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.

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. Please see image of my son crying to understand why it is not good to become overly attached to these cute helpless animals! 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. 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 is now being 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!

I just found a sparrow that my cat yanked of are fence and he can barely stand I think he hurt his legs so now I've got him in a box to keep away from the cats until he can fly
FaliR1 month ago

My dog brought the bird to the from porch when we saw it it was barely alive we fed it and and as we were bring the shoe box it passed away. It was quite unfortunate

bufy.abhi8 months ago

o.o where is the video.. is there any link??

even i found a baby bird(sparrow) next to my door.. thanks for ur advice about shoebox :D

FaliR bufy.abhi1 month ago

at the top of the page

g.port8 months ago

WILDLIFE REHABBERS; They have ALWAYS disappointed me, none I brought birds to seemed compassionate or very dedicated. They always told me the birds didn't make it when I'd call later. None seemed anywhere as concerned as I was. One rehabber just sat and talked to her family without even looking at an injured bird until an hour after I brought the bird to her. I have yet to see any do anything but observe and they told me they DON'T bring the birds to vets for medical assistance. What the hay?? I was told if they don't think they will survive or the injury is extensive, they put the birds in a box and kill them with gas. Yesterday a dove slammed very very hard into a sliding glass window trying to escape a hawk- so hard this left a mark on the glass. He (she?) could not walk and could hardly stand. I did not even consider a rehabber for the foregoing reasons. Besides, just driving and transferring the bird would create more stress and take him out of his comfortable environs where he might have 'family'. I lifted the bird with my bare hands, trying to keep the wings flat against him. I put him in a cardboard box 2'x2' that I had punched full of holes on all sides and the cardboard lid. I left him there for a few hours and observed. The bird was wide-eyed and alert and flapped with spirit, though unevenly and the tail dragged and could not be lifted. I waited a few more hours and let him out. He could stand on his legs for a moment but then would drop down. He could hardly lift his tail. He could flap again unevenly but could not fly. So I put him back in the box and carried him into a bedroom room that is completely empty with the window closed. I put birdseed on a paper plate and water in a tiny container used for a bird cage. I did not try to feed him or touch him. I took the box he was in and put it on its side so he could walk out and closed the door. The next morning I slowly opened the door and the bird was eating. He flew into a wall because he was scared, but he flew! He can now walk really well and very fast. His tail no longer drags and his lifted. He seems normal but I'm going to observe him for hours if not a day longer. I read that when birds fly into something, they can be stunned, but this can also lead to brain swelling which can cause temporary or permanent incapacity. It appears the condition was temporary. I'm glad I gave this bird a chance to recover. I believe some quick-trigger 'seasoned' with less passion than mine might have killed him yesterday when the picture didn't look so good. To be fair there may be others that are good and committed. But in general it is hard to find ANYONE that cares enough and has the good judgment necessary to rescue on their own. I rescue dogs and cats and my goals is always to give them all the best chance at life. I've spent thousands on stray animals and I am willing to go to a great extent, like staying up all night long, if necessary to do this. I applaud YOU in your efforts but just beware that others might not have your unbridled love and dedication.

dupes8881 year ago
Ha i have one right now
dupes8881 year ago
Same iv rescued a few birds
That is so cool! We live in Michigan and we have a cat, so we get lots of injured birds at our house. This would help a lot!
HollyMann (author)  Zachary48011 year ago
:) Good!
Kiteman3 years ago
Sorry, but the vast majority of birds found "on the ground, injured and helpless" are perfectly fine, and you are doing harm by trying to help.

All young birds leave their nest before their feathers are fully fledged, and most end up stuck in a tree or on the ground, unable to return to their nest because their wing muscles are not strong enough.

This is perfectly normal.

If you see an apparently-abandoned bird, and it is concious, stay back and observe from a distance, preferably beyond a window. The parent birds are near-by, waiting for you to get out of the way so that they can feed their young. They can see and hear you far more easily than you can detect them.

Last spring, the RSPCA in the UK had over 20,000 perfectly healthy young birds brought into its centres by members of the public who thought they were helping an injured bird. Even if you find a bird stunned by flying into a window, stay back and give it time to recover.


Regarding food and water, the answer is always do not feed foundlings - if it is a young bird, you may accidentally poison it, and certainly deter the parents from approaching.

If the bird is genuinely injured, then giving food and water will interfere with any emergency treatment from a professional (think hospitals: nil by mouth). Instead, carefully cover the bird with a towel or blanket, and transfer it to a suitably-sized box lined with newspaper and with air-holes. Take it directly to a vet or wildlife hospital. If you cannot transport the bird, then call a local agency for advice and to come and take the bird in for proper care.


Watch for your personal safety - birds have claws and beaks for a reason, and will defend themselves if able. A British man was recently blinded when a gannet he was trying to help pecked his eyes out.


For more advice, see:

International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council


British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council

Irish Wildlife Matters

Raptors, such as owls, need slightly different methods.  Raptor Rescue is a specialist site with advice for the public.


Sorry to be so apparently-negative on a project that clearly means well, but it is area where it is far easier to do harm when intending good.

If in doubt, always seek advice from a dedicated organisation or expert.
HollyMann (author)  Kiteman3 years ago
Thanks Kiteman for the input and solid advice. I agree and should have stated that more clearly - I only mean this for people who have found a truly injured and abandoned bird. And the most impt thing to do after observing and knowing for sure it is injured, is to call a local rehab for specific instructions. For me, I knew the bird fell from the 2nd floor of my home onto the pavement and it definitely sustained injuries. I initially called a local center and they told me to place the bird back in its nest and I did that - I waited a good hour and it was almost dead. So that is why I took action. ...Thanks for the tips Kiteman!
my mom said that in Montana before i was born a baby robin fell out of a nest. our cat mert ( she was 24 before she died) walked over to the baby, and had a look on her face that said " what he heck am I supposed ta do with this" my mom put it back in the nest. our cat was not a hunter.
here in Washington two of our Super African geese got into some motor oil in our driveway, and one was totally BLACK! we the goose ( her name was Feisty) and set her in the bathtub. she was freaked out. my mom contacted our neighbor (who rescues livestock protection dogs) and she brought us some Dawn soap. the goose had to be washed for TWO HOURS. it was strenuous for all three of us and we had another goose to wash (whom got hurt in the process) we then contacted a friend in California who works with sea otters. she said not to let them get wet for 3 days and to keep them warm. ( the dawn which removes the motor oil also removed oils in the feathers and skin that keeps them dry) so, for three days we had house geese. one got an injured leg so she stayed a bit longer. they are well now and have had lots of fluffy goslings!
Wow thanks for sharing this nice story - the beginning part is sad but it has a good ending. So glad they are alright and you had such an experience of helping to care for them and help them heal! It's A LOT OF WORK. It sounds like so much work just washing that goose for a couple of hours. Wow. For some reason I don't know many people willing to do that and also especially handle caring for the goose 24/7 for those 3 days afterwards too. That's awesome you did it! And about your cat and the bird - that's good to know. My cats were the same - had a chance to do something but just were more curious than anything!
Any time...
HollyMann (author) 2 years ago
Update - the baby bird in the photos - it survived and is healthy and happy and free now! :)