All native birds are protected by state and federal laws and it is illegal for the public to possess these creatures. It is imperative that any injured or orphaned birds be brought to a permitted wildlife rehabilitator so that they can get proper care.
Many baby birds are unnecessarily “rescued”. It is important to make the correct determination. We do not want to “kidnap” healthy young birds and we do not want to not help baby birds that DO need rescuing.
If the baby has very few feathers and is mostly “skin”, it is a nestling. These birds cannot hop and CANNOT be left on the ground. Pick up the bird immediately–you can touch the bird-it is a MYTH that the parents will reject their baby if you touch it. Also a parent bird CANNOT pick its baby up and carry it back to the nest. If the baby is injured or has flies or fly eggs on it…it needs to be rescued. If the baby is healthy it can be returned to the nest if possible or an artificial nest can be made (Look for instructions on how to create an artificial nest). Feel free to call the HOTLINE for answering questions about returning nestlings.
If the baby has been caught by a dog or cat …..it is a RESCUE. Call a rehabber.
Some species of birds leave the nest before they can fly. These include mockingbirds and blue jays. These are the two most “kidnapped” birds. If you have found a young blue jay or mockingbird that is NOT injured and is actively hopping around, this is a bird that should be left alone. The parents are still caring for it and it is in the process of learning to fly. You can move the bird a short distance to a safer place if necessary. For example, out of a fenced backyard with dogs or out of a road. It does NOT matter if you touch the bird. This is a MYTH. A good test to determine if the baby mockingbird or blue jay is a still a nestling or if it is a fledge is to place it in a shoebox with NO lid. If the bird easily hops out of the box then it is a healthy fledge.
The parents continue to feed their babies on the ground and in the bushes. It will take several hours to a few days for the fledgling to learn to fly. During this time, bring your cat or dog indoors. Watch from a window to see if the parents are returning to feed the baby. Only rescue the bird if is in immediate danger of stray animals, if it appears sick or injured, or is wet and cold. If the baby was caught by a cat, it needs to rescued, even if there are no visible injuries.
When it is necessary to rescue a baby bird –Call a rehabilitator immediately. Time is crucial.
If you have determined that the baby needs rescuing, whether fledgling or nestling, proceed by placing the baby in a small box or container lined with paper towels or kleenex. Place the box in a warm area away from pets and children. You may place the box on a heating pad set on LOW. DO NOT give the bird any food or water. Baby birds will aspirate if you attempt to drip water in its mouth. Call the HOTLINE.
If you come across an adult bird that can be captured….it NEEDS to be rescued. Be careful because some birds have sharp beaks and talons. If it is a larger bird such as a hawk, owl, or heron…wear gloves, use a large towel or broom to gently push the bird into a box or kennel. DO NOT put birds in wire cages as this can cause severe feather damage.
Prepare a container. Place newspaper or paper towels in the bottom of a cardboard box or cat/dog carrier with a lid. If it doesn’t have air holes, make some. Ideally, use a container close to the size of the bird to prevent it from flailing and injuring itself further.
Warm the animal if it is cold out or if the animal is chilled. Put one end of the animal’s container on a heating pad set on LOW. If using a cardboard box, make sure the top is closed securely or taped shut.
Note exactly where you found the bird. This will be very important for release.
Keep the bird in a warm, dark, quiet place. Don’t give the bird food or water. Leave the bird alone; don’t handle or bother it. Keep children and pets away.
Contact a wildlife rehabilitator. Don’t keep the bird at your home longer than necessary. Keep the bird in a container; don’t let it loose in your house or car.
Wash your hands after contact with the bird. Wash anything the bird was in contact with (towel, jacket, blanket, pet carrier) to prevent the spread of the disease and/or parasites to you or your pets.
It’s against the law in most states to keep wild animals if you do not have permits, even if you plan to release them.