Found a Baby Bird? Here’s What to Do

It’s the middle of nesting season and many birds are finishing up with their first, and even second, broods. Which means that baby birds everywhere!

This is the time of year that wildlife rehabilitators and organizations get swamped with phone calls about baby birds. I should know — I’ve made “that” phone call, and I’ve been on the receiving end.

Navigating how to engage with wild birds can be confusing. The lists of dos and don’ts are long, easily debated, and sometimes not followed.

Here’s a post to keep in your back pocket for when you encounter a baby bird and how to set it up for success.

“That” Phone Call

“That” phone call refers to this:

“Hi. I found a nest full of baby birds and the mom isn’t around. What should I do?”


“Hi. I found a baby bird. What should I do?”

I’m not a rehabilitator, so you know what? Make “that” phone call! Be “that” person who consults a professional before intervening on a wild bird’s behalf. In my opinion, that is the best action a person can take.

Follow the instructions that the rehabilitator or organization gives to you, even if those instructions are, DO NOTHING.

Do Nothing

The “do nothing” instructions are difficult to accept because most of us want to solve a perceived problem. But the “do nothing” instructions are for the benefit of the wild bird. There are reasons a rehabilitator might instruct you to do nothing.

Eastern Bluebird Fledgling. Image Credit: Animal Perspectives.

Alternatively, this is what might happen if you don’t heed the instructions given to you by a professional and take matters into your own hands:

  • If you take in the bird and feed it: the bird will become malnourished and most likely die. You need to ask yourself, “Am I wildlife professional?” If the answer is “No” then, do follow the instructions given to you by the rehabilitator.
  • If you take in a wild bird that is old enough to survive on its own, the bird may become imprinted on you and will not successfully reintegrate into the wild. That means, the bird might think you are part of its species and not recognize its own kind.
  • If you take a bird before calling a professional, they might refuse to take the bird for policy reasons. Some rehabilitators might refuse a bird that has been fed, or taken, that why it is best to call a wildlife rehabber first.


Eastern Bluebird Fledgling. Image Credit: Animal Perspectives.

If you find a fully feathered “baby” bird on the ground — leave it alone. Baby birds fledge (meaning they leave the nest) before they are able to properly fly, or fly at all.

The parent(s) will feed the fledgling(s) on the ground. If you find an unfeathered, or partially feathered, baby bird and you know where the nest is you can put it back.

In short, the best thing you can do to help a baby bird is to call a wildlife rehabilitator. A simple Google search can put you in touch with one and if you’re feeling proactive, Google now and enter the number in your phone.

Nature happens!

Resource for Finding a Wildlife Rehabilitator, here.

Hatchlings, Partially Feathered Nestlings, and Fully Feathered Nestlings. Image Credit: Animal Perspectives.

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Also read…

3 Tips for Successful Nest Monitoring

Nesting Season Part III: The Right Box for You

How to Approach an Active Bird Nest

Where the Screech Owl Wasn’t

List: The 16 Dos and Don’ts of Managing Your Nesting Boxes

5 Birds to Know in the Northeast this Spring

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