birds on the ground - are they in need of rescuing?
Spring is the busiest time
of year at the Centre and hundreds of baby birds are brought to us.
We would like to remind everyone that baby birds should only be brought
to us if they are injured or if your are sure that they have been abandoned
by their parents.
Baby birds that are beginning to leave the nest are called 'fledglings'.
Their flight feathers haven't fully developed, but they can flutter from
branch to branch. Don't be alarmed if you see a fledgling on the
ground. It could be taking a rest from its first flight or it could
be waiting for one of its parents to feed it. A chirping baby robin
on the ground, for example, is most likely telling its parents that it is
hungry and it is letting them know where they can find it. Parents
coach their fledglings to find suitable cover and feed them even after
they are able to fly. Like all parents, adult birds can't be everywhere
at once, so if you watch a grounded fledgling for a half an hour you'll
probably see one of its parents bringing it several snacks.
forget that many species of birds, especially precocial birds, nest on
the ground. Precocial birds are birds that hatch from the egg with their
eyes open, fluffy and ready to follow their mother. Sandpipers and
killdeer are examples of this type of bird and if you see one on the ground and
a parent is anywhere nearby, leave it alone. It is supposed to be on the
ground and its chances of survival are low if it is taken away. If the
peep of the bird is weak, however, and it can't stand it needs attention.
If a baby bird is vulnerable and it appears to be in danger, then by all
means, return it to its nest or to some sheltered branches. Parent
birds do not abandon their young if they have been touched by human hands.
That is a myth. Birds have a poorly developed sense of smell but strong
protective instinct. Make sure you complete the 'rescue' quickly,
distance yourself from it, and the mom and dad bird will find it in no
Nests that have fallen from a tree due to wind or rain can be replaced.
Put the nest in a small bread basket and secure it to the tree with wire.
Make sure the ends of the wire are covered with tape to protect the babies
from sharp edges. Broken limbs containing the young of 'cavity-nesters'
can be tied to nearby trees. If the nest is destroyed make a new
one. Cut a four inch hole in a plastic juice container and punch some
holes in the bottom to let water drain away. Line it with a soft cloth
for warmth. Replace the nest as quickly and quietly as possible so
as not to alarm the parents. Once the nest is back in the tree, watch
it so see if the parents return. If they don't come back after two
hours, bring the babies to the Centre.
How do you
rescue/capture an injured bird?
Catching an injured bird is not
usually a problem since the bird is often incapable of moving and is
too weak or shocked to put up any sort of resistance to handling.
Pick the bird up by grasping it
gently around the shoulders so that the wings are held against the
body and cannot flap. At this point the bird can be places in
a cardboard box with a soft towel on the bottom and a cover on the
If you are having trouble catching
the bird, or you are afraid to touch it, a towel can be used.
Simply drop the towel lightly over the bird. The darkness will
calm and immobilize the bird so that it is easier to pick up.
Picking up Raptors: always use extreme caution when
handling birds of prey such as Hawks and Owls. Be especially
careful of the talons and the beak which are extremely sharp and
strong. The bird will be most easily caught by covering it
with a towel and restraining the feet. If available, thick
leather gloves can be worn but do not depend on them for total hand
protection. If you are at all unsure of how to approach
these birds, call the Centre for advice.
up Herons, Bitterns, Loons and other long beaked birds: like
raptors, caution should be used when approaching these birds.
They have very long, spear-like beaks that are used for catching
fish and these are positioned on the end of a neck that is
equivalent to a coiled spring. The beaks of these birds should
be held when picking them up, and a pillow case placed over the head
to prevent any injury from the beak. Protect your eyes!
If you are at all unsure of how to approach these birds, call the
Centre for advice.
How do you keep baby birds
Baby birds, especially those who are
featherless, need to be kept warm. Birds have a higher body
temperature than humans, and babies should be warm to the touch.
Heat can be provided by hot water bottle or, if this is not
available, plastic shampoo bottles filled with warm water are a good
substitute. These should be placed under the towel that lines
the box, so that bird does not get burned. Using two bottles,
one on either side of the body, will provide even more warmth.
This type of heat helps to prevent pneumonia and dehydration by
applying the heat to the body but not to the environment.
Finally, do not place the bird in the sun. Although birds need
to be kept warm, the hot, direct sun could quickly overheat the
bird, which may not be capable of moving itself into the shade.
What can you feed a bird until you
are able to get it to the Centre?
Babies should be fed at least every
hour and every half hour for featherless babies. If you live far
away and are unable to get the bird to the Centre right away, you
should try feeding the bird. It is important to identify the
bird before any feeding is attempted as different birds have
different dietary needs. If you do not know what kind of bird
it is, call the Centre and we will help you with identification.
Babies should be fed three to four
mouthfuls of food every hour from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. Feeding
can be done with a toothpick or, if the bird is larger, a smooth
rounded chop stick. Each feeding should be followed with a
couple of drops of water from an eye dropper, or dripped off the end
of a finger. Do not hold the bird while giving food and water
unless absolutely necessary, and if the bird must be held, never
hold it on its back to give food. Care should be taken in
giving food and water since too much of either could easily choke or
suffocate the bird. Also, do not squirt water directly down
the bird's throat. Just drop a little bit on the end of the
beak and let it move down by capillary action. Finally, be
careful not to get water in the bird's nostrils.
DO NOT GIVE MILK OR BREAD to
birds. They are not mammals and therefore milk is not part
of their natural diet. Milk may also cause diarrhea leading to
dehydration and bread does not provide the protein and vitamins
needed by small babies.
The following is a guide of
substitute foods for both babies and adults. Babies have to be
hand-fed while small dishes of food and water can be put in the box
for adult birds who eat on their own. It must be emphasized
that these foods are only substitutes and are not adequate for long
term nutrition. The foods we use at the Centre have been
tested and researched for many years and the sooner your bird can
get on the Centre's food, the better its chances of survival.
||Robins, Starlings and other
insectivores: tinned cat or dog food, preferably beef for
robins; small pieces of earthworm can also be offered on the
end of a toothpick
Sparrows and other seed eaters:
slowly scrambled eggs which can be moistened with water for babies;
budgie seed and wild bird seed can be offered to adults
Cedar waxwings: grapes,
blueberries and other berries cut into small pieces
Hummingbirds: 4 parts water, 1
part sugar - boil water, dissolve sugar, cool to room temp - this
nectar can then be offered at the tip of the beak with an
Ducks: whole corn, lettuce,
duck starter (with water added for ducklings). Duck starter
can be purchased at feed stores or pet food stores. Do not
place ducklings in water as they chill easily and die quickly.
Pigeons and Doves: Adults -
any type of wild bird seed, corn. Babies - bring them to the
Centre as soon as possible as they need special feeding via tubation
which you can not do yourself at home.
Jays: a small amount of peanut
butter may be added to a bit of tinned dog food
you transport a bird?
To carry and house the bird, during
the trip to the Centre, use a cardboard box lined with a soft towel.
Cardboard causes less feather damage than a wire cage when
transporting an exited bird that might be jumping around inside the
container. Do not use shredded paper or cotton to line the
box, as these can easily get caught in the bird's toes or get
wrapped around its neck. As well do not use green grass
cuttings, as the dampness could give the bird a chill.
Finally, do not use old bird's nest. These may harbour mites
and vermin harmful to the bird. For younger or injured birds,
a towel or facial tissue can be bunched around the bird to provide
support and prevent it from resting in an uncomfortable, splayed
position. Once the bird is tucked safely in its box, a lid
with holes punched in it or a paper towel can be placed over the box
to prevent the bird from jumping out and to also give it some
privacy. Frightened birds find darkness calming.
Can you contact diseases from rescuing the
The chances of you catching anything
from a wild bird are very remote. Over 60,000 birds have
passed through the Centre, most of them sick or injured and no staff
member or volunteer has caught anything from them.
Birds have higher body temperatures than
humans and as a result, humans do not act as hosts to bird parasites
which demand warmer temperatures for survival. If bird mites
do get on you, simply wash your hands with soap and water and the
mites will wash away.
are afraid of touching the bird, get a friend or neighbour to pick
it up or pick it up using a towel or gloves. If a bird does
have parasites on it, it is a sign that it is in really bad shape
and in need of your help even more than its injury would indicate..