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Emergency Care For Baby Birds


Here are some tips on how--and when--to give food and care to baby birds and fledglings.

  • Do not interfere with young birds unless you think they are sick, hurt, orphaned, or in immediate danger.
  • It is not true that parent birds will reject or kill their babies because a human has touched them.
  • Fallen nestlings can be returned to the nest if they aren't hurt or weak.
  • Fledglings can be moved a short distance to keep them safe from traffic and cats.

For Nestling Songbirds

  • Care: Babies with no feathers, a little fuzz or pinfeathers need a soft, snug, cup-shaped nest of tissue in a small container--don't use cotton, grass, or old bird nests.
  • Diet: Bits of dog or cat kibble soaked in hot water (sugar-water for the first day or two) mixed with hard-boiled egg yolk and baby cereal. White or wheat bread moistened with sugar-water can be used as an emergency diet for a few feedings only.
  • Put food in the back of their mouths when the babies gape. Feed them every 1/2 to one hour during daylight. Give each bird a few pieces per feeding. Do not put fluids in nestling's mouths.

For Fledgling Songbirds

  • Care: Young birds that are mostly feathered and learning to fly need safe, roomy cages with sticks from the yard as perches, fastened securely. A cardboard box with sticks fastened through it and a screen cover will do in a pinch. Fledglings don't usually need extra warmth. Handle birds only when needed.
  • Diet: Dog or cat kibble soaked in hot water; chopped, canned dog food; lean, raw beef; and soft fruit such as grapes, plumped raisins, or canned peaches.

    Cut food in small pieces and feed every hour or so during the day, several pieces per feeding. Drops of liquid can be given off the tip of your finger, one drop at a time.

Other Species

  • Doves and pigeons are not fed in the above way. Fuzzy chicks (such as quail, killdeer and ducklings) need warmth but are not housed and fed the same ways as songbirds.
  • Baby hawks, owls and other raptors: Please note that only a licensed avian rehabilitator may legally care for hawks and other raptors.
  • Call your local animal shelter for the name of a licensed wildlife worker for further instructions. Another excellent national source for avian rehabilitators is the Wildlife Directory of the University of Minnesota: www.tc.umn.edu/~devo0028/

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