Ms. Mallory: Don’t be a baby bird nabber
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – It’s not uncommon to find young birds away from their nests during spring and summer. But should you help them? That depends. Sometimes our attempt to be a wildlife hero can cause even more harm to wildlife.
Eighty percent of baby birds that come in to wildlife rehab centers have basically just been kidnapped. This is unfoortunate for the parents, but also an unnecessary strain on wildlife rehabilitator’s funds and time.
Wandering from the nest is exactly what fledglings—which are just learning to fly—are supposed to do, she says. It’s a normal part of a bird’s development, and though these chicks might appear abandoned, they’re likely under surveillance by their parents nearby. Of course, there is a chance that they could be injured, sick, or in danger, so there are some cases where a fledgling might require assistance.
Nestlings, on the other hand, are almost always in need of rescue. Whether they fell or got pushed from their nest, they’re “not ready to go off into the world” and may need some assistance to be reunited with their parents.
Ms. Mallory said Before rescuing a baby bird, ask your self:
Is it a fledgling or a hatchling?
• Fledglings will look like the dopey version of their parents. They will have feathers (some may still be fluffy and downy) and be located on the ground or in a nearby bush. Unless apparently sick or injured, leave them alone and watch from afar to make sure mom and dad are feeding them. Keep pets away from the chick to give it a fighting chance as it learns to fly.
• Hatchlings/nestlings are typically featherless or with very few feathers. If you find a healthy nestling, look for the nest and put it back if possible. Don’t worry about the parents smelling you. That is an old wives’ tale. Their sense of smell is poorly developed and will not abandon their young.
o If the nest is too far up, make an artifical nest with a small tub (strawberry crate and dry material. Secure the nest to the highest point possible and from afar to see if the parents come back. If after 6 hours the parents do not, then call your local wildlife rehabber.
If you think you’ve found a sick or wounded fledgling or nestling, call a rehabber, state wildlife agency, or veterinarian immediately. If it’s after hours, take the baby to a safe, quiet, and warm location such as a closed box with air holes and a heating pad beneath it (50% on heat, 50% off heat). And even if your parental instincts kick in. . . DON’T FEED GIVE WATER TO THE BABY, unless instructed to do so!
If the animal is in danger of being stepped on or confronted by an animal, move animal to a bush and keep pets away for 2 weeks.