A baby bird falls from its nest on the ground, what to do? A well-meaning person may want to help, but sometimes it’s best to let nature take its course.
Vermont Fish and Wildlife shared information with birdwatchers in its bird report on handling baby birds and directed readers to a Audubon Article which explains in detail when to help and when not to help.
Breeding season is in full swing right now, according to the bird report, and people can already see chicks in nests of ducks, geese, robins and bald eagles.
While closely observing the nests with spotted eggs developing into hatchlings and fledglings and finally into adult birds, this is where human intervention helps and hurts.
When not to help a baby bird
Of the baby birds that are brought to the Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort, about 80% of them have been kidnapped, according to an education director interviewed in a Audubon Article.
A person may think that a fledgling hatched from its nest is in distress, when in reality it is fine and part of its normal development to learn to fly. It’s not uncommon for a baby bird to end up on the ground, and in many cases the parents watch nearby and wait for the human to leave before helping.
If the bird is a young — it has feathers and can jump — and isn’t visibly injured or in danger from a predator, the Audubon Society says to leave it alone.
A hand-raised baby bird might confuse the human as a parent and fail to develop the skills needed to survive and live like a bird.
When to help a baby bird or an egg
There are times when it can be helpful to put an egg or a bird back in its nest.
The popular belief that a mother bird could reject a baby or an egg because of the smell of the human who handled it is wrong, according to Audubon, who says that the smell of a bird is not defined.
Unlike a baby bird, a baby bird almost always needs help. Baby birds are newly hatched birds that have not yet had their feathers and may only have a few fluff. They are unable to walk on their feet and waddle from wing to wing. They can be easy to spot as they can appear naked and looking like aliens.
If this type of baby bird has fallen out of its nest, it is best to put it back in place and the parent will resume care, according to Audubon.
If the nest cannot be located, Audubon suggests making a nest out of something like a small strawberry container and putting a piece of t-shirt or straw in it.
After carefully placing the bird inside, secure the nest high in a tree near where the baby bird was found. If the baby bird isn’t located by its parents within an hour, that’s when it’s time to call a wildlife rescue center, according to the article.
There are times when people may want to help a young person who is hurt. Signs to look out for include a cat that has dragged it, it can’t stand or jump properly, or the presence of flies indicates an open wound. If the feathers are wet but it is not raining, there could be a disease affecting the preening oil system. Or, if the belly seems sunken like a shriveled and wrinkled prune, it could be dehydrated.
Rehabilitate an injured bird
The Audubon Society recommends taking an injured bird to a wildlife rehabilitator.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife provides a map and contact information for all licensed wildlife rehabilitators in the state. There are only two providers who can take threatened and endangered species, so it’s important to know what type of animal you’re dealing with and what the rehabilitator can take.
Here’s where to find the 2022 list of Vermont Wildlife Rehabilitators: https://vtfishandwildlife.com/sites/fishandwildlife/files/documents/Learn%20More/Living%20with%20Wildlife/Rehabilitation/Wildlife_Rehabilitator_Locator.pdf.
When preparing the bird for transport, you can place the bird in a box with ventilation holes and keep it warm by putting a heating pad underneath. Resist the urge to feed the bird, the article says, because birds fed by inexperienced bird trainers often get food in their lungs.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife warns that it is illegal for anyone to take any wild animal into captivity unless they are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
Contact reporter April Barton at [email protected] or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.