Before You Rescue a Baby Bird

Have you ever come upon a baby bird on the ground?  Do you feel compelled to scoop it up to rescue it?

You may be surprised to find that in many cases, the baby bird needs no rescuing at all.

My daughter found this out while we were on vacation last week.

She came into our cabin carrying a small baby bird in her hands.  It had feathers, but was awfully small.  It was a fledgling – in other words, a teenage bird.

I asked my daughter where she had found the little bird and we took him back there and carefully put him down.

I explained to my daughter, that it was likely that the baby bird’s parents were nearby and would continue to take care of him, even though he had come out of the nest. (It is a myth that birds will reject a their young if they have been handled by humans because birds have a poor sense of smell).

We carefully put the baby bird down near the tree where my daughter had found it.  Then we walked away and kept watch over him to see what he would do.

Immediately, we heard his parents calling to him.  The baby bird then started to hop toward some dead pine tree branches for cover. 

He kept hopping and chirping for his parents.  (Under normal circumstances, fledglings often hop around on the ground, under cover for a few days before being able to fly.  During this time, they are cared for by their parents).

We could barely see him as he kept hopping along (but you can see his eyes glowing in the setting sun above).

Soon, he reached cover and his parents flew down to him.

The next day, I was curious to see if I could locate him and was hoping that he was okay.

I could see one of his parents sitting up in the tree with food in its mouth.  I couldn’t see where the baby bird was.

But, soon the parent flew down to feed its little baby.  After it left, I zoomed in my camera and found the little bird through my view finder.

Can you see it?

I was thrilled to locate the baby bird sitting on a dead pine tree branch close to the ground.

This was a wonderful teaching  moment for not only  my daughter, but for all of us to see this little bird being cared for by its parents.

**People can often do more damage by rescuing a baby bird then by leaving it alone.  Birds & Blooms has a great article “Before You Rescue Birds” which will help you to determine what situations a baby bird needs to be rescued and when they are better left alone.

  1. Rose says

    I love watching and hearing all of the birds and their daily activities. At this time of year, I see and hear a lot of the baby’s and their parents close by, or else coming to feed them with the food they have collected for them, as well as bringing them to our bird feeders to feed, and teach them how to eat from them. I can always pick out the chirping of the baby robins, and they are the ones I see the most on the ground. I can hear them calling back and forth to each other. I know it is best to leave them to themselves and not interfere. Unfortunately, there are people in our neighborhood who let their cats roam free, and this is what I worry about most when hearing or seeing those baby robins on the ground. Am always glad come the next day and I can still hear the baby’s chirping, knowing they survived the night!

  2. Deborah says

    Very good advice. The bird your daughter found was a fledgling. And you are right. They live on the ground till their wings are strong enough to carry them to the trees. They will tree hop till they are strong enough to be airborne. If you find a baby without feathers he came out of the nest too early or was thrown from parents or other birds who have raided the nest. If the parents kick them out is cause they don’t have enough food supply or the baby is the weakest of the brood. A neighbor found our little sparrow, which we have raised and had for 6 years now, in the middle of her yard. She called me knowing how much I love birds and after searching and not finding a nest I took the 4 day old baby home. He is a member of our family now. Sometimes they need or help and most of the time they don’t. I encourage everyone if it has feathers leave it where it is the parents are around keeping an eye on it, however, they won’t come feed it until all predators are gone, including you. If you find a wee small one without feathers please try to find the nest. And if you can’t then know it is a lifetime commitment to care for the baby. Sparrows and Starlings are not well liked and they are at most destroyed it taken to wildlife. Depends where you are. Love the pictures and so happy the baby found mom and dad. They are the best for raising them.

  3. ALandry says

    Under normal circumstances, leaving a baby bird alone with the right thing to do. Just this week, though, I heard mockingbirds screeching loudly. When I went to see what the commotion was, I saw a fledgling mockingbird on the ground under a tree and 2 adults trying to get a huge crow from taking the baby. I ran towards them and the crow flew away. I searched the trees and bushes and had my husband put the baby bird up in an empty nest. We don’t know if he survived, but he would never had a chance with the crow wanting him for dinner!

  4. says

    A few weeks ago I spotted an adult Robin sitting on my lawn and there it stood all day long never moving from that spot. At the end of the day I was worried that the bird was hurt so I decided to check it out. I approached the bird very slowly and it chirped a warning chirp and flew off. I was pleasantly surprised to see a newly hatched baby that the Mother was sitting on in the grass. No feathers, all pink with eyes closed and not moving I was sad thinking that the Mother was protecting her dead baby bird when suddenly the mother bird chirped and baby bird lifted it’s head up high looking for food from it’s Mother. I was thrilled that this little one was very much alive but worried because the next day was grass cutting day and feared that this would be the end for this baby. Quickly I got two 3 ft. sticks and pounded them into the ground on either side of the baby. I hoped and prayed the landscapers would know to mow around this special spot. The next day I returned home from running errands, noticed the grass was cut and panicked. I dreaded finding a dead baby bird but there was the mother still sitting on the baby. For two more weeks I kept checking on my newly acquired wards as I watched Mom and Dad bring food for their baby. I think the parents got used to me because the warning chips became less and less and I approaced the baby but kept a safe distance. At the end of the second week Mom, Dad and baby were gone and I removed the two sticks I planted. I felt a great sense of happiness having kept watch over them and knowing that somewhere that baby bird will soon be raising a baby of it’s own and that I made a very wise decision NOT to touch that baby bird. Mother Nature knows how to take care of it’s own.

  5. Teresa Jones says

    A few weeks ago we had a bad rain storm with lots of heavy rain and wind. I found 2 baby Blue Jays huddled together on the ground under a pine tree in our yard. I have outdoor cats and I knew they would be kitty snacks soon if I didn’t do something. The parents were chirping in the tree at me as I quickly picked up the babies. I found a small box, placed a rock in the bottom so it would not blow away and finished filling it with leaves. I placed the babies in the box and put it on top of our Airstream camper which happened to be parked under the tree the babies fell from. I knew the kitties could not get them there and hoped the parents would like my makeshift nest. I looked out about an hour later to see one of the parents fly into the box with food for the babies!! I checked to box a few days later and the babies were gone!!

  6. Elizabeth Sorgenfrei says

    This was great information. Thank you. My daughter seems to always find some kind of animal she feels to need help. This will help her alot.

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