have not abandoned them, they are close by, watching and caring for these babies. They bring food to them throughout the day and within a short period of time (days) the babies are flying, not gracefully, but flying short distances and then they follow their parents who will show them the best sources of food and water.

The best thing to do is to leave it there, if you have picked it up, bring it back to the exact area you found it, place it in or under a bush. The parents have, most likely, been frantically looking and calling for this lost baby. You can wait and watch for a few hours to make sure the baby bird is OK, but do this from as far away as possible so you donít frighten the parents who are waiting for a safe time to approach the baby bird. If after watching from a distance for several hours you cannot see the birdís parents, follow the previous instructions and call your nearest Wildlife Rehabilitator. (Links listed above) (Exceptions: You see a baby bird is in an obviously dangerous situation like sitting in the middle of the road. Pick it up and place it in a nearby bush where parents will still find it easily.)

 

You Found an Injured Bird.

For whatever reason, birds have accidents too; sometimes they fly into windows and become dazed or unconscious but will recover with just a little help from us, but sometimes it is much more serious. What to do?

DO NOT TRY TO FORCE FEED OR FORCE WATER into the birdís beak, thinking it might revive or will help strengthen the bird; doing this is like trying to make an unconscious person eat or drink.

PROVIDE WARMTH: Find an appropriate sized box, make ventilation holes in it, place tissue at the bottom of the box and place the injured bird inside. Place the box on a heating pad set of LOW, then place the box in a very dark quiet place in your home. Sometimes, a few hours of rest and warmth are all a bird needs to recover.

CONTACT THE NEAREST WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR (http://www.tc.umn.edu/~devo0028/contact.htm)

 

ODD BIRD BEHAVIOR

Birds are Flying Against/Hitting Closed Windows.

Birds can see their reflection in a window. During the breeding season, when the birds are most territorial, they view the reflection as another bird intruding on their territory, and try to chase it away. Most species do not recognize the reflection as their own self. Many species of birds engage in this activity. The best way to discourage this behavior is to place a non-reflective material in front of the window on the outside to prevent the reflection. This is only a temporary behavior that will cease when the breeding season in over.

Woodpeckers Drilling holes in the Sides of Houses

There are a number of reasons that a woodpecker will drill holes in the side of a house. Some of these are:

1. Making a nest cavity

2. Trying to get at ants, larvae or other insects that infest the wood siding.

3. Making a winter roosting cavity.

4. Drumming - making a loud noise to attract a mate and establish a territory.

There are many ways to discourage this behavior, depending on how much patience you have and how much you love birds. Whatever your course of action, keep in mind that most birds are protected by Federal and State laws.

1. Discourage the bird with a garden hose by shooting a jet of water at the bird, or by banging pots and pans together or by making some other sudden loud noises.

2. Tether helium filled balloons at the base of the wall with the balloons floating against the problem area. Be sure to avoid power lines!

3. Hang aluminum pie plates or aluminum strips from the eaves across the problem area. Be sure to avoid power lines!

4. Screen off the problem area to exclude woodpecker access.

5.Please Do Not use Tanglefoot. It ruins the birdís feathers. They canít fly, maintain body temperature, nor repel water. Although it is promoted as "harmless", it does kill birds.

How To and Not To Control Problem Birds

http://www.goodnet.com/~animals/UWS/

Dealing with Nuisance Wildlife

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~devo0028/nuisance.htm

 

CATS

Cats Killing Birds Near Feeders

This is an interesting question, and as much as we love our pet cats, and in spite of our warm fuzzy feelings, cats are still one of the most efficient and persistent predator animals. Studies have estimated that pet cats alone kill nearly a BILLION wild birds each year in North America!!!!

You may love your cat, but if you or your neighbor is hosting wild birds in your yard, you may have a different attitude toward that lovable bundle of purring fur. There are a number of things you can do to protect your birds and other wildlife without resorting to harming the cat. Keep in mind it may be a stray, but it is also likely to be someone's beloved pet.

Before you consider handling an unknown cat, recall that both wild and pet cats do carry a number of diseases that can be transmitted to man. Having said that, you can do the following:

1. Cats need a place to hide so they can watch and pounce on their prey. If possible, identify the favorite hiding places of the problem cat and screen it off or eliminate it entirely. Those that have taken this step report that they have virtually eliminated the feline problem. A cat cannot hunt successfully without cover from which to pounce, and they will seek better hunting grounds. Also, squirrels, jays, crows and other animals will sound the warning when a cat is seen, thus eliminating the element of surprise.

2. Some veterinarians suggest keeping a garden hose or powerful squirt gun handy, and if possible, giving the offending cat a good hosing down. Cats do not relish cold water, and once soaked, will judiciously avoid a second encounter with your hose. One reader said that they hosed the offending cat off the wooden fence surrounding the yard, and it has not been in the yard since.

3. If you know the owner, and you can approach them in a good spirit, suggest that they control their pet to prevent wildlife fatalities. Some folks restrain their cats by tying them much as dog owners do, and this seems to work fine. Some folks will be glad to comply, but others will not. Only a psychologist knows why some folks allow their pets to kill and kill again.

4.If things get desperate, consult your local authorities. There are likely local ordinances regarding stray or unrestrained animals. Determine their recommendations and follow them. Be sure to treat all animals with kindness and respect, and always stay well within the laws of your community

Cats Indoors

http://www.abcbirds.org/cats/catsindoors.htm

 

ADDITIONAL WILDLIFE RELATED LINKS

Wildlife Reference Sheet (to determine if an animal needs help)

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~devo0028/advice1.htm

Wild Animals as Pets. Why the answer is always "NO".

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~devo0028/wildpets.htm

13 Simple things YOU can do to avoid harming wildlife.

http://members.tripod.com/~wildlifehaven/13simple.htm

 

OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP WILDLIFE

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~devo0028/hlpwild.htm

AUDUBON Guide to Pesticides

http://www.audubon.org/bird/pesticides/index.html

BIRD MIGRATION PROBLEMS (Some advice on how individuals can help)

Technology Killing Songbirds

http://www.towerkill.com/

Dark Side of Light

http://magazine.audubon.org/darksideoflight.html