Thursday, May 6, 2010

Question: What to do with baby birds?

Dr. Schaeberle,

Every spring I find baby birds that fall out their nests in my barn and I never know what is best to do with them? Any suggestions?



Hi Phil,

“I found a baby bird—what should I do?” is a frequent call received at our veterinary clinic every spring. You may be surprised that our advice will be to do nothing. Why? Because you would be interfering with a natural process. Baby birds, such as the American robin, even birds of prey like owls and hawks, leave the nest before they are able to fly. If a baby bird seems to be fully feathered, don’t worry - their parents will support them from the ground, responding to their hunger cries. What you can do is keep children and pets a safe distance away.

A true nestling can be identified by its covering of down and scant feathers, or by a completely down coat if they are a bird of prey. If you happen to find one, it is ok to return it to its nest if you can reach it. Touching it will not make the mother abandon it. In general, birds have a relatively poor sense of smell and will not detect a human scent. Not every bird that hatches will survive. Multiple eggs are laid so that hopefully at least one will make it! As harsh as this fact may sound, other wildlife are dependent on baby birds as a food source and a means of survival.

Birds, with a few exceptions like the starling, house sparrow and pigeon, are protected by state and federal game laws. If you find a baby bird, owl or hawk that truly requires medical assistance, our office can provide you with contact information for the appropriate licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Thomas Schaeberle, V.M.D.

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