By Dr. Scott Ford
I applaud anyone who is willing to stop and show compassion for wildlife. Handling and treating wildlife can be dangerous, both to you and for the patient. In the United States, it also requires state and federal permits to be conducted legally. Here are some steps to follow when you find an injured or sick wild bird:
The most common baby birds people find are songbirds (passerines). They stick pretty tight to their nests until they have enough coordination to leap from branch to branch and enough feathers to regulate their own body temperature. This stage is called a “brancher” and is usually achieved when just a week or so old. The babies can’t even fly yet and are still dependent on their parents for food, and they are usually not far away. Baby birds are often fed every 10-15 minutes by their doting parents and they locate each other by calls and remembering where the babies were last perching. For these reasons, if you find a baby bird, don’t move them or hang around or you will make it difficult for their parents to find and feed them. There are exceptions such as if the bird is in immediate danger or you find it with a fallen nest. In those cases, move the baby and/or the nest to a safe place with some concealment. Usually a bush or low branch in a tree will suffice. Watch for a distance for a while to make sure the parents find them again. If a baby bird is injured or looks sick then you will need to deliver it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator (see above).
This video was made by a friend and veterinary colleague, Dr. Laura Johnson, to illustrate how small animal veterinary clinics should ideally receive and initially care for injured birds of prey.