The Right Move is Not Always Clear

Found a baby bird? Follow these steps:
  1. Assess the Situation: Determine whether the bird is injured, sick, or truly abandoned. Sometimes, baby birds found on the ground are fledglings that are learning to fly and are still being cared for by their parents.

  2. Observe from a Distance: If the bird seems healthy and there are no immediate threats, observe from a distance for a little while to see if the parents return to care for the bird. Parent birds are often nearby and will continue to feed and protect their young.

  3. Handle with Care: If you need to handle the bird, do so gently and quietly.

  4. Place the Bird in a Safe Location: If the bird appears injured or in danger (e.g., near a road), carefully move it to a safer spot nearby, such as a bush or tree. Keep pets away from the area.

  5. Do Not Offer Food or Water Immediately: Avoid giving food or water to the bird until you are certain of its species and needs. Feeding the wrong type of food or liquid can be harmful!

  6. Contact a Wildlife Rehabilitator: If the bird is clearly injured, sick, or you are unsure how to proceed, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator or a wildlife rescue organization. They have the expertise and resources to provide appropriate care.

  7. Keep the Bird Warm and Quiet: If you need to keep the bird temporarily, place it in a warm, quiet, and dark area (like a shoebox with air holes and soft towels) until you can reach a wildlife rehabilitator.

  8. Provide Necessary Information: When contacting a wildlife rehabilitator, be prepared to provide details about the bird’s condition, location where it was found, and any observations you have made.

  9. Follow Legal Regulations: In some regions, handling and caring for wild birds may be subject to legal regulations. Make sure to comply with local laws and guidelines.

  10. Avoid Keeping as a Pet: Wild birds are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act and are best cared for by professionals who can provide appropriate care and prepare them for release back into the wild

Nestling Vs Fledgling Birds

Below you can see examples of nestling birds. Click on the photos to see in more detail and read below for information on nestling characteristics.

  1. Characteristics of a Nestling:

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  3. Nakedness and Helplessness: Songbird nestlings are initially naked or covered in sparse down feathers. They are initially helpless and dependent on their parents for warmth, protection, and feeding.

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  5. Closed Eyes: Newly hatched nestlings typically have closed eyes, which gradually open after a few days.

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  7. Bulky Bodies: Nestlings often have relatively large bodies in proportion to their heads, which become more balanced as they grow and develop.

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  9. Gape Flanges: One distinctive feature of songbird nestlings is their gape flanges—the fleshy, brightly colored edges of the beak opening. These are used to signal to the parent birds during feeding.

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  11. Development of Feathers: Over time, nestlings develop feathers starting with down and progressing to more mature plumage. The rate of feather development varies depending on the species.

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  13. Increasing Mobility: As they grow, nestlings become more active in the nest. They may start to move around, flap their wings, and explore their immediate surroundings.

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  15. Increased Vocalization: Nestlings begin to vocalize more as they develop. This can start as faint cheeps and chirps and eventually evolve into more recognizable bird calls.

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  17. Dependence on Parental Care: Throughout the nestling stage, young songbirds rely entirely on their parents for food, warmth, and protection. Parent birds play a critical role in ensuring the survival and development of their offspring.

Nestling Vs Fledgling Birds

Below you can see examples of fledgling birds. Click on the photos to see in more detail and read below for information on fledgling characteristics.

Characteristics of a fledgling bird:

Developed Feathers: Fledglings have more developed feathers compared to nestlings. Their plumage is becoming more like that of adult birds, although it may still be a bit scruffy or incomplete.

Short Tail: Fledglings often have shorter tails relative to their body size compared to adult birds. Their tail feathers are growing but may not be fully developed.

Active and Mobile: Fledglings are active and mobile, moving around on the ground or low branches. They are practicing flying and exploring their surroundings.

Still Dependent on Parents: While fledglings are more independent than nestlings, they still rely on their parents for food and protection. Parent birds continue to care for and feed their fledglings for a period after leaving the nest.

Distinctive Behaviors: Fledglings may exhibit unique behaviors such as fluttering wings, hopping around, or following their parents closely while begging for food.

Vocalizations: Fledglings often vocalize loudly to communicate with their parents and siblings. Their calls may be higher-pitched and more insistent compared to adult birds.

Adapting to Flight: Fledglings are in the process of learning to fly. They may make short flights or glide from low perches, gradually improving their flight skills over time.

Camouflaged Coloration: Some fledglings have more cryptic or camouflaged coloration compared to adult birds, which helps them blend into their surroundings and avoid predators.

Parental Guidance: Parent birds continue to supervise and guide fledglings, teaching them important skills such as foraging, recognizing predators, and finding safe roosting spots.

Vulnerability: Fledglings are vulnerable during this stage as they are still learning essential survival skills. They are at risk from predators, weather conditions, and human disturbances.

How to ReNest

Renesting can be a challenge. Follow these steps to see if you can help.

  1. Locate the Nest: Look for the bird’s original nest nearby. It might be in a tree, shrub, or other elevated location. Keep an eye out for other nestlings or the parents nearby.

  2. Prepare a Substitute Nest: If you can’t find the original nest or it’s inaccessible, create a substitute nest. Use a small basket, container, or even a sturdy cardboard box lined with soft, dry materials like grass, leaves, or shredded paper. Ensure it has drainage holes if there’s a risk of rain. If you have the original nest but it isn’t suitable to use replicate it to the best of your ability. See photos below where we attempted to keep the babies in the same cavity shapes nest where they all fit comfortably. 

  3. Handle with Care: Gently pick up the baby bird using clean, dry hands or wear gloves. 

  4. Place in the Nest: Carefully place the baby bird in the substitute nest, making sure it’s secure and won’t tip over. Position the nest as close as possible to the original location and at a similar height.

  5. Observe from Afar: Step back and watch from a distance. If the parents are still around, they’ll likely return to care for their fledgling. Parent birds have a strong bond with their young and will continue to feed and protect them.

  6. Monitor Closely: Keep an eye on the nest from a distance to ensure the parents are attending to the fledgling. Avoid disturbing the area unnecessarily to minimize stress on the birds.

  7. Seek Professional Help if Needed: If you’re unsure about renesting or if the bird is injured, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator or bird expert for guidance

Babies in their cavity nest that broke
Same babies still comfortable in a replicated cavity nest

Once you have created a nest structure, place it near where you see the adult bird and watch from a distance. A success story is when the parent bird will join the baby in the new nest and continue to care for it as seen below.