You just found a bird on
the ground or in the hay and wonder "what should I do?" Should you return
it to its nest? If you do will the mother accept it with human scent on
it? If you leave it alone is that letting nature take its course and
the proper thing
to do? There are instances to intervene as there are instances to NOT.
Read on for when and why...
One day last year a church friend found a bird on the ground and worked
for two hours on a roof I think, and all that time he never saw the mother return in that time. He brought the
bird to my house knowing our vast experience with bird rehabilitation and
release. He thought he would be wasting his time and the bird's chances by
going on a ladder and returning it to the nest with his scent on it.
Naturally we took care of the bird. It was a newborn and in need of help.
We ended up having a longer time together than expected and named her
"Gordo." Regarding the pictures on this page and the videos, they
are all of Gordo, the robin we saved, and gave to Nature's Nursery.
We were hoping she would just come back, but she has not, yet, any way.
Weeks later we took our new friend to Nature's Nursery who released him to
the wild. We enjoyed him so much and he was our most recent rehab
and release. (even though we didn't personally release this one, since it
robins are federally protected. More about this robin at the end of
We have personally released several birds successfully. Some
even kept coming back for years! We haven't seen the robin come
That story was a success story but it is only what should be done if you
find a bird has fallen from the nest and is laying vulnerable on the
ground and you can't find the nest AND IT IS NOT A FLEDGLING.
But wait, if your friend is fully feathered? If it is not a newborn? This
is possibly where mom wants them. If they are fledglings, you need
to be able to identify them as such because they need handled differently. Fledglings WILL be on the ground at a
time in their development, for a couple weeks. Mom has FORCED them from the nest and wants
them on the ground. Usually there will be
more than one. This is NORMAL. This SHOULD NOT be interfered with. There
could be only one if only one lives however usually there are two, three
maybe more that are fledglings. What are fledglings? They are not
quite adult size, but will look close to adult size, their beaks usually
are more prevalent. The sides of the beak are more "plastic"
looking, as in the image to the left and above. You shouldn't be able to see the feather chutes
as in our images. Those are the
hard centers to feathers. If you see the chutes or baldness, any
fleshy skin? Then that's NOT a fledgling.
The myth that returning the bird to his mother will result in rejection of
the little tyke is just that; a myth. It is actually the best thing to do.
The mother WILL accept the baby back into the nest. Human smell or not,
offensive as it may be, will not deter the mother from accepting the
baby's return; quite to the contrary as they can not pick up and carry
their tykes up to the nest once they fall. Mama NEEDS your help!
There is an argument out there is practical but impractically applied by
people far too often; it is the adage that you "must let nature take its
course, no matter what". If you let nature take its course does that
really hold any credence? If your child fell in the street would you let
nature take its course? It was an accident. If it was an accident the baby
bird fell why would you NOT intervene? Don't you protect humans from
accidents? Do you ever let nature take its course with humans? Why take
this stance regarding wildlife? It's asinine and beyond ridiculous! If
you can help you help. Period. Under no instance do you see you can help
and do nothing! Okay? Unfortunately internal damage happens and can
go unseen and it is
unavoidable if sustained. If it becomes fatal after a fall it was truly
unavoidable. This is heartbreaking, for sure. Not all cases break your
heart. Don't be afraid to try!
If you have to rehab this bird you have to know if you have found a
protected species. It is important to identify what kind of bird you have.
Some species are federally protected such that they are illegal to possess
unless transporting or housing until the bird can be taken into the
custody of the Department of Natural Resources. House Sparrows are not protected but Tree Sparrows
are. Starlings and Pigeons are not protected. Doves are. You would
want to photo your new friend and email it to the Department of Natural
Resources to identify it and advise you accordingly.
If you are going to take on the task of providing rehabilitation benefits
of care just know that meal worms are accepted by most species and are
available at any pet store, bait shop, wild bird stores. We get ours at
Wild Birds Unlimited where they are $15 for 1,000. Pigeons need Pigeon
Soup. Please research this by Google. You want to put the bird in a
box on a heating pad ON LOW (don't cook your bird) with a
receiving blanket or a towel over the heating pad, or something to absorb
the harshness of heat, BUT THE BIRD NEEDS HEAT TO REGULATE ITS BODY
TEMPERATURE IF IT'S NOT FEATHERED!!!
Remember too that even seed eaters feed babies insects. Meal worms will
usually go over like hot cakes as a staple of their diet but you want to
add a variety of different grubs and fruit. Dig out in the corner of your
yard and within five shovels and you should have several cheap (free)
grubs and slithering delicacies. When you are rehabilitating a bird you
are going to want to mimic their natural diet. We will discuss grubs and
worms. Whatever kind of fruit is native to your area you want to try to
incorporate into your tyke's routine diet.
For babies don't give them water as they are getting water through their
meal worms. If you are rehabbing an older bird you will have to provide
water and only in extreme cases will you administer the water personally.
Ideally you should place a bowl of water there for use at their
liesure. If you have a blinded bird, say a sparrow attacked by grackles,
and has swollen eyes, and can't see you then would need to give them very
small amounts of water. As mentioned, like in the case of the baby, the
adult Birds will get some water from worms. If you must then giving
water by drops off the end of your finger (THIS IS EXTREMELY
IMPORTANT TO NOTE) should be in the smallest portions possible and
remember that a bird has a breathing tube below its tongue. It is not
above its tongue like we have. You don't want to drop water beneath its
tongue. If it will take it off the beak, just wet
the beak and see it take the water on its own If they aren't getting it
they don't want it. If you are forced to rehabilitate a member of a
non-protected species of bird here are tips for rehabilitating different
House Sparrows and Starlings babies need fed to begin with every 30
minutes during daylight; essentially twelve hours a day; they sleep all
night. They will not overeat. They will usually accept three to six meal
worms per feeding, as they grow taking more. As they grow, you can space
out the duration between meals longer than 30 minutes but each feeding
will involve more eaten. Don't give baby birds water. They will get their
moisture through meal worms. House sparrows LOVE ants.
Caring for birds is a delightful experience and can at times be as
challenging as it is ultimately rewarding to view the release and escaping
flight " 'from those crazy people who just saved me.' "
"When your bird leaves", God said "remember he loved you." No truer words
could be said on the subject. Hopefully it will be on the wind, by its
wings, that your friend leaves your life.
Birds are the most glorious creatures we share our world with. Majestic
creatures of the air, friends who give kisses, recently proven to be the
smartest creature after human beings; birds are enchanting symbols of God
who need your help. Never turn your back or a blind eye when they need
your help. Never. God bless you. God WILL bless you when you do help.
Jesus said, "'whatever you do to the least, you do it to me.'" God is
life, God is love, Jesus is life and love. You will be giving the ultimate
fellowship of life and love when you are good to every form of life in
your environment. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So do
our birds, through you!