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Young Lark Sparrow – photo by Ann Westling

April 24, 2017 – Spring is here and so is baby bird season. Janice Barbary, Songbird Rehabilitator for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release (WR&R), suggests the following steps people can take to increase the survival rate of orphaned or injured birds they find.

1) Put the Baby Bird Back in the Nest

If a baby bird is found on the ground and if it seems unhurt, look for its nest and its parents. It may take 30 – 45 minutes of uninterrupted watching to spot the parents if they are out foraging for food. “If the baby seems unhurt and if you can find the nest with parents still in attendance, you can put the baby bird back into the nest. Baby birds will have a greater chance of survival if raised by their own parents. The parents will NOT abandon the baby just because you touched it,” continued Barbary. Contact WR&R’s Intake Center for further instructions if the young bird is injured; you can’t locate the nest; the nest is too high to reach; or the parents don’t come back to the nest. If you can describe the baby bird and its parents to the Intake Center volunteers, they may be able to give helpful information about finding the nest.

2) Keep the Bird Warm, Dark, and Quiet

Baby Crows – photo by Sandy Beach

If the bird is injured or truly abandoned – keep it WARM, DARK, and QUIET. “To a tiny injured or baby bird, you look like a predator,” cautioned Barbary. She advises folks to put it in an appropriate size box with small air holes and a lid; line the box with white paper towels adding crumpled paper towels around the edge to support the bird; and keep it quiet. Do not give it anything to drink or eat as improper feeding techniques or the wrong food can kill it. Keep children and pets out of the area. While transporting to WR&R’s Intake Center, turn off the air-conditioning and radio.

3) Contact WR&R’s Intake Center with Injured or Abandoned Baby Birds – 530-477-5774

The Intake Center will open on May 1 to accept birds and provide advice between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week. Contact the Intake Center for guidance on what to do if a bird is in distress.  The Intake Center is located in the Brunswick Basin at 799 Maltman Dr., Grass Valley – behind Walker’s Office Supplies – across the street from Taco Bell.  

Additional Concerns

Cat-Caught Birds Need Care Immediately – It is especially important to know if there were cats in the vicinity and if the bird could have been “cat-caught”. Cat saliva contains a bacteria harmless to cats but lethal to birds. Even if a bird escapes from the cat, it will likely die from infection or injuries unless treated quickly with antibiotics.

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Common Poorwill. It normally catches insects in the air – thus the amazing size of its mouth!

Window Strike Injuries – If a bird flies into a home window and is alive, but stunned, also call WR&R. Head trauma may be the result and medication to reduce/prevent swelling may be given before the bird is released.

WR&R Needs Additional Volunteers

WRR is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of injured or orphaned native wildlife. They have teams that care for raptors, songbirds, small mammals and bats. To volunteer, contact the Intake Center, 530-477-5774 after May 1. Before May 1, contact WR&Rs hotline at 530-432-5522

In 2016, over 1200 animals and birds received care and 66% were either released back into the wild, were transferred to another facility or were still receiving care. “Thank you to all the finders who brought songbirds into the Intake Center last year or called for assistance. We treated over 500 songbirds last year, thanks to caring and concerned residents,” concluded Barbary.