By Anna Allen, Education Coordinator - 2003
Baby bird season is upon us. Here at the Oasis we receive many calls for help when someone has found a baby bird that has fallen out of a nest or one that has been injured. Fortunately we are able to refer those calls to local volunteer organizations that can help.
I volunteer for the Oasis Sanctuary and also East Valley Wildlife. East Valley Wildlife volunteers rescue and rehabilitate orphaned and injured songbirds, waterfowl and water-birds also small mammals so they can be released into their natural habitat. I would like to share some tips that may help when finding an orphaned or injured songbird.
Let me start by dispelling an ancient myth that touching a baby bird will cause the parents to reject it ... that is untrue! Birds have a limited sense of smell so they can't detect human scent on their babies. A baby bird can be returned to the nest as long as it is returned to the right nest. Make sure that it is warm and alert. Although a parent bird may be trying to care for its young on the ground, getting it back into the proper nest is the best solution. If the nest is destroyed you can use a natural fiber basket and fill it with dried grass, just make sure it is placed in a protected shady spot. See that the afternoon sun does not hit it directly. The nest should be basically the same size as an actual birds nest. In case of rain the nest has to have drainage so that baby birds will not drown, therefore items such as card board boxes and margarine containers will not work.
If the bird seems to be orphaned or injured, pick it up off the ground so that predators such as hawks, cats, dogs or ants won't attack it. Babies and injured birds are unable to regulate their own body temperature. So it is necessary to keep them in warm and safe containment such as a well ventilated shoe box. Then if you have a heating pad use it on low and put it underneath the shoe box. If you don't have a heating pad you can use a hot water bottle under a towel as a heat source. Do not put them in the sun!
Stress can be very harmful to wildlife. Birds see humans as predators, so please do not handle the bird more than necessary. Keep it in a quiet place, away from family traffic and other pets. Do not try and force water or food down the birds throat, it could choke. You may put a drop of water on your finger and rub it along the outside of the bill and see if the bird will swallow.
For temporary care of baby songbirds, if the baby seems to be opening his mouth for food and appears to be warm and alert, you can chop up a hard boiled egg and feed it small pieces. Or if you have dry kitten kibble around you home, you can soak it in water until it becomes spongy and then feed the bird small pieces. Baby birds need to be fed many times throughout the day, sometimes as often as every 15 minutes. These foods are only for temporary care. Baby birds need to have the right diet to grow healthy and strong. Even a few days on the wrong diet can cause permanent damage or death.
I would encourage anyone who finds an injured or baby bird in a compromising situation to first follow the steps listed above. Getting the bird out of danger is the priority. Then call your local wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible ... so that they may provide the orphaned or injured bird the proper diet and care.
For further information on things to do if you find a baby or injured bird or wildlife (and for organization to contact in the Phoenix, AZ area), please see East Valley Wildlife Rehabilitation League or anywhere in Arizona please contact Liberty Wildlife.