Songbirds – Pigeons and Doves
Reminder: Do not feed or give water to an animal that may need medical attention.
When to Intervene
- There are obvious wounds, breaks or bleeding is observed
- Contact with a dog or cat – Even if you don’t see an injury, there may be small punctures that can cause rapid infection and death.
- String, glue, or some other substance on its body
- Swollen eyes or discharge and the bird does not attempt to fly away.
- Swollen head
- Swollen feet
- Fluffed and lethargic with no attempt to fly away
- Stuck to glue trap – do not attempt to remove yourself.
Window strike- Birds will often fly into a glass window unaware of its presence. If it is not obviously injured, it may just need some time to rest and get its wits about it. If the bird can be picked up, place it in a well-ventilated box and keep in a warm, dark, quiet location. If it is warm outside with no pets or wild predators, it can stay outside. Otherwise bring the box indoors and place in a quiet room with no children or pets. Wait 20-30 minutes to see if you hear it starting to move in the box. Take it outside before attempting to open the box. If the bird flies off, you have done all it needed to recover. If it does not attempt to fly or has difficulty taking flight, bring to the nearest wildlife center as soon as possible.
Note: Adult birds generally do not allow humans to approach or pick them up unless something is seriously wrong.
Note: Unfortunately, not all bird in need can be rescued. If a sick or injured bird is able to fly away, nothing can be done at the moment. The best plan is to monitor and rescue if it weakens enough to rescue it.
Transporting a Bird
To transport a songbird, simply scoop them up with a towel and place them in a box with air holes. Keep them warm, dark, and quiet until they arrive at a wildlife center.
Babies and Juveniles:
It is important to determine if the baby or juvenile is really in need or is going through a normal part of the maturing process. If it is mostly feathered, there is a good chance it might not need intervention.
It is always best to keep babies with their parents. Sometimes nests are destroyed in bad weather or by predators. At times, putting nestlings back into a nest is impossible because it is too high. One option to keeping the baby with its parents is to create a make-shift nest with a plastic butter tub (with holes punched in the bottom to drain water) or a berry basket. If the nest is still intact, place the nest in the basket or tub and replace babies. If the nest is gone, line the new ‘nest’ with dry paper towels and put young inside. Use wire to place the nest as close to the old nest as possible in a tree or in a shrub and try to give it some cover to avoid sunlight and rain. From a distance, watch to see if parents relocate the young in the new nest you have created or care for them in the new location. They should return in 30-45 minutes.
Note: It is a myth parents will not care for their babies once touched by humans. Baby birds can be placed back in the nest, if found, and parents will still care for it.
- Babies with little to no feathers who have fallen from the nest should be rescued if they have obvious injuries or their bodies are cold to the touch, and they are quiet and lethargic.
- If it appears that they were grabbed by a predator, especially a cat, they need to be rescued and brought in immediately.
- If a baby has fallen and the parents are in the vicinity, even if the nest is too high, you can still attempt to re-unite them. Tie and open box to a tree with something to nest in. Watch from a distance for 45 minutes or longer to ensure that the parents visit the box. If after an hour, you do not hear or see the parents near the box, the bird will have to come in.
- Birds that are mostly feathered are ready to leave the nest or fledge (ready to fly).
- Often fledgling songbirds jump from the nest a day or two early and continue to learn from the ground with their parents keeping a watchful eye. This tends to happen from March to August.
- If you can see parents in the area, and there are no known cats or dogs nearby, it is safe to leave them alone and watch from a distance to see if the parents are tending to the fledgling. It is important to leave them alone with the parents if possible.
- If there is an immediate risk from a cat or backyard dog, the fledgling will have to be brought in.
- If there are apparent injuries or the bird is quiet and lethargic, it will need to come in.
Transporting a Baby Bird
To transport a baby bird, scoop them up and place them in a box with air holes. If you can place them in some type of cloth or a Kleenex next, it will help them feel more secure. Keep them warm, dark, and quiet until they arrive at a wildlife center.