What to Do If You Find a Nestling or Fledgling

This is the time of year when we get many questions about what to do when nestling or fledgling is found. Follow these tips to help these birds.

What to Do If You Find a Nestling or Fledgling©Eric Ripma
©Eric Ripma This Rock Wren is feeding its young that are close to leaving the nest.

Finding a baby bird that appears to be abandoned in your yard can be very stressful. But, the situation isn’t always as dire as it might seem. In many cases, especially with fledglings, the adults are still taking care of the young bird.

The first thing you need to decide is if the bird you are seeing is a nestling or a fledgling. Nestlings should still be in the nest and don’t yet have flight feathers. A fledgling, on the other hand, is ready to leave the nest and learn to fly. If the bird you found is a nestling, you should make every attempt to return it to its nest if you can find it. Remember, the parents will not reject the nestling just because you touched it to put it back in the nest. If not, you should immediately contact a rehabilitator. To find a licensed bird rehabilitator near you, check out your state’s Department of Natural Resources website or contact a local nature center, park, or Wild Birds Unlimited store.

If the bird you find is a fledgling, everything is likely ok. Although it might seem abandoned, an adult is probably watching from nearby. Keep an eye on the fledgling for awhile (at least a few hours) to see if an adult is around. Keep people and pets away from the fledgling so that the parents will continue to feed the bird. If no adult appears, then you should follow the advice above to contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Rob Ripma
Rob Ripma, a lifelong Indiana resident, has traveled and birded extensively throughout the Americas.