Spring Time Is Baby Bird Time – How to help if you find one

A basket full of Baby Yellow-billed Magpies – photo by Ann Westling

May 18, 2018 – 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 of orphaned or injured birds they find.

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

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If a baby bird is on the ground, this may or may not be normal. WR&R recommends calling their Intake Center for advice (530-477-5774) if you find a nestling or fledgling on the ground. Often baby birds leave their nest before they can fly well. It takes a week or so for them to practice flight skills while receiving food from the parents. These birds should be left alone unless they are in immediate danger from outdoor pets. A baby bird without feathers or feathers not fully grown in on the body should not be out of its nest. Sometimes nestlings can be placed back in the nest, however a grounded nestling requires a thorough exam first to make sure the bird is not injured or sick.

In the meantime:

2) Keep the Bird Warm, Dark, and Quiet

If the bird is injured or no parents are tending to it, keep it in a WARM, DARK, and QUIET place. Do not handle the bird. “To a tiny injured or baby bird, you look like a predator,” cautions 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 Orphaned Baby Birds – 530-477-5774

A hungry Warbler – photo by Ann Westling

The Intake Center is now open 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 809 Maltman Dr., Grass Valley – next door to 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 that is lethal to birds. Even if a bird escapes from the cat, it will likely die from infection or injuries unless treated quickly with antibiotics.

Window Strike Injuries – If a bird flies into a window and is alive, but stunned, call WR&R immediately. 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.

In 2017, over 800 animals and birds received care and just under 60% were either released back into the wild, 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 400 songbirds last year, thanks to caring and concerned residents,” concluded Barbary.