How To Rescue Baby, Sick or Injured Birds
First, determine if the bird needs to be rescued:
A bird is hurt or sick and must be rescued if:
- it is unable to flutter its wings
- its wings are drooping unevenly
- it is weak or shivering
- it has been attacked by another animal
- it has been in the mouth of a cat or dog
A bird is a hatchling or nestling and must be rescued if it does not have feathers. Do not try to put it back in its nest.
A bird is a fledgling (still young, has recently acquired feathers, has a tail over 3" long [in most species] and is dependant on its parents for survival) and must be rescued if it is on the ground and:
- is in danger from people, animals and other birds
- its parents are not nearby or are not feeding it
A bird is a fledgling and does not need to be rescued if it is hopping on the ground, is safe from people, animals and other birds, and its parents are feeding it.
Follow these instructions to rescue a bird:
- Prepare a carrier. Place a clean cloth towel, baby blanket or t-shirt (with no strings or loops) on the bottom of a cardboard or shoe box or small pet carrier. The box must be big enough to allow the bird to stand up fully and turn around. If the bird has a fractured leg or wing, a cloth towel will help limit the bird's movement. For smaller birds, you may use a paper bag.
Make some air holes in the box or bag.
- Protect yourself. Wear gloves, if possible. Some birds may stab with their beaks, slice with their claws and slap with their wings to protect themselves, even if sick. Birds also have parasites (fleas, lice, ticks) and carry diseases. (Although few of these affect humans.)
- Cover the bird with a light sheet or towel.
- Gently pick up the bird and put it in the prepared carrier.
- Warm the animal. If the environment or bird is cold, or if the bird is a nestling/hatchling, Put one end of the bird's carrier on a heating pad set on low.
Or, put hot tap water in one of these to keep the bird warm while in transport:
- Hot water bottle
- Ziplock plastic bag (double bagged)
- Plastic soft drink bottle with screw lid
- Rubber glove
Wrap the warm container with string-free cloth or towel and put it next to the bird.
Make sure the container does not leak so the bird does not get wet and chilled. Birds die from hypothermia. What seems warm to you may be cold to a bird. The bird should be as warm as the palm of your hand.
- Contact a Wildlife Rehabilitator near you. Here is a list of Colorado's Wildlife Rehabilitators.