how to tell if a bird is a baby

When you come across a helpless-looking baby bird out of its nest, it’s hard to resist the overpowering urge to come to the rescue.

Many birds that people try to rescue are still being cared for by their parents (even if you cant see them) and should be left alone.

Heres a primer on when to take action for songbirds (baby ducks or geese require a different approach); when in doubt, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

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Since the heads of baby birds are still developing, you can tell which one is a baby by looking for a bill that is significantly larger than its head. It won’t be able to fly yet, so expect it to prance around on the ground. When the bird is very young, it might remain motionless and open its bill to make a food demand. Additionally, look for feathers that are short, fluffy, and have a dull color. Continue reading for advice on handling a baby bird that has fallen from its nest!

Determine the Bird’s Age

Baby birds go through three stages:

  • Hatchling (usually 0-3 days old). It may have strands of down on its body, but it hasn’t opened its eyes yet. It’s not ready to leave the nest.
  • Nestling (usually 3-13 days old). Its eyes are open, and because its wing feathers haven’t yet broken through their protective sheaths, they might appear like tubes. It’s also not ready to leave the nest.
  • Fledgling (13-14 days old or older). This bird is fully feathered. It may not be a great flyer due to its short wings and tail, but it can still walk, hop, and flutter. It has left the nest, but its parents might still be there, looking after it.

How to Help Hatchlings and Nestlings

It is best to attempt to safely return a hatchling or nestling that you find on the ground if you can see its nest. Contrary to common assumption, birds’ sense of smell is not very developed. As a result, the parents won’t be able to tell if their young bird has come into contact with humans and won’t leave them.

You can create a nest if one doesn’t already exist by securing a container to a branch. Although a tiny basket works best, you can also use a plastic container by poking holes in the bottom, like a margarine tub. Sides should be no higher than 4 inches. Cut two wires into eighteen-inch lengths, then thread them up and down the container’s bottom. Line the container with dry grass and firmly wire it to the top of a branch in the same tree or shrub as the nest. Place the bird inside the basket.


How do I identify a baby bird?

They can be identified by their closed eyes (if only recently hatched), baldness or bald spots, pin feathers which resemble thin tubes, downy fluff, lack of mobility, and sometimes a lack of fear of humans, depending on how young they are.

How do you tell if a bird is an adult or a baby?

Down Feathers – Tufts of fluffy down feathers sticking out of the feathers may be an indication that the bird is young. In addition, the feathers that are still growing in on the body will give the baby a “ruffled” look compared to the sleek appearance of an adult bird.

How do you tell if a bird is a fledgling or injured?

More rarely, you may come across a fledgling on the ground that is hurt or sick, and these birds may need intervention. Signs of this include wet feathers; the presence of flies, which could be a sign of an open wound; and an inability to walk or hop on the ground. For adult birds, injuries are often apparent.

What does a baby bird look like?

Turns out baby birds look almost nothing like their adult versions. Quite the opposite, in fact – until they fully grow out their feathers, they look like shabby, oddly proportioned “ugly ducklings” that you couldn’t even tell are related to the adult birds.