What to Do when You Find a Baby Bird on the Ground
As you walk in the warm spring sun, your phone tucked into your pocket (who can see the screen in this glorious daylight, anyway?), you notice an unexpected chirp coming from the hot pavement.
You look down, and see a baby bird. He seems parched there on the pavement. Raw-skinned and featherless. Vulnerable and alone.
As humans, we're inclined to save this tiny life After all, we're talking about a baby here.
But wait. Didn't your fourth-grade teacher tell you never to touch a baby bird?
And what can you do for that errant infant anyway? Will your local animal control office respond to a call for one weak and wrinkled little bird that already appears not very long for the world?
Well, it turns out there's a lot we can do to make sure these seeming orphans get a chance at life.
Peter Helmer, a specialist in avian veterinary medicine at BluePearl Veterinary Partners, shared a few tips with The Dodo.
For one thing, consider the underrated act of not acting at all. As with many animals, mother birds will occasionally leave their babies alone while they run off to do some errands. Namely, gathering food to fill those tiny mouths back in the nest.
"The animal's parents will do the best job at raising the baby compared to a wildlife rehabilitation facility or veterinarian," Helmer notes. "Unless the animal is injured, it is best to leave it alone and let nature take its course."
That's all well and good if we come across a baby alone in a nest, a tree, or even in a stretch of grass.
But on the sidewalk? Our front porch?
That may call for a little human intervention.
Try wrapping the bird in a towel and carrying this little bundle to a nearby tree or spot of trade. Mothers, as you may already know, have a genius for knowing exactly where their children are — as long as you don't take them too far from where they were found.
And, yes, the idea that mothers abandon babies touched by humans is fiction. Although you'll still want to be extremely tender handling the baby for obvious reasons.
Keep in mind, animals generally have no idea what a helping hand looks like. Often, they may see it as a grasping menace. They may try to peck or scratch.
Once you've gotten this precious cargo to a safe spot, lay a few blades of grass over him. That way, you can check up on the baby bird in 12 or 24 hours. If the grass has been displaced, it's likely mom is back on the scene and in charge.
Of course, a badly injured baby will need more than just a fresh patch of shade. Helmer recommends taking him to the nearest veterinary hospital, again, using a towel or a crate, to keep baby from bouncing around in the car.
Let the animal hospital take care of the tiny patient. Once baby's better, staff will likely contact a local wildlife center for rehabilitation.
Then take that helping hand of yours — and give yourself a pat on the back.
You did good.
OK. This is all good advice. But for me, living in a crow and outside-cat-infested neighborhood, as I do, the picture is a bit different.
I will pick up babies from the sidewalk or park-strip, because not doing so is tantamount to feeding it to a cat or a crow.
The most important thing is to get the baby warm. Cover it so it is in a warm, dark environment.
I have also had excellent results with giving the baby an eyedropper full of warm (not hot!) water with honey in it. The sugars in the honey can help fight off shock, and help the baby to get some quick calories so it can more easily get warm.
After that, resist the temptation to keep it. Get that baby to a wildlife rehab place.
Crows will take baby birds when they can.
Cats, too. Keep your cat indoors or in a secure outdoor run.