Rev. Nancy's Blog

If You Find a Baby Bird Â…

Birdsong, the bright flash of wings, birds of many species fly to and fro collecting nest materials – all welcome signs of spring. Yet weather, predators, and other causes can result in nest mishaps for even the most diligent bird parents. Here are some guidelines to follow if you find a nestling or fledgling bird:


Nestlings are naked, with eyes closed. If they are out of the nest and cold, warm the bird(s) briefly in your hands and place them back in the nest. Birds have practically no sense of smell, so touching them will not prevent the parents from caring for them. Keep children and pets away from the nest. Watch from a concealed spot so you donÂ’t scare the parents away when they return to care for the young.

Parent birds will feed and leave. Some birds, such as doves, only feed their young a few times a day so it can be a challenge to watch the feeding. Sometimes parents will kick a sick or injured nestling out of the nest and only feed healthy, strong youngsters that have a better chance for survival. If the parents continue to kick the nestling out, call your closest nature center to see if they can care for it.

If the nestling is deformed or injured (bleeding, or caught by a cat or other predator), call your nature center for instructions.

If the nest has been destroyed Â…

You can make a substitute nest from a butter container or small box, lined with facial tissue or a paper towel. Don’t use fresh grass or cotton! Grass sweats, causing the young to get cold, and cotton can get caught in little claws. Make holes in the bottom for drainage in case of rain. Tie the new ‘nest’ securely to a high tree limb or, if no trees are nearby, tack it to the side of a building. Keep it out of the full sun. Watch from a distance to see if the parents return. If no parent returns within two hours, bring the whole nest to a nature center.

Thinking of raising it yourself?

Trying to raise a wild baby bird yourself is not advised and may be illegal, depending on the species of bird and where you live. And itÂ’s complicated. There are over 300 species of birds in California alone, and the wrong diet can kill a bird. Baby birds must be fed every half hour from sunrise to sunset, and are difficult for an inexperienced handler to feed. If a bird is raised by itself, without hearing the many calls and songs of its own species, it likely will not survive in the wild.


Fledglings are baby birds that have feathers, but cannot yet fly. They sometimes jump out of nests. The parents will continue to feed and defend the youngster while it learns to fly and find food. If you find a fledgling on the ground, put it in a safe place within hearing range of where it was found. Keep children and animals away from it. Fledglings usually fly within a few days. As long as the fledgling is active it should be left alone. If the bird is found puffed or with its eyes closed, call and take it in to your nature center.

If you find the bird in a roadway, place it under a bush or shrub within hearing distance of where it was found, and the parents will return to care for it. If it gets into a building, put it outside in a safe place and watch from a distance to see if the parents return. If a fledgling appears weak or sick, has its eyes closed, is bleeding or not moving, call and take it to your nature center.

Sometimes birds are picked up because someone thinks they fell out of a nest. If you have to chase down the baby, itÂ’s probably fine! Put it back right away.

Ducks commonly nest in town, sometimes near swimming pools, back yards or apartment complexes. Most people donÂ’t want ducks in their swimming pools! Mother ducks are often spotted leading their young down a busy street from the nesting site to a body of water. Watch where the ducks go to sleep for the night. After dark, you can carefully throw a blanket over them, collect them in a carrier, and relocate them to a safer place. Again, if you see the babies without their mother, watch from a safe distance to see if she comes back. If she does not return, call your nature center for instructions.

A final word Â…

You’ve noticed that many of these suggestions end with “call your nature center.” The licensing of some nature centers restricts the kinds of birds or other animals they can care for. Sulphur Creek, for example, serves only native wildlife. Nestlings from eaves, palm trees or shopping centers are usually non-native starlings, house sparrows or pigeons. Whether a center can care for the baby bird(s) or not, staff and volunteers there will be able to give you good guidance about what to do.

If You Find a Baby Animal ...

click here to link with my article about baby mammals

Thank you for caring!


*Condensed from guidelines by Sulphur Creek Nature Center, a program of the Hayward Area Recreation Department, Hayward, CA, I volunteer at Sulphur Creek as a wildlife rehabilitation caretaker.