Your eyes slide down to a smudged, troubled little face, then down further to feathers peeking through cupped hands as you open the door to the hesitant tap. “We wuz playing over there and this guy there said you could help cause you gots birds and we discovered this bird and – can you help?” the youngster stammers.
It’s an odd occurrence that those of us who have pet birds are easily labeled as understanding what to deal with an orphaned or wounded wild bird. You WILL be asked to be a rescuer, a savior, or a hero at some time. Do you know what you should do?
Begin by getting to know your local Wildlife Rehabilitation Center or group. Keep their phone number on your fridge. If you can’t locate one in the phone book, contact your state’s Fish and Wildlife Department, a local SPCA, or an avian vet, or go to How To Locate a Wildlife Rehabilitator and find the closest one listed, then ask if there are any closer. Remember that this is the busiest time of year for these volunteers, so be patient if your calls aren’t returned right away.
In the spring, hurriedly constructed nests might collapse. Windstorms, predators, youngsters, and tree trimmers all have an impact. Nestling babies (those without completely grown feathers) may fall to the ground. The first order of business is to find the nest and return the youngster. This may need the use of a ladder and some creativity. Check if the other kids in the nest resemble the one you’re replacing. Keep an eye on the nest from afar to ensure that the parent bird returns. This process might take many hours. Please be patient. It is a popular misconception that mother birds would reject young touched by humans. This is not correct. Birds have a limited sense of smell and cannot identify whether their young has been handled. If the nest is on the ground with youngsters or eggs, use twine or wire to attach it back to a nearby tree as close to the original location as feasible. To make it simpler to secure, place the nest in a small box or margarine container (with drainage holes). A berry basket should not be used because bird legs may get entangled in the netting. Keep an eye out from a safe distance to ensure that a parent returns.
Fledglings are young feathered birds with intact feather casings. They do not fly well, if at all, and instead prefer to hop and leap on low trees. This time spent on the ground is a natural and important aspect of a bird’s development as it learns to fly. Keep cats and dogs indoors while the babies learn to fly. Keep an eye on them from a safe distance to ensure that their parents are feeding them. If the parents do not return or the infant is damaged, keep it warm and transfer it as soon as possible to a professional wildlife rehabilitator in your region. Cat-caught birds will most likely perish if they are not treated within 24 hours.
It is advisable not to feed orphaned or wounded birds unless instructed differently by a rehabilitator. If you are unable to bring the bird to a rehabilitator within a few hours, this may be essential. Follow the directions of the rehabilitator. Never feed wild birds bread or milk. Handle the infant with caution; their delicate bodies may be easily injured. Keep it away from household pets and always wash your hands before handling your bird pets. As tempting as it may be to try to raise a wild bird, keep in mind that rehabilitators are trained in proper diets, techniques, and medical issues, and federal law prohibits unlicensed individuals from possessing native wildlife.
Get ready for Baby Bird Season. Keep a few shoeboxes on hand, as well as a heating pad, margarine tubs lined with unscented tissue for temporary nests, “Exact” handfeeding formula and popsicle or coffee stir sticks (only use if the rehabber instructs you to), and the phone number of your nearest rehabilitator. And when the inevitable knock comes, take a deep breath, smile, and know that you are a hero to this child.
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