Main Office: 541-230-1220 | Wildlife Hotline: 541-745-5324
Wildlife Hospital very busy: please call hotline before bringing in an animal
Nestlings are very young baby birds that are featherless or have partially developed feathers that are just starting to grow in. At this stage of their development, these babies remain in the nest and the parents come and feed them there.
These birds, when found, are usually on the ground below the nest, and may be there because they fell out, blew out during a storm, or were pushed out by siblings. This last behavior may actually be adaptive for some species, as it insures that only the strongest survives.
The best thing to do if you find a nestling out of its nest is to try and put it back. You can handle a baby bird and the parents will almost always come back and take care of it. Birds in general have a poorly developed sense of smell (the exception being the turkey vulture), and will not mind that you have handled the baby. The parental bond is very strong, and the parents will continue to care for their young.
If you can’t reach the nest, or if it has been destroyed, you can create an artificial nest by doing the following:
- Punch holes in the bottom of a plastic margarine container.
- Line it with paper towels.
- Fasten it to the tree or bush as close to the original nest as possible, and in a location sheltered from direct sunlight, rain, and wind.
- If you cannot pinpoint the exact tree from which the nest came, another tree close by should suffice.
- Place the baby bird in the new nest and move away, ideally, far enough away that you will not interfere with the parents’ normal activities but close enough that you can observe to see if they do return. The parents should come back in a short time and feed the babies just like they were in the original nest. If the parents do not return within a couple of hours, then the baby may truly be orphaned and you should contact a wildlife rehabilitator.
A True Orphan
The only time we recommend that you bring a baby bird directly to a wildlife rehabilitator is if you know that the parents are dead or if the baby appears to be injured, is listless, cold, emaciated, or has flies all over it. If any of these situations exists, gently place the bird in a cardboard box lined with tissue paper and place it in a warm, dark, quiet place. Refrain from checking on it frequently and do not offer it any food or water. Call a wildlife rehabilitation center for instructions.
Fledgling birds are babies that have fully developed feathers (or nearly so) and are at a stage of development where they are just learning to fly. These birds are often seen sitting on the ground below a tree or hopping around on the ground and in the lower branches of trees and bushes. People often assume that because these fledglings cannot fly that they are injured, when in fact they are exhibiting normal behavior.
Unless the bird is obviously injured or sick, it should be left alone if possible. Take time to assess the situation by observing the bird from as far away as possible to make sure that the parents are around. Often, if you take a moment to look and listen, you will realize that the adult bird flitting around and yelling at you is in fact the parent trying to chase you away from her baby. Some parent birds will even go so far as to dive bomb you. Some birds, such as great horned owls, can get very aggressive when protecting their young.
The best thing that you can do for these young birds is to protect them from disturbance while they develop their skills. Make an effort to keep dogs, cats, and curious children away. If there are cats or dogs in the area that you cannot control, you can pick up the young bird from the ground and place it high in a bush or on a tree branch. If you know where the nest is, you can also try and place the baby back in it (if you handle a baby bird, the parents will not reject it). The fledgling may quickly end up back on the ground again, but there is not much you can do about this. The whole process is necessary for normal development. Wildlife rehabilitators cannot take in every baby bird or mammal just because a cat or dog might catch it. The only thing we can do is advocate responsible pet ownership.
Vaux’s swifts often build nests on the insides of house chimneys, and are known for their loud chirping. The babies often fall out of their nests, or the nests will fall apart and the babies will end up inside fireplaces. Fortunately, these birds have extremely sharp claws that help them cling to the brick inside a chimney. If you can reach up inside your chimney past the flue lining (which is slippery metal that a bird cannot cling to), a displaced baby can grab a hold and will climb back up inside where the parents will come down to feed it. After placing a baby inside the chimney, close the flue so that it won’t fall down into the fireplace again. Another alternative:
- Fashion an artificial nest using a plastic container as described under “Baby Birds.”
- Attach one or two extended coat hangers to the artificial nest.
- Bend one end of the coat hanger into a U shape and hang it over the chimney lip at roof level so that the artificial nest is lowered down inside the chimney. (This is of course assuming that you can safely climb up on your roof.) With this nest, the parents can get to their babies and the babies will still be able to climb out onto the chimney when they get older.
Great Horned Owl Baby – Call the Help Hotline at 541-745-5324
Some species of owls, especially the great horned owl, leave the nest when they are quite young and are still covered with down. Babies that exhibit this behavior are called “branchers” because they hop from one branch to another gradually moving farther and farther from the nest. The parents follow them around and continue to take care of them. This process can go on for months in some species as the young develop their feathers prior to fledgling.
If you find a young owl standing on the ground or on a lower tree branch, and it appears to be alert, then the parents are probably nearby. If, however, the bird has not moved in 24 hours, or is not alert, has flies on it, or it cannot stand, it may need help and you should contact a wildlife rehabilitator.
Contact us for more info.
The clinic is open for admitting an injured or orphaned animal every day of the year from 9am to 7pm.