What to Do When You Find a Baby Bird on the Ground

When out in the spring sunshine, you may have come across a baby bird out of its nest, in today’s veterinary blog a few guidelines on what to do next, and how to utilize the local bird center to rehabilitate these young, feathered friends.

The Treasure Valley is very fortunate to enjoy the services of the Ruth Melichar Bird Center (RMBC), operated under the Animals In Distress Association (AIDA).

If you stumble upon a baby bird out if its nest, before you scoop up the little ball of feathers, please note that it is against Idaho law to have a wild animal in captivity unless you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.RUTH MELICHAR BIRD CENTER - what to do if you find a baby bird in Idaho

In addition, fledglings are most likely not orphaned or abandoned—but in the middle of a flight lesson. Many bird species spend a few days on the ground before they can fly. They are still provided for and watched over by their parents who are often nearby (and probably watching you). This time serves as a vital part of development, teaching life skills such as finding food, identifying predators, and flying.

When humans interfere--even with good intentions--baby birds will be denied the opportunity to learn necessary survival skills. Unless injured, it’s best to leave the baby bird outside.

There are some ways that you can help. First, do not draw unnecessary attention to the bird (i.e. don’t draw a crowd).

Next, look around the immediate vicinity to determine if the bird is in harms way from animals, people, or vehicles. If so, reduce the danger by moving the bird from the middle of the path/road, put it nearby, in a more secluded spot. The bird's parents will be able to find and care for the fledgling if it remains near the location where you have found it.

Do NOT worry that if you touch the bird its parents will abandon it (that's a myth). They will not, as long as the bird is still in the general area where it was found, just don’t handle it excessively.

However, if you find a nestling (a very young bird) that has fallen from the nest, it may need some assistance to be placed back inside. If you find an abandoned bird in the Treasure Valley - Contact the RUTH MELICHAR BIRD CENTER

Here’s how to tell the difference: A fledgling is an older bird. It’s fuzzy and has wing feathers and a short tail. The nestling is a baby, naked, wobbly, with big eyes—and clearly not ready to leave the nest.

An injured bird needs intervention and rehabilitation. That’s where the Ruth Melichar Bird Center (RMBC) comes in. If you find an injured baby bird or nestling that cannot be returned to its nest, call the RMBC at 208.338.0897 for further instructions.

Their website advises placing the baby bird in a small box, with a towel shaped like a nest to prevent the bird from flopping about or getting injured during transport, and immediately bringing it to the bird center at 4650 N. 36th in Boise.

A few other important reminders from the RMBC. Do not give food or water to any wildlife. If an animal is cold, dehydrated, injured, or ill, any food or improper hydration could kill it. Never give a wild animal any cow’s milk or human infant formula.

You may access the AIDA website for more information on what to do if you find wildlife or birds HERE

The Treasure Valley is very fortunate to be served by Animals in Distress Association. This nonprofit was founded in 1987 by local individuals dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and successful release of injured, displaced and orphaned wildlife.

The AIDA team consists of state and federally licensed rehabilitators and volunteers. It is funded entirely by annual membership donations, contributions, and fundraising events, and receives no state or federal funding.

Below you'll find information on the common maturation stages of songbirds from the Audubon Society of Portland

Hatchling

  • Days 0-3: Wisps of natal down on body, eyes closed 

Nestling

  • Day 3: Eyes open
  • Day 4: Primary feathers (also called pin feathers) pierce skin, they look like blue tubes sticking out of the skin
  • Day 6: Nestling responds to alarm call of parent
  • Day 7: Primary feathers unsheathed
  • Day 10: Bird is alert, stretches wings and legs

Fledgling

  • Days 13-14: Can flutter and hop from branch to branch, fully feathered, but has a short tail and wings, leaves the nest.
  • Days 14-28: They do not return to the nest, but are still fed by the adults in nearby trees or on the ground if the young have not yet mastered flying.

 

WestVet provides emergency veterinary care to Treasure Valley pets 24/7.

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