This is a reprint from the May/June issue of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society’s Western Meadowlark – Thank you!
by Ruth Greyraven
Do everything you can to reunite an uninjured baby bird with its parents.
If the chick is a cotton-ball on legs… you have a quail, killdeer, or other precocial species. These tiny fluffballs open their eyes and start running after their parents on Day One after hatching. If needed, move the chick from a dangerous location to a safer nearby location.
If the chick is feathered… with a short tail and short wings, but it is fluttering and hopping around rather than flying, then you have a fledgling of an altricial species. It isn’t injured. It is normal for altricial chicks to pop out of the nest before they are ready to fly. This awkward stage will pass in a few days. The fledgling’s parents are nearby, feeding it regularly. The fledgling needs its parents to teach it the ropes of birdness for weeks or even months to come. Move the chick only when needed to get it to a safer nearby location.
If the chick is extremely naked and its eyes aren’t open… you have a hatchling. It is only a day or two old. After its eyes open and tube-like sheaths (pinfeathers) begin grow- ing on the wings and back, we call it a nestling. In either case, the best resolution is to get the baby back in its nest, if you can find the nest and if the nest is within reach. When a nest has fallen, support the nest appropriately and affix it up as close to its orig- inal location as possible. You can create an artificial nest cup, lined with dry grass, and put it somewhere safe or as close to the real nest as possible. Most birds are great parents, if given a little help.
If there is an obvious injury or no way to reconnect the baby bird with its parents, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Some veterinarians or humane societies may be able to help, but only a licensed wildlife rehabili- tator can legally provide long-term care. Reha- bilitators are likely to be unpaid volunteers. Don’t expect that somebody will be available to answer your phone call 24/7 and rush to your home. In most instances, you’ll need to bring the baby bird to the rehabilitator. Some of these groups will take every type of injured or orphaned wildlife. Others have specialties.
If you need to provide short-term care to a baby bird … the internet offers many excellent sites with advice on how to care for various species of birds. Hummingbirds need different care than finches. Crows need different care than pigeons.