You’ve Found a Baby Bird … Now What?

Every year at this time, we get calls from people who have spotted a baby bird out of its nest and want to know what to do. Occasionally, people even drop off baby birds – injured or otherwise – at our headquarters at Barr Lake State Park. We ask that people please do not bring birds to us, as we are not licensed rehabilitators at Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory. But we totally understand why people reach out to us when they’ve found a baby bird. They’re concerned, and rightfully so. We all love our feathered friends and want to see their little ones survive and prosper.

If You Find a Baby Bird …

Fledglings

Nighthawk fledglings by Erin Youngberg

Try to let nature take its course. Unless the bird is obviously injured, leave the bird alone. A young bird that is fully feathered (fledgling) tends to leave the nest and explore the branches and ground. It’s a vital part of the bird’s development. Yes, the risk of predation increases, but its parents are never that far away and will continue to care for it. Give it space and make sure your pets don’t get to it.

If a nest is nearby and a naked, un-feathered bird (hatchling) or bird with few feathers (nestling) fell out, place it back in the nest without disturbing it too much. If the nest has blown out of its location, gently pick it up and place it back where it was, if you can safely do so. Birds have a poor sense of smell, so it’s a myth that birds will abandon their young once handled by people.

If the young bird is injured, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or wildlife care center. Do not try to care for the bird yourself. Even if your heart is in the right place, keeping a wild bird in captivity is illegal in most states without proper state and federal licenses. Besides, chicks require a lot of work and people can’t provide the constant attention that a mother bird can.

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