how to save a bird’s life

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.

You play an important role in our mission to protect birds & the habitats they need to survive.

How to catch an injured bird

Here are some typical scenarios in which you can rescue an injured bird:

  • If a bird gets stuck in a fence or in the mouth of a dog or cat, remove it as soon as you can, being cautious. To keep the bird from taking off and possibly dying from injuries, try to hold onto it.
  • The bird is unable to fly, so approach it slowly and silently from behind. Then, reach down quickly and precisely. Without pausing, quickly wrap your hand around the bird’s shoulders, keeping its wings tucked in against its body, and lift it up. Try this again in the early evening when it is almost dark if it does not work during the day.
  • The bird can run, walk, or hop. To pick it up, try to maneuver it into a corner or up against a wall. Ask one or two other people to assist you if needed. A bird net also can be useful.
  • The bird has some flight ability, so you might be able to capture it after dusk or by guiding it into a corner. Again, a bird net can help. The following day, when the bird may be less weak from their wounds, you might be able to catch it if it can fly well.
  • The bird appears to have an injury, despite its good flight: It may not be feasible to capture it. Avoid finding yourself in a situation where you have no chance of catching the bird. That won’t work and could stress the bird to death.

Sometimes you can put seed on the ground leading into a pet carrier, especially if it’s for a bird that lives in your yard. Once the bird enters, you can carefully close the door. A bird that is injured should not be trapped with other birds as this could lead to more injuries. When pigeons, doves, and certain other ground feeders are hurt, this technique performs best.

Handling a wild bird

Hold onto the bird with a firm grip that is not too tight once you have it in your possession. Never pick up a bird by its legs, head, or wings; always grab it by its body.

With one hand, support the bird’s body and its feet. (The feet in the palm of your hand should be directly beneath the bird’s body, not dangling.) If the bird is small enough to fit comfortably in your palm, place your other hand over it and hold it firmly in both of your hands. Avoid creating gaps between your hands that the bird could squirm through.

Should the bird exceed the size of your hand’s palm, g. , a pigeon), grasp it with one hand as previously mentioned, and then place your other hand over the shoulders of both wings, holding the wings folded against the bird’s body in their typical, at-rest position.

When handling the bird, keep the following in mind:

  • The bird is very frightened. The bird is hurt, in a strange place, away from its flock or mate, and being held captive by a large predator (you). The bird is not aware of your good intentions.
  • Even though the bird appears to be very still, they are not at ease. When they sense that their lives are in danger, birds go into this motionless state as a way to avoid being noticed by predators.
  • Injured adult songbirds can very easily die of stress. Never hold the bird for longer than is necessary. Avoid staring at the bird, touching them, or attempting to determine how injured they are. You want to handle the bird as little as possible because “petting” it will frighten it rather than soothe it. ”.

Bring the bird inside to a room that is safe, has a closed door, and is empty of kids or animals. The room should have as little furniture as possible because if the bird escapes, it could hide behind a piece of furniture or into a container where it would be hard to get to them. A bathroom is usually a good place to take the bird; if needed, you can block off that area with a towel placed under the bathroom door.

Covering the windows until the bird is inside a box is the best course of action if it appears to be able to fly. If not, the bird may escape from you and sustain injuries from flying into the window.

Other Ways to Help

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How do you help a bird survive?

Getting Help If there’s a concern about predators, place the bird in a small box that is ventilated at the top and put the box in a dark, quiet location away from drafts and noise. You can place a shallow water dish in the box, but do not force feed the bird.

How do you nurse a bird back to life?

Keep the bird WARM, DARK AND QUIET! Bring it to us or another licensed rehabilitator for help as soon as possible. Disturb as little as possible-DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GIVE IT WATER OR FOOD unless instructed to do so by a licensed rehabilitator. Please do not attempt to care for the bird yourself.

What to do when a bird is alive but not moving?

Keep it in a quiet and warm place. Call a local wildlife rehabilitation center. There are locations in every state – so you will need to do a search online or call your local humane society or the Department of Natural Resources.

What to do if you find a bird on the ground?

Wearing gloves, or with clean hands, gently pick up the bird and place it in a covered box with air holes and a cloth or soft bedding. Place the box in a dark, quiet place away from people and pets. Don’t give the bird food or water. Contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center to arrange for further care.