Injured or Abandoned Birds?
(Adapted from Audubon New York: How to Help an Injured or Orphaned Bird)
It’s often distressing to encounter and sick, injured, or orphaned bird (or other wild animal). As compassionate humans, we often want to help, but how do we ensure that we don’t do more good than harm? Please consult the information and guidelines below to ensure the health and safety of the wildlife you may encounter.
Wildlife Rehabilitators in the Pikes Peak Region
The nearest locations for wildlife rehab to Colorado Springs are located in Woodland Park and Pueblo. Contact information can be found in the current list of licensed rehabilitators of Colorado located on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website and at the bottom of this page BUT PLEASE PLEASE READ THE INFORMATION BELOW BEFORE CALLING A WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR.
Adult songbirds can become injured and sick for a multitude of reasons. The most common reasons include getting attacked by house cats, being hit by cars, window strikes, bacterial and viral illnesses contracted at bird feeders, and many more.
Characteristics of adult songbird in need:
- On the ground not moving
- Does not fly away when approached
- Easily picked up
- Extremely fluffed up feathers
- Eyes closed, squinted, crusty, weepy, swollen, bleeding
- Evidence of blood or wounds
- Obvious injured limb (dangling leg, drooping/hanging wing, wings not symmetrical)
- Tries to fly but can’t
If you find an injured bird, carefully put it in a cardboard box with a lid or a towel over the top, and place in a cool, safe place. Birds go into shock very easily when injured, and often die from the shock. If a bird has hit a window and is still alive, it may just need a little time to regain its senses, then may be able to fly away.
Do not try to force feed or give water to the bird. Take the bird outside and open the box every fifteen minutes to see if it is able to fly away. If it is still staying put after a few hours, you can try to find a local wildlife rehabilitator. Information on local rehabilitators can be found below.
Minimize the time you handle a bird and don’t forget to wash your hands afterward. While the risk is low, some diseases are transmissible to humans.
Young songbirds are often “bird-napped” by well-intentioned people who have mistaken a normal situation for something being wrong. No one can raise a baby bird as well as the bird’s parents, so we do NOT want chicks to be taken away from their parents unless they are sick, injured, or truly orphaned.
If you have found an orphaned bird, the first step is to determine if it is really orphaned.
This video is from the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, but has some great information and applies to our birds here in Colorado as well. The list of licensed rehabilitators in Colorado can be found here.
HATCHLINGS & NESTLINGS
Hatchlings and nestlings are very young birds that need to remain in the nest to survive.
Hatchlings are either featherless, have thin down, or have early stages of feather growth. Their eyes are closed for at least the first week or so after they hatch (varies with species). They are not able to make their own body heat and need to be kept warm by the mother bird.
Nestlings have the start of feathers over their bodies, often being fully feathered by 2 weeks of age (varies with species). They have the beginnings of flight feathers on their wings. They are more mobile in the nest but are not yet able to stand, hop, or walk. Sometimes older nestlings may fall out of the nest when they are wiggling around inside or beginning to perch.
If a hatchling or nestling is found on the ground, a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator should be contacted. While you wait for further instruction, you can create a makeshift nest for the baby bird in a small Tupperware container or a similar round dish, completely lined with layers of toilet paper that prevent the baby from touching the container itself.
When many young birds first fledge and leave the nest, they may still have a little down with short tail and wing feathers. Fledglings, however, are often NOT in need of human’s help when found on the ground.
Did you know that many songbird species learn how to fly from the ground? They have left the nest and are able to sit upright, perch, and can hop or even flutter in short bursts. The baby appears to be alone on the ground, but the parent birds remain nearby in the trees and come down regularly to feed the baby, anywhere from several times an hour to every 1 or 2 hours. The baby will often hide itself in the grass or by low bushes for protection. This situation is completely normal for many songbirds and there is likely no need to interfere.
Characteristics of healthy fledglings:
- Bright, clear eyes
- Able to stand, jump, hop, flutter
- Parent seen/alarm call heard in nearby tree
Similar to fledglings, fawns are often left in a safe place by the mother while she forages. Please leave them alone as the adult doe will return to care for them, but can often be gone for hours at a time while the fawn is left unattended.