how to help a bird’s broken leg

Few things are more heartbreaking than encountering an injured, sick, or orphaned bird (adult or chick) or other wild animal. It is in our human nature to want to help, but how do we make sure we do more good than harm? Follow these important guidelines.

Adult songbirds can become injured and sick for a multitude of reasons. The most common reasons include getting attacked by house cats, being hit by cars, window strikes, bacterial and viral illnesses contracted at bird feeders, and many more.

If you find an injured bird, carefully put it in a cardboard box with a lid or a towel over the top, and place in a cool, safe place. Birds go into shock very easily when injured, and often die from the shock. If a bird has hit a window and is still alive, it may just need a little time to regain its senses, then may be able to fly away.

Do not try to force feed or give water to the bird. Take the bird outside and open the box every fifteen minutues to see if it is able to fly away. If it is still staying put after a few hours, you can try to find a local wildlife rehabilitator. Click here to locate a Wildlife Rehabilitator by county.

The Wildlife International website also has a directory of rehabilitators worldwide that may have other facilities listed for your region.

Young songbirds are often “bird-napped” by well-intentioned people who have mistaken a normal situation for something being wrong. No one can raise a baby bird as well as the bird’s parents, so we do NOT want chicks to be taken away from their parents unless they are sick, injured, or truly orphaned. ​

If you have found an orphaned bird, the first step is to determine if it is really orphaned.

HATCHLINGS & NESTLINGS Hatchlings and nestlings are very young birds that need to remain in the nest to survive. Hatchlings are either featherless, have thin down, or have early stages of feather growth. Their eyes are closed for at least the first week or so after they hatch (varies with species). They are not able to make their own body heat and need to be kept warm by the mother bird.

Nestlings have the start of feathers over their bodies, often being fully feathered by 2 weeks of age (varies with species). They have the beginnings of flight feathers on their wings. They are more mobile in the nest but are not yet able to stand, hop, or walk. Sometimes older nestlings may fall out of the nest when they are wiggling around inside or beginning to perch.

If a hatchling or nestling is found on the ground, a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator should be contacted. While you wait for further instruction, you can create a makeshift nest for the baby bird in a small Tupperware container or a similar round dish, completely lined with layers of toilet paper that prevent the baby from touching the container itself.

When many young birds first fledge and leave the nest, they may still have a little down with short tail and wing feathers. Fledglings, however, are often NOT in need of humans help when found on the ground.

Did you know that many songbird species learn how to fly from the ground? They have left the nest and are able to sit upright, perch, and can hop or even flutter in short bursts. The baby appears to be alone on the ground, but the parent birds remain nearby in the trees and come down regularly to feed the baby, anywhere from several times an hour to every 1 or 2 hours. The baby will often hide itself in the grass or by low bushes for protection. This situation is completely normal for many songbirds and there is likely no need to interfere.

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Find the closest Audubon Center or Chapter in your area.

FLAP has a useful page about how to confine injured birds, FLAP also has a section of their website devoted to helping individuals save birds by reporting injured bird incidents and also offering practical suggestions about what to do with an injured bird.

However, what occurs if you come into contact with an injured bird? About a year ago, I was on a group tour and, while birding on the Toronto Islands, I saw a dying cormorant on the beach. My group leader had the necessary expertise to determine that it was too late to request any kind of assistance. I suddenly found myself wondering what I would have done on my own. I had been operating under the assumption that birds were unbeatable up until this point. I was scared because I didn’t know who to call or what to do.

Anyone who lives in a major city understands the ongoing risk that office buildings and high-rises pose to birds. Approximately a million birds are killed each year in Toronto alone, many of them are migratory birds that crash into skyscrapers after being fatally misled by reflective windows. The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) develops collision reduction strategies for architects, developers, and building managers in an effort to raise awareness of the needless deaths of birds and to increase the number of bird-safe buildings.

The most amazing thing about birds, in my opinion, is their daring nature. I enjoy pointing my binoculars at birds to see them soar above me, seemingly above human petty concerns. Watching warblers dart from branch to branch never gets old for me; it makes me want to pay even closer attention to details and observe with greater ferocity. Observing birds for hours on end may mislead one to believe that they are unbeatable, alien species.

If you come across a small, injured bird, your first course of action should be to confine it. Without attempting to feed it or give it any medication, place the injured bird in a covered box with holes punched in it and keep it in a warm, quiet area. It is best to take the bird to a rehabilitation center right away if it has severe injuries, blood on it, a large number of missing feathers, swelling, asymmetry, or is unable to stand on its own. If the bird has less severe injuries, it may be able to fly away on its own after being released if it is left alone for a few hours. Always exercise caution when handling large or prey-seeking birds, such as cormorants or swans, and never attempt to imprison them.


Can a bird broken leg heal on its own?

Without medical intervention, there’s a good chance the leg could become gangreneous causing sepsis and death. There’s only a nominal chance of the bird surviving on its own. Sam, my 31 year old Mollucan Cockatoo at the time, had broken his right leg in a freak accident.

How do you fix a bird’s broken leg at home?

In fact, the bird’s leg would most likely heal faster than the mammal’s. All it would entail is to bring the broken parts of the leg back together, wrap the leg against a thin piece of wood (toothpick, popsicle stick, or piece of lath for a large bird) and all would be fine in about two weeks.

Where do you put a bird with a broken leg?

If you find an injured bird, carefully put it in a cardboard box with a lid or a towel over the top, and place in a cool, safe place. Birds go into shock very easily when injured, and often die from the shock.

Can a bird recover from a broken foot?

For example, a bird may recover from two broken bones or one large laceration and one broken bone just fine, but an emaciated bird with a broken bone will often die. Species is also an important thing to consider, as temperament and housing needs affect what fractures are fixable and what methods are most appropriate.