Introduction: Injured Bird: What to Do - Step by Step

Picture of Injured Bird: What to Do - Step by Step

It's springtime & lots of baby birds are leaving their nests. But, some birds don't make it on their first flight...rather they end up on the ground, injured and helpless. If you find one of these injured birds, you need to know what to do - and take action fast.

Background & Disclaimer: I am not a bird expert, but found a baby house sparrow recently, lying on the pavement on it's back. It fell from the second floor of my home, where it had a nest underneath my air conditioner. I love animals, and couldn't leave it there to die. I didn't take the proper steps though - so hopefully you will be able to avoid the stress and exhaustive work I ended up undergoing to keep the little baby alive! Please read the whole instructable because I witnessed some amazing things happen after this bird was injured - and I will share it all below.

First, get a shoebox or small container & fill it with some leaves and papertowel, napkins or thick toilet paper. Make sure you have a lid for the shoebox and cut some holes or slices into it for air. Approach the bird & if possible, pick it up with some of the tissue or paper towel. Look it over & see if it can move, walk or fly. If it can fly, obviously let it go. But, if it was lying there it is most likely injured in some way and needs care.

Here is the tricky part - if you call a local humane society or animal care organization they will tell you to try to put it back in its nest. You know what, if you know the bird is injured (and you will know this by the fact that it cannot fly) then do not put the bird back in its nest. I almost killed the bird I found by doing this. I put the bird back in its nest and checked on it an hour later and it was almost dead from being so cold. It then also tried to fly again by hopping and almost fell to its death a second time. Do not do this if it is injured!

*** Important Note *** Do not listen to those old tales people say about how if you touch a bird the mother will reject it. It is not true at all. And I needed to hold my baby bird to give it care and try to feed it. The parents did not reject it afterwards. Birds don't have a good sense of smell & they recognize their baby from it's chirps and cries. Also, be sure to either wear gloves or wash those hands really well after handling it.

The most important thing to do now, is to get the bird warmed up. You can see if the bird is suffering from being cold because its skin will have a purplish color to it, rather than it's normal pink. Even if you can't see if it's cold, make sure you have a heating pad underneath the shoe box or inside it. It needs to stay very warm to prevent pneumonia. If you see that the bird is breathing deeply or shaking, it is in shock. Keep it in a quiet and warm place.

Call a local wildlife rehabilitation center. There are locations in every state - so you will need to do a search online or call your local humane society or the Department of Natural Resources. If you can't locate one or must wait a while before dropping the bird off for care, you will need to tend to the baby bird to keep it alive until then.

My mistake was that I didn't get the bird into the rehab center the first day I found it. I didn't realize it had a broken wing and tried to reunite it with its family.

Feeding Tips if the Bird Family is Around:
  • If you need to buy some time before you can drop the bird off, then I recommend you first try to take the bird in the shoebox outside near where you found it. Make sure it is as warm as it can be with the unplugged heating pad next to it when you put it out there.
  • Then step aside and far away to observe. I did this, and within 30 seconds its father swooped down to it and jumped inside the shoebox. It then scampered around for seeds (I just put a bird feeder out thankfully) and it picked through them, grabbed one and fed it to the injured baby.
  • It did this numerous times. When it left, I then brought the baby bird back inside to warm it up. I did this about every half hour - as they are supposed to eat that often.
*If the family is gone and you need to feed the baby yourself, then get an eye dropper or medicine dropper. Here are some recommendations for feeding injured birds while waiting to get the bird to the care center - tips are from the Wild Bird Care Center Website:
  • Robins, Starlings and other insectivores:  tinned cat or dog food, preferably beef for robins;  small pieces of earthworm can also be offered on the end of a toothpick - or mushy cat food moistened with water
  • Sparrows and other seed eaters:  slowly scrambled eggs which can be moistened with water for babies;  budgie seed and wild bird seed can be offered to adults
  • Cedar waxwings: grapes, blueberries and other berries cut into small pieces
  • Hummingbirds: 4 parts water, 1 part sugar - boil water, dissolve sugar, cool to room temp - this nectar can then be offered at the tip of the beak with an eye-dropper
It's ok to give the bird a little water with the eye dropper. Be careful to avoid the nostrils and only give tiny drops of water. Do not force it on the bird. The baby bird I found, would take very tiny sips off the end of the eye dropper by opening and closing its mouth really fast. I was unable to open the mouth enough to feed it seeds, so I took what I had, some cat food and made it into a mush with water and used the eye dropper to slowly give that to the bird. The rehab center later told me that my type of bird shouldn't have had that, but it was fine and they needed to know in order to flush it out or provide proper care and medicine. Be sure to tell them everything.

Lastly, try not to become too attached to the little injured bird. My son was a bit hysterical at how ill the bird was. He was crying because he thought the bird would die - and I didn't get the bird into the rehab center until the 2nd day after finding it. It barely survived the night and looked very near death the morning after I found it. I think the bird survived because of my desperation - because of my son and his feelings too. The morning after it spent the night in my house, after giving it some food and water and warmth - it started to seem a bit revived. I got it to the rehab center and it was cared for!

* Cool Piece of Info * I made a short video clip when I put the baby bird outside. I saw it chirp and its father began chirping loudly - then its father swooped down to feed it. Later, when inside and the bird looked very low on life and energy and I needed to try to feed it, I played the video clip and when it heard the sound it became re-energized and began chirping and opening its mouth so I was able to feed it easier. I played it on and off for the bird and it helped keep it alive!

Update!!! It is very common for birds with injuries to not survive, unfortunately. Thankfully, by some miracle, my baby bird did survive at the rehab center and they let the bird go free after it was all healthy. Maybe I'm too sentimental, but I just wished they would have let me take him back home to set him free here, with his family!


paygottlieb10 (author)2017-07-01

Sadly the poor baby bird died really late last night.

paygottlieb10 (author)2017-06-30

I found a bird a few hours ago, and is doesn't seem like it is doing good, something is wrong with his leg, so we put him in this basket, and we tried to feed him but we didn't have any fruit so, i thought it was ok if i fed him dried cranberries , so its been a few hours, but the bird has something in its right eye, please help me , i don't know what to do.

MartynS3 (author)2016-08-18

Our cat just came home with a budgie. The poor bird is dead. Has a tag on it with a number on it. Wat do we do.

CharlieS82 (author)MartynS32016-08-24

You should probably stop letting your cats out. Irresponsible cat owners like you wreak havok on wildlife and cause feral cat populations to swell, or develop in the first place. I own 3 cats, none of them go outside, EVER.

MikasaA4 (author)CharlieS822016-08-27

This isn't necessary. some cats are not capable of being inside. I rescued a cat who would panic when he was inside due to his previous owners abuse. I don't know if you know this person or not but, if you don't who are you to judge someone else's choices? Lets try to make the internet better by not being rude. There are so many words in the world. you could have chose some that helped you state your opinion and that were also polite. Have a good day.

storm70 (author)MikasaA42016-12-24

While I agree the person above could have perhaps worded it more positively, the fact is that feral and free ranging cats kill millions of baby birds, wildlife, and animals per year in America. I happen to care about all animals (including cats), but the fact is that no cat should be outdoors, if one cares about the cat's health and life span, or the other wildlife. It has become extremely problematic in this country, and in fact, has resulted in the extinction of several species of animals that we will never get back.

I hope that people reading this will realize that in general, having outdoor cats is bad for the cat, and our native animals...


ValeriaR11 (author)storm702017-06-29

Don't let cats out at night is the rule. During the day, they do very little of anything but lounge around. I live in the country and have had cats forever. Just about EVERYTHING happens at night. So let them out during the day when you're around so they can enjoy life. It's BS their life is shortened. I have a 14 and 15 year old cat I'm looking at right now out on the deck snoozing. No way would I deprive them. Lock yourself up inside forever see how you feel about it.

They need to stay indoors in my opinion but if it is a cat that panics indoors it should go out for its welfare and be restricted and watched I see where you are coming from though

HollyMann (author)MikasaA42016-08-27

Thanks for the nice comment.

ValeriaR11 (author)CharlieS822017-06-29

Quit lecturing. I let my cats out during the day. They never hunt anything. I have 20 years established feeders. It's cruel and inhumane to keep a cat locked up inside forever, never to climb a tree or feel grass on their feet too.

HollyMann (author)MartynS32016-08-24

Sorry to hear it. Not sure why it has a tag and number on it...may want to look it up on Google. Sorry.

CarolyneC1 (author)2017-06-27

I NEED HELP!!!!! i find a baby blue jay and its wing and leg are dragging behind it (both on the left side) no mom or dad around. i tried calling all the animal rescues but the areeither too far for me to get to or them to me, or over-packed and dont have room. there are too meany cats,fox,ect in my neighborhood for me to just let it go. my hart just cant do it. please please please help me anyone :( :( :( :( :(

storm70 (author)2016-12-24


Thank you for the well written, informative information....nice work!

Pradeesharc (author)2016-11-04

I need help asap I found a badly injured 2 week old pigeon . It can even get up its wing and spine might be injured . Is it okay to feed it banana mushed up with sugar water ? It survived the night and I'm planning to take it to some rehabilitation centre . I live in India and bird formulas are uncommon.

HollyMann (author)Pradeesharc2016-11-05

Hi Pradeesharc,
Sorry for not replying sooner. I am not an expert, but here is some information that might help: ...I read some sugar water is fine and maybe the bird is too young for crumbs from bread....and here is more information about feeding young pigeons: the bird still alive and doing ok? I hope so. You are a very compassionate person to be helping it.

Pradeesharc (author)Pradeesharc2016-11-04

*cant even get up or straight

StephanieD125 (author)2016-09-05

I found a turtle dove with a broken wing last year and kept it in a
cage with food an water for about 6 weeks and one day when I took her
out to get some sun she flew away!! It was so exciting and we are sure
she comes back to visit us because there is a lone turtle dove that
hangs out in a tree in our back yard.
Today I found a bird that has
been badly attacked by a cat. Many feathers are missing, a wing is
broken and it has several visible puncture wounds. She cannot fly, but
she is hopping and walking quite well so she is in my rescue bird cage
for now. I rinsed her with water, and will disinfect her with a no-sting
disinfectant, but I don't know if this bird will recover. I need to
call a bird vet or a wildlife center, but of course nothing is open
now. It helps to read all your comments because I am a nervous wreck
worrying about this sweet bird suffering. I cannot stand to see an
animal suffer!!!

JamesH391 (author)2016-07-02

God Bless You . Thanks for the info. Now I know what needs to be done for this precious little angel because you helped . Please , a little prayer for this baby bird would not hurt ! Thanks again .

EllenD25 (author)JamesH3912016-08-13

Please read my post above, as this article, though very well meaning, could very well kill a baby bird.

Sophiegemanaru (author)2016-08-10

Hello! Yesterday when I was walking in the park, there was a baby bird lying on the floor close to the tree. When we found her she had blood of her and she couldn't fly. We tried looking for the mother but she was no where in sight. We gave the baby some water by putting some in a straw and putting drops. We let her sleep in a towel lined box with airholes. Please help! We don't know how to heal her so she can fly again and we don't know what to feed her. I hope you'll answer this message! :)

EllenD25 (author)Sophiegemanaru2016-08-13

Please see my above post.

EllenD25 (author)2016-08-13

As a bird owner of 30 years as well as a breeder of parakeets, and someone who worked in the avian diagnostics lab at Penn State University, most of the information given in this article is very wrong and will more than likely kill a baby bird, wild or domestic. It's unfortunate that this is out there on the internet for people to use as a way to try and help a baby bird in need.

The only thing I agree with is that the bird must be kept very warm, in fact at 88-92 degrees. Yes, use a heating pad, but never inside the box you have the bird in, always underneath the box! Get a shoebox or other small cardboard box, no need for a lid as the bird can't climb or fly, and it needs air, and a cool end to get to. So put the heating pad under half the box, leaving the other half to be the cooler area if the baby needs it. Put either clean towels or paper bedding in the box, no cedar or pine chips or anything with dust as the baby can aspirate them. Put the baby on the towels at the end of the box with the heating pad underneath it, and cover that half only with another towel to trap the heat in at that end only. The bird will not "catch pneumonia", pneumonia is an infection caused by either a bacteria or a virus. It needs the heat because it is not fully feathered and cannot regulate it's own body temperature, plus it will most likely be in shock and this can cause their body temp to drop and kill them. It also needs to be warm enough to digest food. If the bird is too cold, it's crop will go into "stasis" or "sour crop" and the food will just sit in the crop but not progress to their intestines.

Parent birds often throw a sick or injured bird out of the nest or purposely kill it, and this is why you need to call a wildlife rescue or your local game commission immediately if the bird is obviously injured. You cannot put an injured baby bird back into it's nest because the parents will probably either kill it or just stop feeding it, and unless you're capable of raising it until it's weaned onto solid food and can fly, it needs to be taken care of until that point.

The feeding section of this article is the most disturbing as baby birds that are still young enough to be in a nest and still being fed by it's parents cannot eat solid food at all!!! No seeds, no worms, nothing!!! Yes, the parents eat these things, but they actually let the food get moody and develop into a liquid and they then regurgitate this liquid from their crops into the baby's mouth. They do not pick up a seed and feed it directly to the baby. This can actually kill a baby bird instantly, as they can very easily aspirate any solid food into their windpipe and die. The liquid food that their parents basically "vomit" into the baby's mouth goes into the hole to the baby's crop. This hole is on the baby's right side of it's throat (your left). So you need to either go to Petco or your local pet store and buy some hand feeding formula for baby birds and mix it according to the container, or you need to make a formula yourself in a blender made up of fruits, veggies, whole wheat bread or pasta, nuts, shelled seeds, etc. mixed with either boiling water or boiling, unflavored Pedialyte. I actually mix my hand feeding formula with Pedialyte. The formula should be the consistency of pudding, this is how you know how much water or Pedialyte to add. No need to feed the baby water separately, it will get it's water from the formula. AND NEVER PUT ANY TYPE OF CONTAINER OF WATER IN THE BOX, THE BIRD CAN EASILY DROWN! The formula needs to be at a temperature of around 105-110 degrees. If it's hotter it will burn the baby's mouth and crop, if it's colder the baby will most likely spit it out or refuse it, and if they do eat it when it's too cold it can cause crop stasis or sour crop and just sit their, not being emptied by the crop into the intestines, and the bird can starve to death with a full crop. Use a kitchen thermometer to get the formula to around 115-120 degrees and then suck it up into an eye dropper. It will cool quickly to 110. Always microwave or boil the water or Pedialyte and then add it to the formula mix or to your blender if you're making your own, as if you microwave the formula mixed with water it will have "hot spots", or pockets of scalding hot formula that will burn the baby. Take an eyedropper and suck up the formula, and always place it on the baby's left side of their beak (your right) and aim the eyedropper over their tongue and across their mouths to their right side of the back of their throat (your left). The baby should start bobbing it's head rapidly if it's hungry. I should emphasize that before you feed the baby you need to check it's crop to see if it's full already by feeling it's upper chest area right below it's chin. If it's bulging and feels like a balloon then the parents had just fed it before it fell and you must wait until it's crop emptied to feed it again. If you do not feel a balloon or see a bulge and it's chest is flat then you should feed it. This should happen every 3-4 hours as the crop empties. Again, start on the baby's left side of it's beak (your right) and aim the eyedropper across to the baby's right side (your left) and to the back of it's throat. Squeeze the eyedropper to the rhythm of the baby's head bobbing. If it has no feeding reflex you may have to open it's beak with the eyedropper and squirt some formula into it's crop until it gets the hang of the eyedropper, or until it calms down from shock and fear. Each normal eyedropper full is 1ml, and baby should take 3-4ml, although the younger the baby the less it will eat. Do not force the baby to eat more than it wants. If it's head stops bobbing and it pushes you away or spits the formula out, stop feeding it.

Clean any wounds with any antiseptic that people use like hydrogen peroxide, iodine, hibiclens (this is the best), etc. and make sure to put firm and direct pressure on any active bleeding until it completely stops, as baby birds have very little blood and can easily bleed to death. Once any bleeding is stopped and the wounds are cleaned, put antibiotic cream, NOT OINTMENT, on the wounds, like Neosporin or Bacitracin. If the baby has any bad injuries like a broken leg or wing, there isn't much you can do but wait for the game commission or wildlife rescue to come, as the baby will need vet care to set and splint any broken bones.
After addressing wounds, feeding, and getting the baby in it's box with a heating pad under HALF of the box, put the baby in a quiet, dark room, free from any activity. Only disturb the baby to feed it formula every 3-4 hours, or whenever you see/feel that it's crop is empty.

Hopefully the wildlife rescue or game commission comes quickly to pick the baby up, and if it doesn't and you are able, please take it to an avian vet if it has any major injuries. Always call a qualified avian veterinarian for help if it

Sophiegemanaru (author)2016-08-10

She also cannot walk properly, she often trips over her self.

FarrelR (author)2016-07-15

My brother and I did everything, but the baby bird is sleeping so much it's not making any cries for help what should I do?

thelonelyrobot (author)2016-07-06

Hi, so I found this baby eurasian jay close to my house as it was in the process of being attacked by crows. He already quite big but was clearly not ready to leave the nest which led me to believe the crows must have taken him out of it. I called the centres but they were closed over the weekend so I cared for him as he couldn't fly up to join his parents. His leg is also injured although that could be a birth handicap. Since I couldn't find anyone to drive me to the centre me and my friends cared for the bird for 4 days already (with a lot of tips from the internet and books) and he's become really attached to us. We stay with him all day in the garden, feed him, bathe him and keep him out of harms way and occasionally his parents come around and feed him. He sleeps in a box inside at night. He's become so tame it scares me and he can't move properly on the ground due to his leg. There's a big chance that if I take him to a centre now they might euthanize him as his chances of survival in nature are slim, as we were told by someone who used to work there. I also don't want to take him away from his parents and am perhaps stupidly hoping that if he learns to fly he might be able to join them. I really don't know what to do, any advice? Aside from his leg he's mostly fine, chirping all day and being very lively.

RemaD1 (author)2016-06-17

I found this baby bird about 20 mins ago on my terrace balcony. It is injured an can barely walk or even stand properly . I fed it a few grains of boiled rice. I left it outsidde so that its parents could retrieve it. I am freaking out right now. I dont know what to do. its just trying to escape. I dont want it to die. What should i do to save it

AngieH41 (author)2016-06-17

Found a small bird in Afghanistan (I'm currently deployed). He's not doing well. Its over 120 degrees here right now and he's barely moving. I've got it in a cool place and I've put its feet in cool water. Moving slowly with this so I don't put him into shock. He's still breathing but he wont open his eyes or drink anything. What do I do? I don't think he's in pain but he may be too out of it to feel anything. I need any advice you can give me, please.

Chuck55 (author)2016-06-12

I found a blue jay yesterday and I'm seeing what it eats
I gave it some ants, and water.

MelonieE2 (author)2016-05-31

My daughter found a baby bird last night on the ground with a broken wing. We looked around for a nest but the trees if it had fallen from were too tall to see. We put the baby bird in a shoe box with a towel and gave it water with a dropper then also smashed some pumpkin seed and try to feed it. It survived the night and seems to be somewhat better. The baby bird even had a little poop.
Called the wildlife and they're close today. Don't know what type of bird it is.

TheAnimeCrabO (author)MelonieE22016-05-31

If I may give you some advice I would say that that bird is very, Very small; Newborn most likely. Therefore it's a bad idea to give the bird pumpkin seeds (Because it may disrupt their diet ending in fatal consequences) or give it water to drink from the tap (Or any kind of filtered water). For baby birds can die if they drink water incorrectly (Which is usually why mothers feed their babies from their beaks, Same goes for water) I recommend bringing the bird to a professional or going to the vet for advice on how to take care of the bird properly. :)

Of course this advice is just a suggestion. I'm only Fourteen so analytically I would only be able to suffice small amounts of help. (I work with birds and animals so I have a good idea on how of take care of them ) If you have any questions you can Email me at :)

MelonieE2 (author)TheAnimeCrabO2016-05-31

Thank you!
I took the newborn to a wildlife hospital today as they were closed last night. Will check back with them in four days to see how the baby is doing.

HollyMann (author)MelonieE22016-06-03

Oh my gosh Melonie I am so glad someone else I hadn't been on here in a few days. That is the smallest little injured bird I have ever seen. So glad you took it to a care are so kind to care enough to save it!

KristaS8 (author)2015-12-15

My dad found this guy out by the mailbox and brought it to me and said he couldn't just leave it laying there. We think it flew into a car or something.. I'm not really a bird expert but as you can see I gathered up some paper and put it in a small cooler (yes I'm leaving the lid open so it can breathe) and put wild bird seed & water in there. It hasn't touched either one.. But he is moving his head around more and more. I guess we are just gonna wait and see what happens.

HollyMann (author)KristaS82015-12-16

Hi Krista,

I hope the bird is ok...please update with news on it. That is a beautiful bird. Are you guys thinking of taking it in anywhere? Some bird rescue places will help them and do vet care on them for free or a donation, etc. I hope it goes ok..thanks for the photo and comment.

KristaS8 (author)HollyMann2015-12-16

Sadly, he passed away today.. I was looking at places to take him lastnight and I'm not sure they take in wild birds. I think his neck or back may have been broken because he wasn't really moving it. I'm just happy he's not in pain anymore..

HollyMann (author)KristaS82016-06-03

Hi Krista, Sorry for not replying a long, long time ago. I am sorry about your cute little bird. I think it is a miracle if these little injured birds survive at least you helped the bird have a peaceful safe place near the end of his life.

Mattie7671 (author)2016-01-15

I have a sad story that happened in hign school today.
I was at the bus stop waiting for my bus and we saw a pigeon sitting in the corner not moving at first we thaught it was dead but it was moving its head slightly as the corner was full of rubbish we managed to purswade the bird to move across the road as it would not let us touch it when it got across the road we tried to give it some food but it wouldent eat so we just left it alone. When some of the other years found out about the bird they walked over and looked at it and did nothing but then a group of year 11s (16 years of age) came along and started to spit on it and pretend to kick it. Then one of the year 11s got a brick and dropped it on its head which is really wrong as we spent money and time looking after it. It is now dead.

If you want to see the pigeon when it was still alive search up mlg_magnacarta on instagram.

I think the bird had an injured back and foot when it was alive

Any help on helping pigeons as i live in england and it is quite common when we see and dead/injured one

HollyMann (author)Mattie76712016-06-03

Wow I am so sorry :(

Missbird11 (author)Mattie76712016-06-03

That's not good and is very sad but I found a bird and my cat ingered it I did what the instructions said to but all the time and effort I put into it the cat eat it

HollyMann (author)Missbird11 2016-06-03

Oh my...I am SO sorry. :(((

VijayaM2 (author)2016-01-26

Robin that couldn't make it!?

Missbird11 (author)VijayaM22016-06-03


HeatherW98 (author)2016-05-31

I'm so happy reading these comments and all them being so caring toward all living things. I thought people like y'all were extinct .. Lol. Its hard to find people like y'all now days its sad...

amnan4 (author)2016-02-08

I dont want her to die...can yiu plz tell me something

amnan4 (author)2016-02-08

I dont want her to die...can yiu plz tell me something

amnan4 (author)2016-02-08

I have an australian parrot ...she is injured ...her foot is all swelled and i dont know how to heal her....she is getting weak day by day...please tell me how to cure her

VijayaM2 (author)2016-01-26

Last week, found a Robin in front of my office lying on the ground. It seemed badly injured as it was not moving or making any noises. I transferred it to shoebox and drove 30 miles to put in the wild rehab hospital. I called today to know about it and they said it died the next day as it had a severe spinal trauma. I felt sad as poor bird must have been in so much pain but didn't chirp or make any sort of noises. I was hopeful that it would survive.. It is indeed hard!

rushikm (author)VijayaM22016-01-31

Remember my friend, death is not that bad when living thing injured
so much, its best to get death instead of living daily in so much pain.
Its why death has its own advantages. When I find any small living thing
like bee, ant in so much bad condition ( no legs, no wings, so many red
and eating them ) I give them instant kill. Trust me, its what anyone
would have want in such condition.

HollyMann (author)rushikm2016-01-31

yeah it is hard to do but I understand this also....I still try to not harm any living thing.

HollyMann (author)VijayaM22016-01-31

Hi Vijaya - sorry about the bird. You did everything possible that you could to save it...that was really caring of you. So sorry though - I know it is hard to see. I understand. :)

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