What to do if you find a baby bird; plus, baby Steller’s Jay

Recently I’ve noticed that people are being referred to Tough Little Birds by searching things like “what to do when junco chicks fall out of the nest”—and, of course, finding this blog totally unhelpful. Whoops! I’m fixing that now.

First, you probably don’t need to do anything, because most baby birds on the ground are fledglings: that is, they’ve left the nest voluntarily. Often fledglings look a bit scraggly and aren’t good fliers yet. That’s okay: the parents feed them, the fledglings hop and flutter about and mostly hide in brush while they grow the rest of their feathers, and all is as it should be.

If the bird has wing feathers, even if they’re quite short, it’s probably a fledgling. Fledglings often don’t have tails yet so that’s fine. Often fledglings call piteously, and that’s okay too: they’re telling their parents to bring them more food. Calling is a good sign! If you hide somewhere nearby and wait, you might be able to see the parents bring the chick food.

MAYO was still in the nest, but she could survive outside of it if she needed to. A bird that looks like this, feathered and able to run, should be left to its parents’ care as long as the parents are willing to care for it.

The only times you need to worry about a fledgling are 1) if, in its youthful cluelessness, it has wandered into some location that is dangerous, like the middle of the road, or directly in front of a cat; or 2) if you have reason to believe that the parents have abandoned it. In the case of #1, just pick it up and move it, or chase it, somewhere nearby but safe. The parents will find it by its calls. For #2, be absolutely certain that the parents have left—e.g. know that they have not visited the chick at all in 24 hours. Parents may leave the chick for several hours sometimes, but still be feeding it. If you’re sure the fledgling is abandoned, and too young to survive on its own (i.e., not feeding itself), follow instructions for contacting a wildlife rehabilitator, at the end of this post.

On our last trip to the field, the family camping next to us found a fledgling Steller’s Jay on the ground in their campsite. They rescued her from their curious dogs and held her while she recovered from her shock.

Stella the fledgling Steller’s Jay. Photo by M. LaBarbera

After a few minutes she looked around, fluttered onto the ground, pecked at it a bit in case it was edible, and then began calling. While she called she hopped uphill until she found a tree, then climbed that tree by hopping from branch to branch until she was at the very top, where she was safe and her parents could find her. Fledglings are clumsy but they can usually take care of themselves.

Can I eat this? Photo by M. LaBarbera

Sometimes chicks do fall out of their nests too early. Chicks that shouldn’t be out of the nest yet will be unfeathered, with maybe just a little bit of fluff. They will look very little like actual birds.

Junco chicks much too young to be out of the nest. Note the bare skin and inability to do much besides sit still and eat. Photo by M. LaBarbera

If you find a young, naked chick, your best option is to put it back in the nest. The parents will find it there and care for it as if it never fell out, and everyone’s happy. (Don’t worry about getting your smell on the chick. That popular factoid is a myth: birds will not reject chicks that have human smell on them.)

If you don’t see the nest or can’t reach it, bring the chick to a wildlife rehabilitator. (Advice on finding one near you here.) There are lots of licensed rehabbers, and they can raise the chick and release it. They can also care for injured adult birds you might find. They are trained in caring for wildlife and can evaluate the animal’s injuries; even if you think the bird will have to be put down, you should still bring it to a rehabber to get their opinion (and let them do it humanely, if necessary). Some bird “injuries” aren’t bad at all—birds can lose their entire tails, and often do, and are fine! Even broken legs or wings are sometimes mendable. Birds are tough.

Update: see also this post.

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112 thoughts on “What to do if you find a baby bird; plus, baby Steller’s Jay

  1. I have 4 fledgling steller’s jays in my yard. the can fly short distances, top of fence etc. parents still around. I need to spray for afids but need to know how long they hang around or until they are full grown. Please contact me at mavey6363@yahoo.com if you have that info. I don’t know which way to turn. Thank you. Marcia in Wenatchee, WA

    • Hi Marcia,
      I emailed you – let me know if you didn’t receive it. But the short answer is, they’re likely to hang around for at least two weeks, probably more, but should range farther and farther afield as time goes on, so they might not be in your yard for that long.
      If you really need to spray for aphids before then, you could try gently shooing them away. The main concern is making sure they don’t breathe the spray in.

  2. Thank you SO much for this post! I found a baby bird under my car tire this morning that did not move when I approached or cranked the car. I placed it at the bottom of the hedge where I suspected the nest to be and went to work. I worried all day until I found your page!

    • Hi Jen, glad I could help! It was probably a clueless fledgling (based on the fact that this page made you feel better, I’m assuming it had some feathers); putting it somewhere nearby but safe was exactly the right move. Hurray! (And good for you for noticing it under your car in the first place! I bet it thought that was a great place to hide…)

      • Can u plz help me?? My dad found 2 baby steller jay babies, and picked both up, now they’re in a cage plz help!

  3. Hi, my dad found 2 baby birds, I don’t know if they’re fledgling or not. So my dad picked both up and now we have them in a cage. What should we do??

  4. What is wrong with u ppl!? How come u can’t help me!?!?! I don’t know what to do!! Niether does my dad!!!!!!! HOW COME U WON”T HELP ME AND MY DAD?!?!?!? WE DON”T HOW TO CARE FOR THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! XP

    • They did try to help you they said call a wild life rehab center.. Just google wild life rehab center and the name of your town.. And no need to be nasty and hateful

    • Look, I just got back from the field, where I did not have internet. Also, this blog post tells you exactly what you should do. If you read it, instead of commenting four times, you would know what to do. And there is the rest of the enormous internet out there to try, not just this one blog.
      CALL A WILDLIFE REHABBER.

    • Also, please never EVER pick up birds if you 1) don’t know if they need help, and 2) don’t know what to do. If you don’t know what to do, find a local expert to ask, or just leave them alone. They may be fine.

      • Actually it is OK to pick up a fledgling placing them in the nest if the area they fell to is dangerous. Their parents will respond to the calls. If you don’t find the nest place the bird in a makeshift plastic container with soft material and nail it to the tree or area closest to the found fledgling and the parents will find it. It’s not true that a parent won’t return to its Offspring if a human touches it however it is always better to make the chick available to the parents asap

        • Mostly agreed, although a fledgling by definition has left the nest, so doesn’t need to be put back into the nest or into any substitute nest – it will just hop right back out again.

  5. Thanks for the info on fledglings, it has eased our worried minds! Our little guy is one of three that we noticed in the nest. The nest was under the roof eave, on an exterior stove pipe. We live in So Lake Tahoe, so I assume they chose that spot for the warmth. We didn’t see the first two leave, but the third fledgling has been on the ground three days now. I spotted Mom feeding him this morning, and Dad also came down to see how he was doing. It appeared as if they were looking under his belly or at his stub of a tail. Is that normal? Also, do you think the first two survived, because they are no where to be found? Thank you!

    • Hmm, I don’t know why they would be looking under his belly unless he happened to be sitting on a yummy bug. As for his siblings, fledglings often split up and hide in different places so that if a predator finds one, he doesn’t find all of them. The parents will need to feed all of them though. If you notice the parents disappearing for periods of time, they are probably feeding their other fledgling(s), and you can be assured that at least one other one is still alive.

  6. We found a fledgling that was in danger of becoming cat food. There are no Wildlife rehabiltators in my area. I spoke to someone locally who has been known to take care of wild baby birds, who told us what to feed our Baby J. Now that he is a little older and can fly from tree to tree we expected him to fly off, unfortunately the other J’s have left and he won’t go anywhere. He calls to us and swoops down and lands on us for food. We would love to transition him to solid food and get him to move on. Any suggestions?

  7. Excellent! I just shared a post of yours on our club’s FB page. I found this post and am wondering if we may put a link to it on our website under education. Here is our site: http://www.westmojavebirdclub.com We are sill populating it, so if things look like they are missing… there are.
    By the way, do you also have FB and/or Twitter feeds to follow?
    Thank you!

    • Thanks A.S.! Feel free to link to any post anywhere you like; I hope people find it useful. Unfortunately I don’t have a FB or Twitter to refer you to (I have enough trouble keeping up with just the blog!).
      Your site is beautiful – stunning photos!

  8. Hello. Your link for the wildlife rehabilitator needs to be updated. It says “page not found.” One can find it from there using the menu, but just thought I’d let you know. Good luck on your research! A fellow scientist and bird lover. (P.S. You may want to check out my fledgling book review blog for sci-fi recommendations. :) )

  9. Very helpful info thank you so much. We found 3 little Juncos in our back yard in the grass and we have two dogs. I freaked out and ran the dogs inside and we moved the three to a safe place near where we think their nest was. We checked up later and saw 4 babies all cuddled up together. Mom and dad are feeding them. Thank goodness everyone is ok for now. We started to wonder if we did the right thing. Thanks to your info we can rest easy tonight. Boy I never thought I could care so much for a little tiny bird family. I might be turning into a bird nerd now. Thanks again!!!

    • Thanks for a story with a happy ending! :-) I’m so glad you noticed the chicks and were able to get the dogs out of the area. I hope your little junco family continues to do well! And don’t worry, being a bird nerd is great fun.

  10. Hi! Before I realized what was going on….we lost a little “stelle jay” chick to our dog. :(
    Anyway, there is one gray fluffy chick in a Rhodie in our yard and it has been there for the last 18 hours while the parents stay close and watch and visit. I am worried to death that it will fall to the ground and become food for our dogs. I am keeping the dogs in the house. I read some of the above posts….how long until she might take flight? I guess I will just keep the dogs in the house. It doesn’t seem right to move the chick but, if you have any other advice I would appreciate it.

    • It’s hard to know how long before the chick flies without knowing how old it is. If you see flight feathers (wing or tail feathers, not just fluff) then probably it will be flying short distances within a week. If there is a safer bush/plant for it to be in (e.g. on the other side of a fence from your dogs) that is within 15 ft of where it is now, you could try moving it there; but the best thing would just be to keep the dogs away from it for the next week or so. I’m glad you noticed and have been keeping the dogs away for now – well done!

  11. Hi a nest fell from the tree outside upon inspection I found 2 small fledglings that haven’t yet grew their flight feathers and 2 more that appeared older as they were very vocal and jumping around I placed the 2 small ones in the nest in a container nailed to the tree off the ground but I lost sight of the other 2. I believe they may be from 2 different nests. Just hoping I did the right thing and should I try and find the other 2 and put them together? P.s. the parents are still around cause they were very angry when I bothered the chicks.

    • It sounds like you did the right thing! The parents being around and angry is a very good sign. I wouldn’t try to catch the two that got away; if they were difficult to catch, they’re probably fine out of the nest.

      • Thanks for your reply. Just an update. The 2 in the nest are doing fine mom is feeding them and I’m starting to see them up and moving around the other two I believe made it to the backyard to the bushes. Thanks

  12. basically I have an Oregon variety dark eyed junco currently nesting in a hanging flower basket next to my front door and it has four little eggs in it since today and I was just wondering how long it will take before little baby birds start appearing and side note: the eggs are being laid once daily so far and the first two were found the Saturday before this post. I hope you can help me figure out the whole baby thing because all the websites I have looked at so far none have been as awesome and clearly stated than yours. Props to the amazing website!

    • You can expect the eggs to hatch 13-14 days after the last egg is laid. (This might have already happened, or there might be one more egg: sometimes juncos have 5 eggs.) They may all hatch on the same day (usually hatch in the morning), or over the course of two days.
      From then, you can expect them to be in the nest for 8-13 days, after which they’ll fledge – leave the nest – but still not be able to fly for a while, and will hang around in the area being fed by their parents. If you have outdoor dogs or cats, this will be the time to keep a close eye on them (or ideally keep them indoors), as young fledglings are very vulnerable – and based on the ones people bring to the wildlife hospital I volunteer at, dogs and cats find them extremely tempting.
      Around day 8 after hatching, be careful checking on the nest, because frightened chicks at that age will leave the nest. Ideally you’d want them to leave the nest when they decide to, not because you scared them. So that would be the time to maybe just look through a window, or look through binoculars from a distance.
      Enjoy watching your nest!

  13. I have a fledgling house finch on my porch. The rest of the birds (3 of them) left the nest & area sometime today. This poor lil one has his wings but is very small. I am guessing it to be the runt. The parents decided to make a nest in my ivy (which is now dead, but it’s the circle of life). Should I call someone tomorrow if he is still there? He seems so scared & we don’t know what to do for him. We have watched them pretty much since they hatched. I don’t wan’t anything to happen to the baby.

    • Do you see the parents coming to feed the runt? Is he easy to catch (don’t chase him all around the porch; just, if you walk up, can you pick him up without any problem)? If you do catch him, is he cold to the touch? If the answers are no, yes, and yes, then he probably needs to go to a wildlife rehabilitator. It’s normal for young fledglings to just sit in one place looking nervous; as long as the parents are feeding them, they’re fine. However, it is also normal for runty chicks – especially now, later in the season – to be abandoned by the parents. You’ll want to to watch for the parents (they might not feed him for a few hours, but if it’s longer than that, that’s bad); also, if he is cold, you might consider bringing him inside in a small box for the night to keep him warm.

        • Not true, although you might expect it since they are related to reptiles. But birds are “warm-blooded” (more technical term is endothermic) – they, like mammals, can maintain their body temperature within a fairly broad range of environmental temperatures. This is how, for example, penguins are able to live in well-below-freezing habitats.

  14. Love your blog! I read one of your latest entries, a reply to anonymous, June 7th, and am so glad I did! I have an Oregon Junco nest just feet away from my back patio door, built in a beautiful hanging flower basket I hung Mother’s Day. They must have worked very quickly once the basket was up, as I noticed the nest a week ago last Monday, with 3 little eggs in it. On Tuesday of last week I peeked in and saw one chick had hatched. The next day a 2nd chick had hatched, and by Thursday, the 3rd. I’ve been checking every day (only once a day while I water the hanging basket) and a couple nights ago (the 7th day since the 1st chick hatched) I decided to not check on the nest any longer for fear I might startle a chick out of it’s nest. Afterward I went searching for info on Junco chicks and read your reply telling anonymous to be careful checking on the nest, because frightened chicks at 8 days might become frightened and leave the nest. Guess my gut instinct was right! I am concerned about the hanging basket, however. Is it okay to continue to water it? The nest is on a side where they can’t see me (although the mama Junco always knows when I’m getting ready to water the basket, and jumps out) but I’m concerned I may still startle the chicks. What are your thoughts? Our weather here in Portland the past few days has been very cool and showery, but by this weekend the temps are suppose to rise to the 80’s and the flower basket really will need watering by then. So, yay or nay?

    • Hi Debbie,
      I think if you can be sneaky about watering the basket – positioned so the chicks can’t see you, and not making rustling sounds that might frighten the chicks – it should be okay. Of course, don’t flood the basket – you don’t want your chicks to be swimming!
      Good call on not checking the nest. The oldest chick is getting big enough that it may fledge on its own soon anyway, but the longer it doesn’t, the better for its younger siblings: generally chicks all fledge within a day of each other, and it would be nice if the youngest chick were a bit older before it had to leave the nest.
      You probably already saw this somewhere on the blog, but: if you have an outdoor cat or a dog that gets to run around near the hanging basket, consider keeping them inside (or at least away from the area) for the next week. New junco fledglings can’t fly and can’t run fast, and pets find them to be very tempting morsels.

      • Thanks for the reply! I ended up holding off on watering the basket for several days, and when the weather warmed up I started watering it with a long handled spray nozzle attachment. That worked for 2 days in a row without incident, but on the 3rd day (yesterday) all hell broke loose! All the chicks startled and flew from the nest. I got just a glimpse of them (4 in all, to my surprise) and then they were gone. I beg to differ with you that fledgling Juncos are completely defenseless. Their little legs can run like nobody’s business! That’s got to count for something. I remember thinking when the babies took flight (half flying, that is), maybe I can put them back in the basket. Wrong! They disappeared so quickly, I was amazed! Luckily, we have lots of ground hugging bushes, making it an easy task for them. The Junco parents gave me a good scolding, which I’m sure I more than deserved. As for our 2 Labradoodles, I always take them out on leash (at least with the baby Juncos nesting/fledging) and have eliminated any off leash play time out in the yard for the time being. Today I didn’t hear the parent birds’ sharp warning chirps, so I really think they’ve moved to another yard. Hope all the fledglings make it!

        • That’s great! Based on your dates, the chicks were 13, 12, and 11 days old, which means they’ll be well developed and ready to face the world. They can definitely run at that age! (Although still not really fly, as you saw.) Your being careful not to startle them with watering let them stay in the nest an extra few days, and that will be an important head start for them now that they’re out.

          When we banded chicks as part of my research, we put them back in the nest afterward. The younger ones would settle down and stay in the nest. The older ones, like ages your chicks were, would have none of it: I’d hold my hand over them in the nest to give them a chance to settle, and they’d continuously pop up against my palm like popcorn. When I took my hand away, they’d be off.

        • I just wanted to give an update on my Junco family. The first week after the chicks flew the nest they were completely absent from our backyard (while they were fledging). After that first week they returned once again, this time the babies were flying! I was very surprised to see the babies sticking together, as I had thought they split up once they fledged. Its been a joy watching them every day, but sadly there are only 3 chicks in the family now. One apparently didn’t make it past fledging. They’ve been hanging out in our yard for the past 8 or 9 days now, and mom and dad are still feeding them, even though the babies can be seen feeding themselves. Funny how I feel they’re my Junco family!

          • That’s great! Yes, the families often stick together for a while. Once the young birds are fully independent, they’ll form big flocks with other juveniles.

            Too bad about the one chick, but 3/4 is actually pretty great numbers. The mortality rate for the first week out of the nest is somewhere around 50% on average, so this is good – well done junco parents!

  15. I apprecite the post. Most fledglings didn’t last in my yard. My bigger dog always got them, I hated it but its nature. He is gone now an I noticed this weekend that a Mockingbird fledgling was on the ground after my medium sized indoor dog located and tramatized it to the point of frozen in fear. I moved it and found it gone the next morning. Thinking it was in the clear, low and behold my baby found it again! Placed it in some shrubs again and made Polly leave it alone and come in the house. I hope it survives. The blog gives me hope it will.

    • I hope your little mockingbird survives. The more you can keep the dog indoors, even just for the next few days, the better: the bird needs a chance to grow his flight feathers.

      You say it’s nature for the dog to kill the birds; but remember that humans bring dogs with them, and feed them and breed more of them; so dogs really aren’t a natural part of the ecosystem. There is the same problem with outdoor cats: they aren’t behaving like natural predators in the ecosystem, because humans artificially increase their numbers (because we like them, of course!). It’s nature for foxes and raccoons to eat the occasional baby bird; pet animals eating baby birds aren’t nature, but a human impact.

      Which isn’t to say one should blame the dogs or cats – it’s not their fault – but only that the more we can try to keep our pets from killing wild animals, the better.

  16. So I have this little Robin that fell from below our deck where the parents build a nest every year. We tried to put it back twice and I found that it had fallen onto our concrete patio once again. I tried to look the other way. This was the first spring I was free from nursing foals, lambs and calves! But here it was and I couldn’t let it just die. So it looked like it had just opened it eyes on Monday and only had little fluffs for feathers and bare skin. I’ve had it for a week now and all of it’s feathers are coming in. I tried to find a local sanctuary and no one in my area takes “regular” birds, only raptors or endangered birds. My question to you is, would you have an idea on how to care for this little guy when he hits the fledgling stage? I was thinking of putting him out in the yard with some kind of “trap” containment to keep him safe from my dogs and cats and also close by, but not sure what. Then continue to feed him during the day and also set out some moving bugs in his container to see if he will feed himself. Looking for ideas. Thanks, appreciate any info.

    • I like your idea – if you could put out a wire cage without a floor, then he could get used to the sky and to pecking around on the ground, but be safe from large predators. I’d bring him in at night though; depending on the sturdiness of the cage and the width of the wire bars, I’d worry about something breaking in (raccoon, fox), or sneaking in (shrew). Also, don’t let him hop around outside the cage until you’re ready to release him: a hawk could take a fledgling off your yard very easily.
      Don’t release him until his tail and wings are full-sized, he’s flying well, and he’s feeding himself. For food, fruit and live insects are good; also consider kibble soaked until it’s soft, and bits of hard-boiled egg.
      Good luck! And yeah, be especially careful about the dogs and cats!

  17. Hi there, a few days ago my father in law rescued a Stellar’s Jay out of our dogs mouth. From my reading, I understand that the right thing to do is either the bird alone (it’s a fluffy/feathered fledgling) or contact someone who knows what they’re doing…. However, my father in law is become very attached to the baby bird and made a make-shift best in a black plastic planter. The planter is about 1 1/2 feet deep and about a foot across, so while the baby does look cute, I’m concerned he doesn’t have enough space. Last night I noticed the baby bird had hopped onto the edge of the planter, then when I got up this morning, after a little searching, I found him hopping around in garden, with his parents not even 10ft away. I thought this was good, right? He’s learning vital instincts… but when my FIL found him, he put on gloves, picked the baby up, and put him right back into the planter. He’s also feeding it a mixture of soaked protein powder, even though the parents have been around since the bird was found. I guess what I’m trying to get help with is how to explain to my FIL how to do the right thing for the bird?

    • It definitely sounds like the jay is fine – he’s doing just what he should be at this age. Honestly, your FIL won’t be able to keep it in a planter for more than a few more days anyway – it will be flying soon. The danger is that the parents will get discouraged and abandon it in the meantime, which would be really bad, because the chick will need them to teach it how to hunt for itself. Your FIL can’t do that; only the parents can teach it how to be a successful jay. Your FIL might be hoping to keep it as a permanent pet, but jays are highly intelligent and highly social birds, and one raised by its parents this far will never think it’s a human; it will always want to be with its fellow birds, in the vast open interesting world.
      On the more immediate front, your FIL is running a real risk of injuring the bird by feeding it. He might get food down its windpipe – easy to do with birds. He might get sticky food on its still-growing feathers, stunting the feather growth. He might give it an unbalanced diet that will make it sick.
      If you can, try to tell him that he did a great thing rescuing the bird from the dog, and now he can do another good thing by stepping back and simply watching it thrive. He can support it by checking that the parents show up periodically and making sure the dog doesn’t get it again.
      Good luck!

  18. I found a Fledgling Stellars jay this morning. I live in a very wooded area with lots and lots of feral cats around. Whats the best thing to do? The young bird cant fly high or far enough to get into the trees or away from my dogs and all the feral cats.

    • Hi Nick,
      Does the bird look like the Stellar’s Jay chick in this blog post? (In terms of amount/length of feathers.) If so, then if you place it on the highest branch you can reach, it ought to be able to hop up to higher branches on its own. Even if it looks younger – less feathers – if it can grip tightly enough to perch safely, your best option is to place it on the highest branch you can manage, near where you found it.

      If it can’t perch, then it’s too young to be a fledgling. (This is somewhat unlikely.) Are there any wildlife rehabiliation hospitals near you? They would be the best place to take the chick if it is too young to be out of the nest.

  19. Pingback: Please stop “rescuing” baby birds and then asking me why they died | Tough Little Birds

  20. Pingback: The fledgling problem | Tough Little Birds

  21. I have a small grey bird that has lost its tail feathers, probably a predator. The bird comes out in the late evening to eat under my bird feeders, it seems to be eating but has balancing issues. I also put a water dish out for it. Is there anything else I can do to help this bird ? I think the bird may be a dark eyed junco, but I’m not sure. I just want to help if I can, thank you.

    • This is exactly the time of year you’ll be seeing tailless juncos: they’re molting right now, and a lot of juncos seem to drop most or all of the tail feathers at once. (I don’t see this as much in other species, but I also see a lot more juncos than other birds, so my sample sizes are not equal.) Your bird should be fine: it will grow in its new tail soon.

  22. Hello! My father found a fledgling robin on his driveway today and put it in a hanging planter in a nearby tree. From your post, it seems like this fledgling would have been perfectly fine on the ground with some bushes nearby for cover.

    Would you recommend that he take it out and put it in some shrubs close to where he found it? The planter is too big for the robin to jump out of and is hanging about 15-20 feet off the ground. He’s seen a couple of adult robins hanging around that he thinks are the parents and the fledgling is pretty vocal, so we aren’t too concerned that it’ll be abandoned or unable to be found. We’re just wondering what would be the healthiest and most natural course of action for the bird. Thank you!

    • Hi Kim,
      If the parents can find him in the planter – which they ought to be able to – then I don’t see a problem with him being in there. Maybe just keep an eye out for whether the parents seem to visiting him in the planter? As long as they are, he’s fine.

  23. Hi, We have a stellar jay fledgling in our yard that I saved from our cats. The fledgling appears to be fine and his parents are still checking in on him during the day. I have kept my cats inside for the past 2 days, however we live in a neighborhood of cats, raccoons, bobcats and lots of big birds. The parents are not around at night, is there a better way to keep him safe? right now he is in the planter of our yard. Thanks.

    • Hi, sorry for the late reply. The planter of your yard sounds all right; a young fledgling just needs somewhere to be very still and hidden for his first few days. A dense bush would work too. Pretty soon he’ll have longer flight feathers and be able to fly better, at which point he’ll be able to move around more and escape predators.

  24. Three mayna fledgling ended up in my backyard. Its a tiny place with no greenery and I was afraid the cat might eat it. The parents haven’t showed up as my backyard isn’t very visible I placed it at a higher spot still nothing the whole day. I didn’t know what do I couldn’t leave them there as there was no way they could find food, be noticed by the parents or hide themselves in danger. I hope you get what sort of spot they fell in. So I made them a little nest and I’ve been feeding them baby food and some boiled egg mixture with a toothpick. Its been two days now so far they seem comfortable. Should I continue this or was it wrong of me to intervene? They are still in the same spot in case the parents show up but only safer and I do show up to feed them otherwise I leave them alone in case the mother comes. Also there are no wildlife rehab centers here at all so I’m kind of stuck. Please help thanks.
    P.s. they cant even walk right

    • Update: today they are not even eating that baby food and egg mixture right they seemed to like it yesterday. Ive been going crazy running back and forth trying to figure what they’ll eat. Yesterday they were a bit active too now they are all just huddled up in one corner of the nest I made them. I hope you see this in time I’m really worried :/

      • Hi zee,
        I’m sorry for the delay; I was away from the internet for a few days. Your birds sound very young, if they’re having trouble standing/walking and if the parents are not attending them; I wonder if they fell out of a nest? If so, they don’t have very good chances of survival; even if you do your best, you may not be able to save them.
        Don’t feed them if they don’t gape for it. It’s surprisingly easy to overfeed baby birds. When they do start gaping again, you can try kitten or dog kibble soaked in water until it’s mushy. Be careful feeding with a toothpick – don’t want to stab them! If you can get a small syringe, that would be safer. (Just be careful to put it into their throat and not their lungs – there’s an opening at the base of the tongue that goes to their lungs. Google “bird glottis” for pictures, and don’t put the food in there!)
        Insects would also be a great food source. If you can get mealworms, those are excellent. Mynas generally eat all kinds of insects, especially grasshoppers; steer clear of anything brightly colored (don’t feed them any bright red insects) because those may be toxic, but any green/brown insects would be worth trying. That’s what their parents would be feeding them.

        • Hey thanks for the reply! Ive had them for six days now. Till day four I kept them outside and waited for the parents but the fourth day evening a cat almost attacked them. It was very scary but I got there just in time and none of them got hurt. Im afriad the cat would definitely come back so I don’t put them outside anymore (the very spot I found them) but I keep them close to the window still. They are able to stand now and one of them has almost all the feathers too its just small in size though. The other two are smaller but still have feathers on the head and the wings just lesser on the body. I had been feeding them boiled eggs and flour mixture I read somewhere it was okay to? Ill be careful with the toothpick now, I had replaced it with a stick now that didn’t have a sharp edge but thanks for the heads up ill look it up. Ill get the mealworms now, its very hard to find anything from where I live. About the food im currently giving, they eat bits of it after every 10 to fifteen minutes and then might sleep for almost an hour and then back to the same routine. is that normal? Its a good thing im on vacation cause my whole day is spent with them now and im actually exhausted by the end of it, please tell me they’ll survive haha.

          • That’s a great sign that they’re still alive! They definitely sound too young to be out of the nest; they would not have survived out there. The eat-sleep-eat routine sounds exactly right. My main concern with the diet would be fiber: flour and egg only might have trouble moving through the digestive system. Soaked kibble or insects would help with that. Good luck finding mealworms – try bait shops or pet stores.

  25. Hi, I found a bird outside my home today, he had glue on his wings, one foot and the tail so i tried my best to take it out (I think i did a good job at it at least) but when i try to let him fly he doesn’t want to or if he tries he is unable to.
    The people that lived here before had birds so i found a little bird cage and i put him there, problem is i don’t have any food for him so i has thinking of putting him outside because he might be a little one and not just a bird that stepped on a mouse glue trap or something like that. There is an abandoned house next door and there are a lot of birds there but i don’t know if it’s the same species.
    I might put a photo of him here but for know i would say he look like this one but the back of the wings aren’t so developed, lets just say if you look behind you see the wings then in the middle the white feather and then the tail behind https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/t/andorinha-de-celeiro-rustica-do-hirundo-44520212.jpg .

    Do you think i should try to put him on top of the wall of the abandoned next to the bird (on the ground there are some cats around here so :/) or what should i do ?

      • Sounds like you have a baby swallow (shorter feathers, yellow gape around the mouth?), which may be complicated. You never saw parents approach to feed the baby when you had it outside? A swallow that cannot fly – as it sounds like yours cannot, yet – will not be able to feed itself. If the parents aren’t feeding it, someone else will need to.

        If there are any wildlife rehabilitators (or nice vets who like wildlife) near you, they’d be the best place to take the bird. They’ll know what to feed it and also check that the glue is all gone and that the bird doesn’t have any other problems.

        If there aren’t any of those, and the parents aren’t around, then it’s up to you. For food, insects (mealworms and crickets should be available at pet stores) are best. Cat or dog kibble soaked in water until it is soft and mushy, mixed with chopped-up hard-boiled egg, will also work. The bird should open its mouth to beg for food; don’t force it to eat once it stops doing this, as it’s easy to overfeed baby birds.

        Let me know what the current situation is and I’ll try to think if there’s any other advice I can give.

        • In the end i took him to the wildfire rehabilitation center (was hard to find online). I don’t think they said it’s a baby (and the species i forgot the name, french species names aren’t very catchy to remember imo).
          They check his wings and didn’t seem to find why he wasn’t flying, the vet was to see him today. I won’t see him again most likely but i hope he leaves the rehabilitation center well :)

          • Oh good, I’m so glad you found a rehab place! It’s tough to hand over the bird and not know what’s going to happen, I know. The bird was very lucky that he was found by someone like you.

  26. I’m curious about something: is there anything to be done for a fledgling with confirmed dead parents?

    I found a fledgling goldfinch next to its deceased mother (window strike) at work today. It can fly but just barely and is reluctant to leave its mother’s body. I shooed it away from the bike path and into some bushes, but am wondering if there’s anything else I can do to help it until it finishes learning how to bird.

    • Keeping the fledgling off the bike path is a good start! Wouldn’t be a bad idea to hide or dispose of the mother’s body too, so that the fledgling doesn’t waste energy begging from it.

      There’s a good chance that the father will feed the fledgling once he realizes that the mother is no longer doing so. (Which may take him a few hours.) As long as the fledgling stays somewhere safe until then, it should be okay.

  27. How long will a parent look for its fledgling?
    Long story but I found a fledgling when I was leaving the box office of a large sports arena about 2 1/2 hours before a pro hockey game to begin, meaning thousands of people walking right where he was and there was no safe spot that was within 20-30′, or really even 100 feet of where he seemed to have landed out of the nest (maybe early due to a storm but he has feathers and seems overall healthy).

    When I first saw him, he was like a new fledgling – very still, his head tucked to his side and I stood maybe 30 feet away but watched as a few people passed by within a foot of him and he didn’t move. After about 20-30 minutes, he did hop over to the only remotely safe spot between a recycle bin and a small concrete pillar and he started the occasional peeping and then started hopping a little away from the pillar and I worried again about foot traffic squashing him. I stood maybe 20-30 feet away and casually watched to see if a parent came and none did and more people were starting to walk around his area and that would only continue as game time approached.

    The wildlife person thought it was better to take him home with me and then bring him back then my planter option (see below) so I forced him to hop into my small box lined with paper towel and have him in a small, dark bathroom hopefully staying calm.

    Now I need to know when to take him back: 1) at 10:30 PM at night so dark outside although they are under the bright lights of the arena so that might not matter and it would also be 5 1/2 hours after I removed him, or 2) once the game starts at 7:30 so only 2 1/2 hours later but I would worry about the pedestrian traffic leaving the game it the parents didn’t get him somewhere else. I guess I could wait and take him back again if they didn’t find him before the game was over.

    Hopefully this never happens again but for future reference, the only “safe” place for him is inside a very large planter (maybe 4′ wide and 2′ tall) that is surrounded by concrete but only about 20 feet or so from his original position. The wildlife person thought the height of the planter was an issue, that he might fall out of the planter but his nest has to be at least 15′ or more in the air over the sidewalk and he survived the original fall. Is this a good spot even though he can’t fly yet? Others on this post mention placing birds in planters and no one indicates this as a problem.

    Thank you for your advice.

    • I would wait until the hockey audience leaves. Even if the parents find him before the end of the game (which they almost certainly will), they may not move him, so he’d be at risk again of being trampled.

      The planter also sounds like a good option – a 2 ft fall would not be a problem for a fledgling. But I would worry that he might leave it and end up getting trampled if you put him back there before the end of the game.

      The parents likely won’t find him tonight if you put him back at 10:30pm (they’ll be asleep, as will he), but they’ll look again in the morning and find him then. Just try to put him somewhere sheltered and hidden so no predators eat him during the night. If there is a bush, or a clump of plants, then that would be a good place to hide him. (The parents will find him by his cheeping, so you don’t need to worry about hiding him from them. But you don’t want a rat or a raccoon to stumble onto him.)

      Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

  28. Hi, Thanks for this post! I need advice about 3 baby sparrows my five year old found yesterday.

    One of them seems stronger than the others; my son found him under our car and he can hop and walk short distances. The other two were cuddled up together ten feet away and were chirping but didn’t even seem to notice when a cat tried to get them. We chased the cat away. They squirm a little bit, but definitely can’t walk.

    All 3 look sort of 2/3 the way feathered, somewhere in between the first and last pictures in this post. We couldn’t find their nest so we put them in a little basket with shredded paper towels and hung it on the trunk of the nearest tree.

    It’s been 28 hours since then, and I haven’t seen a parent coming to feed them. I expected them to be dead this morning, after 24 hours, or at least the weaker ones, but they were all alive.

    I just checked on them again. Two were chirping, the third looked a little weak but still breathing. I saw quite a bit of poop on the shredded paper towels in the little nest. Does this mean they are being fed? The 10 or 12 times I’ve checked from the window, I haven’t seen any adult birds around.

    Advice would be appreciated! Thank you so much.

  29. Hi. We have four Stellar’s Jays babies that will be leaving the nest soon. The nest is attached to our house (on an outdoor light), and my outdoor cat is aware of the nest and keeps staring up at it! My plan is to relocate my cat for a long weekend (we’re going out of town) but not sure how to manage this when we get back for up to two weeks! Do you think the birds would be safe if I kept the cat indoors during the day but let him out after dark? (He loves being out at night anyways.) Or would he still be likely to find the fledglings if they’re on the ground even at night? I know the cat will go nuts if he has to stay indoors! And then there’s the problem of raccoons — are they likely to find these fledglings at night? (Of course I can’t control the raccoons, LOL — they have even come into my house when I’ve left a door open!)

    • Sorry for the delayed response! The more you can keep the cats indoors, the better; all the time would be ideal, but daytime-only is certainly better than nothing. It probably is safer to let the cats out at night than during the day, since the jays will be sleeping at night, so the cats will only notice them if they stumble directly on them, and will probably be distracted by nocturnal rodents instead.

      The raccoons are a threat, but as you say, there’s nothing you can do about that. They are at least a natural threat, and one that the jays have evolved to deal with.

      Best of luck to your jays!

      • Hi again. I wanted to give an update, unfortunately it’s not great news. I relocated my cat, and left home for a long weekend. Just before we left, my son and I got to see two of the four baby jays who had left the nest that morning. They were adorable, and I figured it was a good thing we were leaving the family alone to explore.

        However, over the weekend, my neighbor told me he saw a raven carrying off one the chicks. And now that we are back five days later, there’s no sign of the fledglings. Instead I’m seeing lots of grackles which weren’t there before. I did see one of the stellar Jay parents who was watching to see if I had replaced birdseed in the feeder. No idea if any of the babies survived, which makes me very sad, but at least we got to see them leave the nest and at least my my cat didn’t hurt them!

        Thank you so much by the way for reaching out to all of us with your advice and concern!

        • Correction: I think they are Brewers blackbirds not grackles. Small black birds with yellow eyes, very fast moving and flying together.

        • Hi Suzi,
          As you say, you still did a very good thing keeping your cat from getting the jays. (That raven almost certainly fed the baby jay to its own chicks, if that makes you feel any better…?)

          But I actually think there’s a strong chance the other jays are still alive – or in any case you don’t have reason to believe otherwise. The raven found the one jay *after* they had left the nest (or were capable of doing so), meaning that finding one jay wouldn’t lead the raven to all of the others: they could spread out and hide in different places, which the parents would have certainly encouraged them to do. Five days after fledging, there’s a good chance that the surviving fledglings would have moved high up in the trees and/or far enough away that you wouldn’t see them.

          If you see both jay parents around *frequently*, and especially if you see them carrying nesting material or tending a new nest, that would suggest that all of the chicks died. Otherwise I think it’s likely that a few made it.

          (Funny about the Brewer’s blackbirds! I don’t know what that’s about.)

          • Thank you so much Katie! I finally took the time to read about you, and I am so impressed that you take the time to answer questions from all over! Turns out I am nearby in The Sierra Nevadas north of Truckee and my most prominent other backyard birds besides the Jays are juncos and house wrens (your specialties!) I have a birdhouse high up on a Ponderosa pine that every year gets nesting house wrens; those wrens absolutely amaze me with how beautifully and loud they can sing! As for the baby Jay’s, I’m hoping you’re right! My son thinks so too. And no I haven’t seen much of the parents. We have numerous very tall Pines so they are probably up there somewhere or moved on to another house. In any case I have told my house painters they can come back now and they’ll remove the nest as they finish up the job they had to abandon until the babies were out.
            Thank you for reaching out personally and for making me feel a lot better! I know it’s silly to get so worked pub about Jays in particular but I couldn’t help it after observing them hatch.
            You are an amazing person for helping out all these people that don’t know what to do with their birds! I just read your cat post, Loved the funny captions and photos, also very informative! Look forward to reading more.

            Again thank you and thanks for making my evening with your optimistic post!

            Suzi

  30. Worried nest watcher here. Four chickadees in the bird house, they have open eyes and look like they could leave the next soon. Came home last night and they were squawky (like usual) but my gut said may be off. Since yesterday I haven’t seen a parent bird. they quieted when it got dark, but its the a.m. and some squawking, but no parents yet this hour. It is strange conisidering the parents have been on a SOLID rotation of in-and-out. I’m not able to monitor the nest all day, but I think the parents are gone. I’m going to wait through today and hope for a glimpse – they just seem like they could live if not completely abandoned. Thoughts? I certainly don’t want to act prematurely, but I also don’t want to be inactive and let things fall apart. Sincerely!

    • That is worrying. The parents may take breaks from feeding for up to a few hours, but they shouldn’t completely disappear. Any sign of parents since you wrote? If the parents are truly gone, you’ll need to get the chicks to a wildlife rehabilitator; is that an option in your area?

  31. Thank you for your helpful information.
    We have had a few very small baby birds to save from the cat and one baby hawk to save from the crows. The rehabilitation center took good care of the hawk who had a few serious injuries. We just couldn’t sit back and watch him be eaten by the crows in our garden.

  32. Hi I found your blog and I love it. My yard is fenced with very little in the way of low shrubbery mostly big trees. And even though my yard is fenced my neighbors cats routinely hunt in my yard at night. Last summer we found a fledgling Robin in the yard that was still being fed by mom and dad. We picked him up and made him a safe box with shavings at night so the neighbors cats would not eat him. And in the morning we put him back out into the yard for mom and dad to care for. He grew and eventually flew away. So yesterday I found a fledgling blue jay and did the same for him but I’m not really sure if his parents are coming back to feed him and he doesn’t seem to call, are blue jays just different or should I try to find a rehabber?

    • Give the parents at least 8 hours to return before you give up on them. That does sound worrying though – and you really shouldn’t have been able to pick up the blue jay fledgling; blue jays are more mobile than robins at the early fledgling stage, and shouldn’t be capturable by hand after their first day out of the nest. It’s possible that he fledged a bit too young and has been left behind by his family.

      If the parents don’t return after a full day, definitely look into rehabbers.

      • Just a quick update, it turns out the parents were out there sitting on the fence but every time they tried to come down to the little guy like 4 robins would swoop in and chase them away, which seemed strange to me. Anyway he eventually hopped around and found a place to go under the fence to the woods beyond, so hopefully his parents were able to feed him out there. I’ve never really paid much attention to birds before but the more I watch them the more fascinating I find them!

        • That’s great to hear – I’m glad he wasn’t abandoned! I’m sure the parents will find him beyond the fence; fences don’t mean much when you can fly. The robins were probably mobbing because they have a nest or young fledglings nearby – jays will try to eat eggs and chicks of other birds.

  33. We have been having an issue with crow fledglings. We currently have a young crow in the yard – and the adults have been extremely aggressive. Anyone going in or out of the house is being dive-bombed and harassed. Just trying to gently shoo the young bird away results in aggressive behavior. Additionally, we have a some songbird nests & fledglings, and the adult juncos and robins are flipping out with the crows in the yard. We love all the birds, but this is making everyone crazy. Any tips, thoughts, ideas on how to deal with the crows – or are we stuck with just waiting it out?

    • I’m afraid I don’t have any brilliant solution. If there is somewhere safe and nearby to shoo the fledgling crow to, I’d be inclined to put on some protective headgear and shoo (or pick up and carry, while wearing gardening gloves) the little guy there. The parents won’t like it, but it would benefit them to be a bit farther from you so they wouldn’t have to get upset every time you leave the house.

      • Just a follow-up: After observing the fledgling crow over the past several days, it was clear that it had been injured – likely why it wasn’t leaving the area. After consulting with the local wildlife rehab center, we captured it and brought it in. Apparently it had a leg fracture that wasn’t healing properly. They kept it, and are working on it. Hopefully they can get it back into shape. Thanks for providing this forum – it is really appreciated!

        • Ah, that makes so much sense in hindsight! I thought it was odd that the parents hadn’t moved the fledgling themselves, since they were so upset. Kudos to you for realizing what was going on. I hope the little guy makes a full recovery! (The rehab hospital I volunteer at gets lots of crows in this time of year – I’m sure your rehab is similarly experienced, and will take good care of him.)

  34. Hello, so i have recently stumbled upon a fledgling that i had no idea was a fledgling until i did some further research after i had already picked it up and moved it. So now i have the fledgling at my home and have several concerns. I wish i had found your blog before stumbling upon it. 1) When i found it, it was already about 10 pm and it was just standing there pressed up against a fence alongside a road. I was worried since it was now night time and it hadnt moved or found anywhere to hide and was just on the ground alone. 2) At that time the wildlife rehab center was already closed and now I am having to wait to take the fledgling until morning hours. Im worried the bird hasnt eaten and might starve and i have no idea what to feed it if I should even feed it all. Also im worried the cardboard box it is staying in for now is too stressful of an environment for it. 3) Lastly, i need to ask, is it better to take the bird back where i found it and leave it near or on a nearby tree for it to call for its mother? Or at this point is it best just to take it to a rehab center?

    • I may be responding too late to be helpful, but here goes –

      The chick will not starve overnight. Parent birds sleep during the night (except owls) – they actually don’t feed their babies overnight at all. Also, it’s easy to feed a baby bird incorrectly and cause problems. Much better to not feed it for a bit.

      See what your wildlife rehab center people say, but I’d be tempted to try putting it back where you found it (or rather, the nearest place that actually looks safe for it, not right next to the road). The parents won’t have missed it overnight; they’ll have been looking for it since about sunrise this morning, and there is a very good chance they are still looking. It’s always much better for the fledglings to be cared for by their parents.

      If there’s any way to put it back and then hide and watch it for a while to see if the parents come back, that would be ideal.

  35. Please help! I have a junco pair nesting on a small trellis in my patio. My patio is a typical apartment patio enclosed by a 6 ft fence. I think they are in the brooding of eggs phase. My patio is directly next to the parking lot. I’m really concerned that when the babies fledge they will be on the ground an possibly in danger from the cars and so forth. Would it be best to try to block some of the exits from my patio such as gaps under the fence to try to keep them in the patio? I wouldn’t be able to track them all the time to see if they are safe.
    I’d appreciate any advice.

    • That might not be a bad idea, as long as you’re pretty sure that you wouldn’t be trapping them in with something dangerous (e.g. do stray cats like to hang out in your patio?). Ideally you don’t want them on the parking lot until they can fly, and trapping them with the fence would accomplish that. Also, try as much as you can not to disturb the nest, especially once the chicks start to have visible feathers. Junco chicks are very willing to leave the nest early, and it would really be best if they stayed in their growing their flight feathers for as long as possible!

  36. Hi. I find a fledgling in the street and had no idea what I was doing so I brought it home. I’m only two streets away from where I found it but it’s dark and it’s been two hours should I take it back?

  37. I took the fledgling back to where I found it two hours later and placed it under a pine tree just a small baby Pinetree. I went back this morning around 8:30 AM and he was in the exact same place that I had left him still alive but hasn’t moved an inch parents haven’t come back for him.

  38. I live in the middle of nowhere and the closest town is a half hour away! I spoke to the vet about my chick and she said to just raise it as there are no rehabbers within even 6 hours away. It has one leg that it cannot move I tried putting feed on the floor of the cage and clearly it cannot eat on its own. So what shall I do in this case?

    • Can you tell what kind of bird it is, and approximately what age? (Can you send me a photo at klabarbera[at]berkeley.edu?) Does it open its beak at you to beg for food, or cheep a lot? The leg is worrying but the top priority is getting some food into the little guy. Also, what food are you offering? Dry cat food soaked in water until it is soft is a good place to start; mixing in bits of hard-boiled egg makes it better.

  39. Hello, I found (on the side of the road) four young fledglings but only one was living so I picked it up and searched for a nest…. There was nothing, so I brought it inside and noticed that whenever I’d set it down its one leg didn’t move at all! Even when I held it so I spoke to my vet via phone call since I live a half hour out of the nearest town (which btw is tiny!!) she said since the nearest rehabbers are about six hours out to just keep and raise it as there is nothing she or the other vets will do for it… Any advice?

  40. Leaving school this afternoon, I noticed a fledgling Sparrow stuck to what I first thought was gum on the sidewalk, so I went and picked the poor thing up and took her inside to bathe her with Dawn. During the warm bath, I discovered she was covered in a sticky substance. I washed and rinsed her, then w sat in the sun for a bit. I had to bring her home because time slows for no single fledgling nor teacher.
    Once I ascertain her un-stickyness and flight, should I take her back to her original location, or could I turn her loose in our garden behind the house?

    • Best to take her back: if she’s still dependent on her parents, they’ll find her and keep feeding her, and if she’s independent, she’ll be all right being independent there too.

      Did her feathers dry all right? Was there damage from the sticky stuff? If the feathers are so damaged as to prevent flight – i.e. all broken off – don’t release her; instead you’ll want to keep her, or take her to a wildlife rescue, until she molts in new feathers.

  41. One of our kiddos rescued a wren from a cat in our yard and it appears to be alright, though it is favouring a wing and is missing all it’s tail feathers. It’s hopped about for a bit but made no effort to fly, and the only rehabilitation place nearby is almost 2 hours away. Should we be putting it outside (several cats in the neighbourhood) or keep it inside until it starts making efforts to fly? Not sure what to do here so any advice would be appreciated – thank you!

    • That’s a tough situation. The best thing would be to take it to wildlife rehab place: they can figure out why it isn’t flying and treat it for that, and also give it antibiotics in case the cat broke the skin and infected it, which cats often do.

      If you aren’t up for taking it to the wildlife rehab place, I would put it in the largest, densest clump of bushes in the most vegetated place you can find nearby. If the flight issue is quick-healing (it could be: wing-strain can impair plight but heal within hours or days), the bird is better off without the stress of captivity, and will be able to feed itself better than you can feed it. If the wing issue isn’t quick-healing, the bird is going to die without medical care; but since you can’t diagnose it, putting it outside at least gives it a chance. (The missing tail feathers aren’t an issue: they’ll grow back, and the bird can fly without a tail, just not quite as well.)

      I’m assuming this is an adult wren, since it’s late in the year for fledglings and you don’t mention that it is young. However, if it has yellow around its mouth and is cheeping insistently, then it is a fledgling and you should put it back where you found it (under a nearby plant or bush would be good) so the parents can find it and continue to feed it.

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