Orphaned Baby Birds

Orphaned Baby Birds
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What should you do if you find a baby bird that appears to have fallen out of the nest? If the bird appears to be uninjured, the best thing to do is to return it to its parents, so look around for the nest in all the surrounding trees.  Birds often try to build their nests where they will be hidden from view, so look carefully! If you can find the nest, gently replace the baby bird, and keep an eye out (from a distance) for one or both of the parents to return. It is a myth that the parents will not care for an orphaned bird that has been touched by human hands.

If you cannot find the nest and are able to hand rear the baby bird, you’ll need to provide a warm, secure place (80°-85°F) and frequent meals. A small cardboard box (like a shoebox), lined with paper towels or a washable cloth, kept on a heating pad or hot water bottle, or placed under an incandescent light bulb or other heating light can work well. However, the heat must be monitored carefully to avoid overheating or possibly even burning the delicate baby bird skin. Never place a bird directly on a heat source of any kind.

Baby birds need frequent feeding, every hour or two, from sunrise until early evening. Gently tap the upper beak to stimulate the baby to “open wide.” Drop a small amount of the food into the back of the mouth, using an eyedropper with an opening large enough for the food to come through, blunt tweezers, or even your fingers. Most baby birds catch on after the first few times, and start cheeping when hungry and automatically opening their beaks when you approach. Likewise, when the baby stops opening its beak, it’s full and should be allowed to rest until the next feeding.

Most baby birds develop flight feathers and are ready for release in about three weeks. To see if the baby is ready, cup the bird in your hands and take it outside. If it doesn’t jump up and look interested, bring it back in for a few more days. If it takes wing, then it is ready to go!

If you are unable to hand rear an orphaned baby bird or if it appears injured (eg, broken leg or wing), call a local nature or wildlife preserve, or an avian veterinarian or rehabilitator for suggestions or transportation instructions.

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