Orphaned or Injured Birds (Avians)

(These instructions are not meant for owls, hawks, kestrels, falcons, etc. Please call the Wildcat Creek Wildlife Center for information about injured or orphaned birds of these types.)

Always contact us if you have questions or need advice.



General Rules for Birds

Do not offer food or water unless instructed to do so by one of our volunteers.

A young bird's best chance of survival is to be raised by its natural mother. It is important to make every effort to try to return the young to its mother. Birds have a poorly developed sense of smell and will not reject their young after being handled by people.

Any bird that has been in a dog or cat's mouth needs treatment, so contact us. Bacteria in the saliva of a cat or dog can kill a bird, even if the bird was not bitten.

Do not remove eggs from an unattended nest. Many birds lay their eggs (called a clutch) over several days and do not begin incubating them until they are all laid.



Nestlings are infant birds having little or no feathering. They may be pink and naked, covered with down feathers, or covered with needle-like feathers (called pin feathers). These are the most helpless of young birds and require intensive care. It is best to return these delicate birds to the nest in the care of their parents whenever possible because their needs are very specialized.

If an entire nest is on the ground:

Replace the nest in the nearest tree. Place the nest high enough off the ground so that dogs, cats or humans cannot reach it. Secure the nest in place with material such as heavy twine. The calls of the young birds should attract the parent's attention to the nest.

Preventative action :

Check for nests - Every year, nests are unintentionally destroyed by people doing yard work. Make it a point to check for nests before pruning trees and shrubs. Also, walk through your yard and check for ground nests before starting yard work or gardening.

Preserve habitats - If a tree poses no hazard, try to leave it standing. Dead trees provide homes and food for many birds such as woodpeckers and chickadees.

Educate your children - Teach children to respect wild birds and their habitats. Tell them that wild birds should be allowed to live undisturbed by humans, and that no one should destroy their nests or their habitats.

If a nestling is out of the nest:

Try to assess if the bird is injured. A bird might be injured if the bird has blood on its body, has a dark red or purple area on its skin (bruising), looks thin, or feels cold. If you suspect the bird is injured, contact us for further instructions.

If a nestling is not injured and you found its nest, gently return the bird to its nest. You can watch from inside your house (or a far distance) for the parents to return. The parents should begin feeding their young within two hours.

If the nestling is not injured, but the nest is not accessible (it is too high to reach or it was destroyed), then nestlings can be returned to their parents using an artificial nest. Get a plastic butter dish or similar shallow container and put several nail-sized holes in the bottom of the dish (for drainage). Locate the tree with the original nest or a tree as close as possible to the nest. Secure the artificial nest as high as you can in the tree using nails, rope, heavy twine, etc. DO NOT put materials that retain moisture into the nest such as toilet paper, cotton or grass clippings (this will chill the nestlings). Place the nestlings inside the nest, and watch from inside your house (or a far distance) for the parents to return. The parents should begin feeding their young within two hours. However, if they do not return, contact us.



Fledglings are slightly older birds with almost complete feathering (except for flight feathers). Fledglings usually do not have a fully feathered tail or much flying skill. These birds are within a few days of being able to fly, but until then, the parents must call to locate and feed them. These birds are frequently found hopping around on the ground while the parents keep a watchful eye on them.

If a fledgling is out of the nest:

You can check to see if the bird is orphaned. Place the bird in a box (with a little grass or newspaper on the bottom) close to where you found it. If the bird poops within two hours, the parents are still feeding the bird, so it is not an orphan.

If no cats, dogs or children are in the area (they present possible dangers to the bird), then it can be replaced where you found it. If there are, then replace the bird in a safer spot, such as a shrub or tree, and leave so the parents can resume feeding the fledgling.

If there is no safe place for the bird to go, then contact us.



Ducklings and goslings are different from other birds because, when they are hatched, they have feathers, can walk, and can eat. However, they still need their parents for warmth and protection, and they typically stay with the parents until they can fly (depending on the species) .

If you find a stray duckling or gosling:

If the mother duck or goose is present, attempt to put the baby near the adult so it can reunite with its family.

If the mother duck (or goose) is present, but the family is having difficulty crossing a road because of traffic, PLEASE safely stop traffic and let them cross (our volunteers cannot get there quickly enough to help them, so you must be their steward). Ducks and geese have the right of way on the road according to the US Fish and Wildlife Department, so you can legally stop traffic for them.

If no mother duck or goose is present, contact us.

If you find ducklings or goslings trapped in a sewer:

DO NOT attempt to rescue ducklings or goslings from the sewer yourself. You will most likely scare them further into the sewer where they cannot be rescued. Call us, and we will assess if a rescue is possible or not.



Adult birds are mature, independent birds who are fully feathered for flight and capable of surviving on their own (in regards to food, shelter, etc.). Adult birds are commonly injured by flying into a window or being hit by a car. Injuries from these impacts can range from bruising to broken bones to loss of consciousness.

If an bird flew into your window:

Try to assess if the bird is injured. The bird might be injured if it has blood on its body, has feathers missing, is holding its wing at an odd angle, is holding its head sideways or upside down, cannot fly, or cannot hop (or walk) correctly. If you suspect the bird is injured, call our Center.

If the bird is still unconscious, place the bird in a box either where you found it or in a safe area nearby (if cats, dogs and children are in the area, which present possible dangers to the bird). Wait about one hour. If the bird does not regain consciousness, contact us.

Home | Contact Us | Volunteers | Terms of Use | © 2004-2012 Wildcat Creek Wildlife Center