how to clean a robin bird

When a nest of robins took up residence on this reporter’s porch, she had more than a few questions for her new neighbors. One of those questions lead her down a rabbit hole of curiosity that you might just want to know the answer to as well!This content is for Goodness Exchange (Monthly), Employee, Business Admin, Enterprise Admin, and Gifted Trial members only.

The work we do every day keeps International Bird Rescue prepared to meet the challenges of an oiled wildlife emergency.Many people think that the most important step in helping oiled birds is to wash the oil off. The truth is that oiled birds can die if well-meaning people, anxious to remove the oil from feathers, wash them immediately. The bird must be healthy enough to endure the extreme stress of the wash. The most important things to give oiled birds are nutrition, hydration and medical treatment in order to regain their strength before they are washed. These steps may take a day or longer.Our trained staff and volunteers use these criteria to decide when an animal is ready to be washed:

  • Good body condition or good weight gain
  • Excellent blood values
  • Active, alert behavior.
  • Because cleaning a bird is a stressful and life-threatening event, the goal is to wash each oiled bird only once, and it is crucial that it is healthy enough to handle the washing ordeal.

Once stable, oiled birds go through a series of tub washes with a low concentration of Dawn dishwashing liquid in clean water. Research was conducted on most of the commonly available cleaning agents and Dawn was the one that had the ability to remove most oils, was effective at low concentrations, non-irritating to the skin and eyes, rinsed quickly from feathers, and was easily accessible. Birds contaminated with tarry products may be pre-treated before their Dawn wash with a non-toxic soy oil derivative such as methyl soyate to make thick tar products more removable.

After washing, the bird is taken to a separate rinsing area where a special nozzle is used to completely rinse the solution from the feathers. The rinsing process is just as important as the wash, because any detergent or solution left on the feathers can impair the natural waterproofing process. Specially-designed spa nozzles are used that propel the water at sufficient pressure to remove all traces of detergent from the bird’s feathers.

After the wash and rinse, the cleaned bird is placed in a protective soft-bottomed pen equipped with modified commercial pet grooming dryers. As the bird rests comfortably under the grooming dryer, it will begin to preen its feathers back into place. The complete realignment of feathers in a tight overlapping pattern creates a natural waterproof seal.

The bird is given free access to food and is tube-fed a balanced diet to ensure optimal nutrition, lots of fluids, and vitamins. Rehabilitation specialists closely monitor its development to ensure ongoing health and safety.

The bird is put in a warm water therapy pool once it is totally dry, where it continues to groom and wash. Its capacity to float or swim, its level of general awareness, and its progress toward waterproofing are all continuously monitored. Until its waterproofing sufficiently improves and it can be graduated to a cold water pool, the bird will be repeatedly dried off and put back into the heated pool.

These are open-air diving pools where the bird can spend its entire life in the water and still feed, groom, and act normally. Every bird is closely observed by knowledgeable staff, which includes a wildlife veterinarian.

Because the bird is frequently too preoccupied to eat enough during the waterproofing process, nutritional support is maintained. The bird is given several days to rest and re-nourish itself after it is completely waterproof before being given the go-ahead for release.

During care, medical issues or wounds, such as chemical burns or wounds, may be discovered and treated accordingly.

When an oiled bird is deemed fully stable, healthy, and has perfect waterproofing, it is released. Before being released into the wild, an aquatic bird needs to be completely waterproof. Otherwise, it won’t make it. The bird needs to have appropriate weight and blood values for its species and demonstrate typical feeding, swimming, and diving behavior.

The bird is banded with a stainless steel U before being released. S. Geological Survey (USGS) leg band. This facilitates identification in the future and helps International Bird Rescue with its studies. Only areas free of oil are permitted to release it, with permission from both state and federal trustees. It might be taken to a more isolated area before being released if the area where it was captured is still oiled.

This reporter had a lot of questions for her new neighbors after a robin nest moved onto her porch. She was led by one of those questions down a curious rabbit hole that you might find interesting too! This content is exclusive to members of the Goodness Exchange (Monthly), Employee, Business Admin, Enterprise Admin, and Gifted Trial.


How do you take care of a robin?

In nature, the parent robins are constantly searching for food and feeding their babies during daylight hours. A baby robin should be fed as much as it can eat at least every half hour from sunrise to sunset. You can take a 2-3 hour break maybe once a day.

How do robins clean themselves?

Robins bathe partly to get their feathers wet and clean, but also to get their skin wet and clean. They have to fluff up the feathers to let water through to their skin. Then they shake to get the water off.

Can you keep a robin as a pet?

Robins are not typically kept as pets in the same way that dogs, cats, or even pet birds like parrots are. In many places, it may also be illegal to keep native wild birds like robins as pets without proper permits or licenses, as they are often protected by wildlife conservation laws.

What scares robins away?

Use visual deterrents: Robins are scared off by shiny, reflective objects. You can hang CDs, mylar tape, or other reflective materials around the porch to deter the birds.