Injured Bird: What to Do - Step by Step

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About: Army Vet. I love learning & being creative.

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!







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    94 Discussions

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    JoelD106

    19 days ago

    This is excellent advice. Please call your local wildlife place as soon as possible, as they are invaluable. Also definitely remember that not all of these birds are going to survive being injured and sometimes the kindest thing you can do is give them somewhere warm, comfortable and quiet to die in peace. Try not to let your heart get too broken. Bless you all!

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    izzym18

    4 months ago

    I found a injured bird tonight. I have captured it and it is in a pet carrier in my room. It has open wounds to it. I wasn’t able to call a Wildlife rehabilitation center as they were all closed. I would really appreciate all the advice as to what to do. I don’t want to let the bird die but I don’t know what to do next. Also there is some ants in the bird so I want to know if the bird is bothered by the ants or not. Thanks

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    darkiplier

    Question 4 months ago on Introduction

    my mom found a baby robin a felgling it was attacked my a cat right now it staying calm inbetween my legs but i dont really want to send him to a diffrent place i have taken care for my gramas geese and ducks as babys and i took care of a handicap gosling, i have take care for mutiple baby birds but all on them died because of fulse info and my grama being a butthead but i really need help with this i dont want him to die his parents left him and we are ging to try to see if we can find the mom and if we cant i get to keep him his name is lil cal

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    AmandaB320

    Question 5 months ago on Introduction

    Ive got a injured dove in a box in my shed to keep it safe rspb are collecting it at some point today but its not had food or maybe should ibfeed it

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    paygottlieb10

    1 year ago

    Sadly the poor baby bird died really late last night.

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    paygottlieb10

    1 year ago

    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.

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    MartynS3

    2 years ago

    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.

    8 replies
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    CharlieS82MartynS3

    Reply 2 years ago

    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.

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    MikasaA4CharlieS82

    Reply 2 years ago

    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.

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    storm70MikasaA4

    Reply 1 year ago

    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...

    cheers...

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    ValeriaR11storm70

    Reply 1 year ago

    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.

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    Kane Measham-PywellMikasaA4

    Reply 1 year ago

    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

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    ValeriaR11CharlieS82

    Reply 1 year ago

    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.

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    HollyMannMartynS3

    Reply 2 years ago

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

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    CarolyneC1

    1 year ago

    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 :( :( :( :( :(

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    storm70

    1 year ago

    Holly,

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

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    Pradeesharc

    2 years ago

    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.

    2 replies
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    HollyMannPradeesharc

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hi Pradeesharc,
    Sorry for not replying sooner. I am not an expert, but here is some information that might help: http://www.pigeoncote.com/vet/recovery/recovery.htm ...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: http://www.pigeoncote.com/vet/feedbaby/feedbaby.html ...is the bird still alive and doing ok? I hope so. You are a very compassionate person to be helping it.