Help Baby Birds

What Should I Do...?

... if I find a baby bird on the ground that can't fly?

If the baby is a nestling, check this page for more info.

Before proceeding, are you sure the bird is really a baby?

Small adult birds who cannot fly because of illness or injury are frequently mistaken for baby birds. Baby birds typically have at least one of these traits:

  • Fleshy yellow or white skin at the corners of the bird's beak.
  • Covered in down, or has tufts of down sticking through the feathers.
  • Visible pin feathers (looks like the baby has quills instead of feathers).
  • Naked skin visible on the body, or naked patches under the wings.
  • Frequent peeping or chirping.
  • Short tail.

If the bird shows none of these traits, it may not be a baby. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator for further advice.

If the baby is a fledgling, it probably hasn't fallen from the nest - it's jumped! Because nests are not big enough to accommodate very large babies, and because they need practice jumping and fluttering while they grow out their feathers, almost all species of songbirds leave the nest before they can fly. They spend up to a week hopping around on the ground while their flight ability develops, though they are not independent - their parents fly down and bring food to them on the ground. This is not only normal, but an important part of their development.

Fledglings do not normally need to be put back in the nest - if you do put them back, they will just jump out again, since they are not meant to be in the nest at this stage. If parents are coming to feed the baby, it is best to leave it where it is.

If you have recently found a fledgling and you are don't see any parents around, a good way to determine if its parents have been caring for it is to see if the baby is pooping normally. Parent birds feed their babies frequently and as a result, a healthy baby bird will poop often - if the bird has pooped since you picked it up, and the feces has both white and dark colours in it, then it has been fed recently by its parents. If you aren't sure, you can place the baby in an open-topped box in the area where it was found. The box may be wedged in a low tree branch or in a bush if it is safer. Leave the area or monitor from a distance. Parents will often stay away if they think there is danger. Return and check the box in one hour. If there is normal white-and-dark feces in the box when you return, then the baby is not likely orphaned. Leave it in the area (without the box) for its parents to continue to care for it.

If the baby does not poop within a one hour period or the poop is only white or yellow in colour, contact a wildlife rehabilitator.

Note: This will not be a reliable test if you have fed the baby yourself, as this will affect whether the baby poops. Please do not feed a baby bird without first speaking to a wildlife rehabilitator. If you have already fed the baby, return it to the area where it was found and monitor from a distance for one hour to see if any parents return. You must watch constantly over this period, as parents can feed the baby and fly away very quickly.

If you are concerned about the fledgling's safety, find out what you can do to help baby birds!

... if I find birds in an abandoned nest?

... if I find a baby bird fallen from the nest?

... if an entire nest of birds has fallen?

... if my dog or cat brings home a baby bird?