Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Oh, Baby!

They're oh-so-tiny. Maybe not even fully feathered. They can't even fly yet. They are out of the nest and on the ground. They're baby birds. They're helpless. They need my help!

Wait! Not so fast! Just because a baby bird is a baby does not mean the bird needs your help. The desire to help animals -- especially baby animals -- is a natural one for a lot of people. But sometimes our good intentions are not best for the bird.

Very soon, VINS Wildlife Services will begin to receive its yearly onslaught of baby birds. The babies come to us in all conditions for all sorts of reasons. There are the bald little featherless babies who have fallen from the nest and sustained injuries. There are the nestlings who have been brought in by someone's cat. There are full nests of baby birds orphaned by mom who has been killed or simply flew the coop. Yes, there are many baby birds who need treatment to make it.

Left: A fledgling barn swallow (left) and a fledgling eastern phoebe were patients in Wildlife Services during the summer of 2008.
But every spring and summer we receive many calls from concerned members of the public who see a baby bird and automatically believe something is wrong. The truth of the matter is, birds have been raising their young for, well, a really long time, and bird parents are the best parents for baby birds. A baby bird on the ground does not necessarily mean something is wrong. Often times, mom and dad are close by, watching their baby and feeding him on the ground. Other times, nestlings found on the ground and who are not ready to fly can be picked up by humans and returned to their nest. Just check that the bird is warm before placing him back in the nest. See Baby Bird Facts for more information. Take note: It is a MYTH that birds will reject their young once they've been handled by humans. The truth is that birds have a very poorly developed sense of smell, so the scent of a human will not deter a bird parent from caring for its young.

To learn how to detect whether or not a baby bird is just being a baby or if the bird needs the assistance of wildlife rehabilitators, please see our web page on Baby Bird Facts. Print it out and keep it nearby. It'll be a great help to you and the birds this breeding season!

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