The fledgling problem

EDIT 5/26/2016: If you found this post because you have a baby bird and are wondering what to do with it, please see this post instead; it will be more useful.


Being a fledgling—a chick that has left the nest—is awkward.

Junco fledgling MAII illustrates the awkwardness via interpretive dance.

Junco fledgling MAII illustrates the awkwardness via interpretive dance.

Fledglings are at one of the most dangerous time in their lives, facing an average mortality rate of 42% over just a week or two. Most of that mortality happens early, just after the little guys have left the nest. New fledglings have almost no skills: they can’t feed themselves, can’t fly well (or, in many cases, at all) and can’t do anything to defend themselves if something terrifying like a weasel, snake, crow, or even chipmunk decides to eat them.

So why do they fledge at all? Because staying in the nest would be even more dangerous. A flightless baby bird’s chief defense is being hidden, and a nest, while it is often hidden, has disadvantages. After two weeks of the parents feeding their chicks, there is a lot of evidence around indicating where the nest is: the nest will smell like bird; the parents will be in the area noticeably frequently; and if an intelligent predator like a Steller’s Jay gets the idea to watch parental movement, it will quickly learn where the nest is. A baby bird out of the nest can do better, as long as it is capable of running and perching, since it can change hiding places and can hide separately from its siblings.

Young junco fledgling hiding. Photo by Jeremy Spool.

Young junco fledgling hiding. Photo by Jeremy Spool.

Young fledglings tend to place all their hope in remaining unseen. Two young American Robins I encountered recently remained motionless even when I stuck a camera lens within inches of them, stoically hoping that I would believe that they were statues and go away.


American Robin fledgling

When I picked up one of them, it called for a moment, then reverted to its motionless act… in my hand.


Me with a different American Robin fledgling

You can't see me!

You can’t see me!

This seems silly, but it’s really the only strategy fledglings have before they can run fast or fly. Still, the robin seems to be extreme; fledgling juncos will not sit in your hand unrestrained.

ABEE: As soon as she lets go, I'm outta here.

ABEE: As soon as she lets go, I’m outta here.

Fortunately, fledglings—well, the ones who survive—outgrow this helplessness pretty quickly. Once they can fly, they are much safer, and their challenge becomes learning how to be a self-sufficient bird. I’ve written before about how fledglings learn to catch food, and it’s not a trivial matter: most mortality in young fledglings comes from predation, but in older fledglings, there is evidence for a second peak of mortality due to starvation.

But it isn’t enough to simply stay alive: fledglings have to turn into successful adult birds. So even while they’re hiding from predators and perfecting their foraging technique, they may also have to be learning their species’ song, noticing what a good breeding territory looks like, and forming social relationships. If they don’t, they may survive, but they may not successfully reproduce next year—and reproduction is what counts in natural selection.

Junco fledgling AGYL thinks that is too many things to do at once.

Junco fledgling AGYL thinks that is too many things to do at once.

All of that is a lot for a young bird to handle. But there is one thing that can make it all easier: parental care. Parents feed fledglings and show them where to find food on their own; they warn of and even attack predators, and guide fledglings to safe places. An extra week of parental care can halve the mortality rate for fledglings.

This is where the fledgling problem—how to survive with no skills while rapidly acquiring said skills—also becomes an adult problem. The parents can dramatically increase their fledglings’ changes of survival, but at a cost. Caring is expensive. Any moment spent caring for a fledgling isn’t spent fattening up for the winter, or starting the next brood of chicks, or any other beneficial activity. Parents have to decide how long to care, and it’s a tricky problem. (I wrote more on this parent-offspring conflict here.)

So next time you see a scruffy bird with fuzzy eyebrows and a yellow gape, you can still think it looks silly (they do!), but also think about the challenges it and its parents face. The fledgling period is a complex and fascinating time.

Older junco fledgling RONA

Older junco fledgling RONA

Note: most of what I’ve said applies to temperate altricial birds. Tropical birds and precocial birds (e.g. ducklings) will be a somewhat different story.


A lot, and I really need to program some temperature loggers now, so I’m not going to list them out at the moment. There’s been tons of really neat work on fledglings. If you’re wondering about a specific thing, let me know and I’ll tell you the source. I’ll try to fill in this section properly next time I get a free moment.

243 thoughts on “The fledgling problem

  1. I love your photography, and the way you describe things in such a way that I don’t have to be a biologist to understand your explanations. Thanks!

  2. Extraordinary that “an extra week of parental care can halve the mortality rate.” That seems an easy choice for the parent–but I understand your point, that it depends on what they have to give up that week. Thanks for providing references to your other writing. (And for striking red background to robin fledgling!) Still don’t see why their eyebrows are so huge.

  3. Love these photos – and the descriptions of fledgling life.
    I get very attached to the nesting bird families in my garden. I’m convinced the robins actually know that when they spot a lurking cat, if they raise a ruckus, I’ll come running out of the house and chase the cats away. The robins seem to perch in the tree above, cheering me on, then they swoop down just as the cat is running, as if they were chasing him themselves.

    • I once read that birds talk about humans just as humans watch and talk about birds. They will identify humans as friends or enemies just as they communicate those same qualities to cats and other predators. I once had a bird follow me around my backyard whenever I went out. If he wanted to be fed, he would fly up to my bedroom window and peck on the window! They’re awfully smart so don’t underestimate their levels of awareness.

  4. Pingback: Mockingbird Fledgling | Creative Musings of Ledia Runnels

  5. Thank you so much for this post. I just had a little drama with a nest of juncos under the eaves of our house that I believe was disturbed by roof rats. I thought they were all lost, then noticed in the nearby garden one fledgling with a yellow gape and hardly anything but stubs for tail feathers. I thought for sure it was too young to be out of the nest but I can see from these photos that the bird is right on time. Plus the parents were nearby and not at all happy with me for snooping around. Whew. I’m wishing them well and leaving them be.

    • Oh dear – I’m glad at least one made it! Juncos can leave the nest quite young if they’re in danger. One of the nests at my field site got stepped on by cows, and two of the chicks, although very young, managed to flee and were raised just fine by their parents. The parents being near where you saw the chick and mad at you are an EXCELLENT sign!

  6. i had to put a fledgling back in the nest to save it-there are so many stray cats here and one was sitting right in front of it -it was using it like a toy and the mother bird was going crazy screaming at the cat but couldnt help the baby -there was so safe place to put it where a cat or my neighbors dog coiuldnt get it since i think the dog already got one-i watched this mother bird take care of these babies and even today with the fledging watched her try to show it how to get up on the fence but the baby kept hopping and ended up by a stray cat-i dont know what to do to save it and feel bad that i dont think any of then will survive.

    • That sounds tough to watch, Teresa, I’m sorry. Cats are a real problem for fledglings. If you can find anywhere with enough brush that the fledgling can hide, that would be a good place to put it; hiding is probably its best bet. If the fledgling can make it a few more days, either by hiding or by being defended by kind people like you, it will be able to fly and better at escaping. Best of luck in your fledgling-defense and I hope some of them do make it!

  7. I discovered a nest outside my bedroom window and enjoyed watching from inside the house as the mother and father bird fed their young. I woke up one morning and discovered a cat with the dead mother bird in her mouth. I was really worried for the babies but was happy when I discovered the father bird was still feeding them. A few days after I woke up to lots of noisy, hungry baby birds screaming out. After watching the nest for a long time I realised that the father bird must have succumbed to the cat also. I decided I would have to take over with the feeding of them. I did some research on what to feed and soaked cat food and cooked and cooled it, I also gave them boiled egg and mealworms cut up, all from tweezers, which they readily took from me. I continued to feed them every 30 – 45 mins from sunrise to sunset and they continued to thrive. Well last night I noticed that they had hopped out of their nest and were sitting on the banister next to the nest. I thought to myself it wouldn’t be long until they would leave the nest. I was right, I woke up this morning and they were all gone. I looked everywhere for them but they were nowhere to be seen. Now I wish I had taken them inside and put them in a box because I don’t know how they could survive without me feeding them. I figured they would hang around the backyard and I could continue to feed them. I didn’t want to imprint them too much as I knew that it could make it harder for them to survive in the wild. I’m feeling really sad about the whole thing as they were healthy strong little birds and now I don’t even know where they are or if they are alright.

    • Hi Deanna,

      I’m sorry to agree with you that they probably don’t have much chance without parental care as fledglings, especially in such a cat-haunted area. Caring for baby birds is tricky. In the future I’d urge you to find out where your closest wildlife rehabilitator is and bring any orphaned or injured birds to them: they’re trained to raise birds without imprinting, and know how to care for them so that they can be released happy and healthy. Too, if you’re interested, look into becoming a licensed wildlife rehabilitator yourself, or volunteering with your local rehabber. I think we owe it to the animals to get them help that is as expert as possible, and in cases like these, the experts are wildlife rehabbers.

      As for this nest, try to treasure the time you had with the chicks, and know that at least you gave them the gift of a little extra time.

    • just reading your post now deanna. that was so nice that u cared for the birds until they became fledglings. i don’t know anything about birds, but i think that even though they may have had a tough time hopping around on the ground & looking for food without their mom, there’s still a chance that the dad was alive (he may have been spooked after u fed them & stayed away). also – perhaps one of the fledglings made it on its own … they prob knew to try to pick around & find a worm or bug to eat ;)

    • Hi My name is Wes Recently I had a little bird incident I Found A little bird baby bird I guess and It was left completely alone Without it’s parents I looked a couple of Website and found that I watching Nest for 2 hours No parents had come to give it food So I don’t know What to do.But I kept it safe for over a month The being it’s quote on quote mother bird After 1 day of not seeing it I need something that’s wrong because everyday It would come in check in with me at least twice a day sometimes it’s just get food for sometimes just perch on my shoulder But 1 day I found it dead On my neighbor’s lawn I was very heartbroken But I’m wondering if you might have an idea of what could have killed it

  8. Hello, there – I am hoping that perhaps you could answer a question for me. We were intently observing a family of mockingbirds (mom, dad and two babies) who took up residence in a bush at the front of our house. We did our best not to disturb them and kept our distance so mom and dad could do their exhaustive work of feeding and guarding their babies without having to worry about us humans stressing them out. We took particular care to keep our two cats in the house, especially while they were nesting and when the two babies left the nest. The cats seemed pretty intimidated by these mockery but we were to taking any chances. We noticed that in the two days after the babies left the nest, we could still hear them in bushes behind our house and also across the street. It appeared one baby wound up across the street with dad and the other hung back for a day but wound up in our back yard with mom. We could see that mom and dad were still feeding their babies while they hid in the bushes and they were still keeping a watchful eye on them. I found it reassuring to hear the sounds of the babies calling out to their parents in the two days after they left their nest because it meant they were still alive. I marveled at the parents constant work and patience and wondered how long thy could keep it up because these babies were still so very helpless and vulnerable to other predators, including larger birds. Around three days after the first baby left the nest, I no longer heard the sound of them and I no longer saw any sign of the babies OR the parents. It’s like the whole family just disappeared altogether. The yard seems eerily quiet and kind of lonely now, especially after all the constant chatter and activity that had been taking place while they were nesting. I understand that the babies will practice their flying skills for several days after they leave the nest but is it normal for the babies AND parents to disappear altogether somewhere around day three of this process? I’m hoping that it’s possible they found a more interesting place to hang out but deep down I’m afraid something may have happened to the babies or worse, the entire family. I’ve seen no sign of “foul play” anywhere in the yard but I’m still not reassured that all is well for this beautiful family of mockers. Any input you could share about what may have come of them would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

    • Hi Chrissie,
      It’s impossible to know for sure what happened. It may be, as you fear, that both chicks got eaten. However, it’s also very possible that the parents simply moved the family somewhere else. Depending on how old the chicks were when they fledged, day 3 may have been the day that they were able to fly well enough to be moved far away. Or maybe the parents had a close call with a cat, crow, hawk, etc. and decided it would be better to go somewhere else. If your backyard isn’t the only good habitat around, then I think it’s definitely possible that they moved out.
      Also, regarding your fear that something may have happened to the whole family: you can be pretty confident that the parents are okay, I think. If both chicks died, the parents would either leave or behave unobtrusively again; your not seeing them doesn’t mean they’ve died.
      I do think there’s a good chance that everyone is okay. I completely sympathize with your frustration over not knowing!

  9. My question is regarding the time when fledglings first leave the nest. Some finches just hatched outside my bedroom window on the third floor of an apt building. Other than the rail the nest is on, there are no branches or other perching areas and it is a straight drop down to a concrete area. Will the baby birds be able to safely get down from the nest as they transition from nestling to fledgling? Baby birds are awesome, I would love it if they get a fair chance at a birds life.

  10. I found a baby mocking bird in texas about 10 days ago. Eyes closed, bald! He is now perching on his hanging basket and jumping into the large box he’s in. When should I trybto releade him. I live in the country…..lots of predators!

  11. Thanks so much for the information on fledgings! I helped some young fledgings, mother was solid blue, get through a severe thunderstorm by placing them in a warm, dry, protected place. The mother fed them the entire time. One was able to fly, but the other wasn’t as advanced. One morning they were all gone. We had them for 2 nights. I am wondering HOW LONG before a fledging can fly? Is is a matter of hours? days? weeks? I got attached to them and I’m worried. Thanks.

  12. How far do fledgling robins travel from their original nest? I found an uninjured fledgling on the road in a residential area and there was little to no groubd vegetation, but high tree cover. I had to move the bird approx 75 yards away to find shrubs and trees. Will the parents find it?

  13. Thanks for the article, and everyone’s comments. That said, not mentioning cats in the article, in your list of predators is to me bordering on “criminal”. Cats are one of the greatest dangers to baby birds (and adults as well), killing approximately 2 billion birds in the US every year, so they belong on that list (and people need to be aware of it… including irresponsible cat owners). What we really need IMO are more predators to keep the marauding “pet” and feral cats under control… On a lighter note, you were wondering and commenting on the tendency of Robins and some other fledglings to become still like statues, since they have no other defense. It’s definitely a survival strategy, but I also think it’s due to being TERRIFIED!! As in the saying, “petrified with fear”. And that is one of the basic survival techniques of living beings-fight, flight, or freeze (and hope you’re not noticed, or don’t attract attention. Even a cat that freezes is less likely to be chased by a dog than one who runs away! And of course, being a strategy for surviving, and being “petrified” (ie, turned to stone) are not mutually exclusive.

  14. Thanks for the article! I am lucky enough to have wrens nest in some of my nesting boxes every year. They keep coming back so must think it’s safe! The male when he is searching for a mate is so full of beautiful song. I cannot get over how loud they are for such a tiny bird! They are fierce protective little devils, and woe betide me when setting up my cushions on my deck swing for a nice sit with my first coffee of the day. They give new meaning to the phrase – parting your hair! They do! Literally – if I dare to even venture near their end of the deck. I am lucky enough not to have any cats (been there, done that phase) and now have dogs. Two medium sized Blue Heelers, and an 11lb Chihuahua. The activity has been quite wearing. How the Wren parents cope, I haven’t a clue. Between feeding all 4 (I think) little gaping mouths and picking up and flying off with little white poop packets, they must be worn out. They are a joy to watch. I have missed fledging every year as Ma and Pa are very clever and wait until my menagerie and I are safely indoors before initiating their brood to the joys of flying. Luckily I have a very large stand of Lilacs right next to my deck, so after negotiating from nesting box to deck rail….the Lilac is right there. They hide in there for several days, while their parents chide me for daring to step out onto my own deck. Then go about the business of feeding their fluttering little brood and no doubt explaining the meaning of life!. No cats in our area due to the nasty Fisher-cats that hang out in the local forest that decimate the cat population. The amount of cats that go missing in our area is notorious. I really feel for the pet owners, but new residents don’t do their homework, otherwise there would be a lot of indoor kitties! My dogs, luckily are only interested in Squirrels and Chipmunks, so if a yellow-billed little fledger were to hop around on the deck, and they made a move….I would be on them in a hurry!! It is a joy and a privilege that they come back every year….despite me, my swing and my rather noisy dogs.

    • I certainly do envy your daily activities with these beautiful creatures. Animals and birds around me all day would dwelve me into mother nature’s essence. Thank you for sharing.

  15. I wonder if you could help me? What would be the usual reason for an uninjured, fledgling American Robin to die? Thanks

    • Hi Stephen,
      Do you mean in the wild or in the care of a rehabilitator? In the wild, an uninjured fledgling robin would be most in danger from predators (cats, corvids, weasels, etc.). Depending on how long its parents fed it, and how much food was available in the area, it might also be at risk of dying of starvation. Disease is a possibility, but I don’t know enough about that to guess how likely it is.
      If you mean a fledgling in the care of a human, it’s most likely to die due to being fed incorrectly, due to the stress of captivity, or… well, fledglings in human care don’t have a great survival rate, and I’m not sure we entirely know why. They may have a developmental defect (which may be why their parents stopped caring for them). A wildlife vet would know much better than I would.

  16. Might you have a suggestion? Last spring we had a robin’s nest in the eaves of our front porch, about 7-8 feet above a cement walkway. Sadly over the period of about a week we found 3 dead baby birds on the cement, trying to leave the nest but landing on the concrete (our family witnessed the first one while watching from the window, not expecting it to fall to its death). The parents are back and building another nest, is there something we can construct to help soften the fall for the fledglings this year?

    • I placed a twin sized mattress foam padding going down the stairs. not sure how it will work as i couldn’t place it well as momma attacked me over and over trying to help. was given information from wildlife sanctuary to put outside seat cushions but too expensive. will reply once i see if it works.

  17. My friend took a baby fleding bird home because he fort it was injured, he researched more about it and found out it was fledging, then put it back were he found it with plenty of bread and worm’s around it also small pieces of apple. I’m wondering will the mother leave it or will she still continue to look after it?

    • Hi Charley, yes! The parents will definitely look after it if your friend put it back where he’d found it (and it hadn’t been more than a day or so since he took it). The parents will be very happy to have their chick back and to care for it.

  18. I have 2 baby robins fledglings but no parents what do I do if they still need to learn skills and if I let them go will they make it on there own ?

  19. There’s a baby mocking bird in my yard. He’s pretty big, but you can tell he’s just a baby. He comes out and sits on the wood pile during the day and I put some food for him to eat. He does pick at the food, so he is eating. Is the mother around or is he on his own?

    • Hi Tamy,
      If he looks like a bird – covered in feathers, with no big patches of bare pink skin – then he’s old enough to be out of the nest and eating on his own. His parents are probably still around, but he may be transitioning to independence; depends how old he is (and how much energy/patience his parents had!). As long as he doesn’t get nabbed by someone’s pet cat or dog, he should be fine.

  20. I found a fledgling, probably a starling outside my gym a few days ago. Couldn’t place it anywhere as it was night time. Out of fear of it being eaten by cats, I brought it home and put it inside a cardboard box, enclosed on all sides, with punched holes around it. I fed it boiled eggs forcefully for the first day with a few drops of water rubbed at its beak. The next day, it started eating worms, so I fed it all the earthworms I could get every 2 hrs. It would tuck its head and take a nap after almost every meal. After I fed it in the evening, I perched it on a stick inside its box. It once again tucked its head and went off for the night. This morning, I couldn’t hear it chirping. So, I went to look at it, half asleep, only to find it dead below its perch. Now, I do not what I did wrong. I feel guilty about not letting it go all the time; but then, I do not even know if it’d survive outside on its own. I feel terrible about not caressing it in a proper manner. Even my mom keeps asking me if I did something wrong with it or if the cat had something to do with it. I do not know how a healthy and active bird would suddenly die this way. Could you give me some insight about it? After this loss, I’m planning to get an African Grey or a Cockatoo as my companion, as I’m too saddened by my loss. Thank you!

    • This is why it’s always best to contact certified wildlife rehabilitators. Caring for wild animals is very difficult; it’s too easy to make a mistake that is deadly for the animal (e.g., feeding the wrong thing or the wrong amount). A diet of purely boiled eggs and earthworms is not what a starling would normally eat, and probably caused problems. Also, if you were force feeding, you probably were feeding too much.
      Next time you find a fledgling, leave it where it is. Fledglings are meant to be outside the nest; they hide, and their parents feed them until they can fly. If a baby bird is covered in feathers, it does not need your help, even if it can’t fly yet: the parents will feed it until it grows up enough to fly. Please do not “rescue” baby birds unless they are 1) obviously too young, i.e. NOT covered in feathers, or 2) obviously injured.
      I’m sorry for your loss, and I know you meant well. Please use this as a learning experience and leave fledglings to their own lives next time.

      • No! I just force-fed it twice for the first day, that too just about 2 ccs, when it wouldn’t eat at first. The next day, it started eating worms on its own. Never once had to force-feed it. Assuming that it enjoyed worms and was opening its mouth every time it saw me, I continued feeding it. And also, I had no choice but to bring it home. It was night in a sub-urban area and the place was cat-infested. I just had the conclusion that maybe it was the cardboard box that killed him. But it had holes on all the sides for proper ventilation. Or does perching at night stress them out? I felt its crop too. It was fine. Thank you!

        P.S. – We don’t have wildlife rehabs here. People even don’t know what they are.

    • (Replying to your reply, but don’t seem to be able to nest comments any deeper) – okay, good that you weren’t force-feeding. Perching at night is fine. The bird probably thought it was strange that it was dark all the time, but I don’t think that would do physical harm. The worms may still have been a problem: birds usually get more varied diets, including more calcium (from insect exoskeletons) and other hard bits. Recommended diet mixes for baby birds (which are findable online from people who raise starlings, which it’s true that many wildlife rehabs won’t take because they’re invasive) generally include kibble soaked in water (plus various other things), which has more gritty bits than a worm, which probably makes digestion work better.
      Another possible issue is that you were feeding it too much. I know you say it was gaping, but here’s one of the many tricky things about baby birds – sometimes they keep gaping forever, even when they need to stop and digest. It’s possible to overfeed a very hungry-acting bird. Not all species do this, and I’m not sure if starlings do.
      It’s also quite possible that the bird died for a reason completely unrelated to you. In my field work I’ve seen chicks die in the nest for no clear reason, even though the parents were feeding them and their siblings were doing fine.
      I apologize for assuming that picking up the fledgling was the wrong move; it almost always is, but there are cases where it isn’t, and without knowing exactly the situation, I shouldn’t assume. I do encourage everyone to make not-picking-up-the-fledgling the default except in extreme circumstances, just to be safe. But you know your neighborhood: it may have been the right choice.
      Out of curiosity, where (generally speaking) are you, that you don’t have any wildlife rehabs?

      • Sorry, I couldn’t comprehend your starting statement about nesting comments. Well, now that you’ve given me a general idea about birds, I’ll make sure that I keep all these in mind while dealing with any birds in future. Also, there are 3 Bulbul fledglings nesting near my place. I’ll keep analyzing them. I’m in Sikkim – a kingdom some few years ago. Now, one of the most Eco-friendly and prosperous state of India. Wildlife, though not varied, are here in ample amounts. Just haven’t ever encountered a rehabber here, although forest rangers are a pretty common sight. Thank you for your detailed insight on my matter. I now have something less to worry about. Cheers!

  21. I’ve noticed that Robin parents tend to favor one baby in the nest they feed this one more so he grows quicker. Is that so it will leave the nest first and give the remaining babies more room.

    • Robins generally have chicks that are slightly different ages in the same nest. (E.g., a nest might have a 3-day-old, 2-day-old, and 1-day-old chick in it.) The older chicks will be bigger. Parents tend to feed the biggest chick most, probably because that chick is the best at pushing his siblings out of the way; but we do know that they also make an effort to feed the smaller chicks. Some people have hypothesized that having the staggered sizes of chicks spreads out the feeding demands on the parents, which is a similar idea to what you’ve proposed; we don’t really know if that’s true. It probably isn’t related to making more room in the nest, since the babies usually all leave the nest within the same 24 hrs. If the babies are looking crowded in the nest you’re observing, they’re probably going to fledge soon!

  22. Thanks for all your helpful information too. I too am sad today as I tried to “rescue” a robin fledgling last night. We have many coons and wild critters outside so I made a temporary nesting box for him trying to give him the best chance. Unfortunately I found him gone this morning. Apparently I didn’t locate the nesting box high enough and found a little blood spatter in the bottom of my box. I feel horrible – perhaps he would have had a better chance to survive had I left alone. I have learned . . . . unfortunately the hard way ;-( Poor little thing . . . .

    • Predation is a part of being a wild animal; if he was eaten, he may well have fed someone else’s babies. It’s hard to know what happened, though: fledglings do move around quite a bit sometimes. It’s possible he left on his own. (Fledglings don’t need a nest – they can just perch in shelter such as bushes.)

  23. Hi love your blog…..ive got a fledgling in my Garden mum and dad come all the time to feed it but it cant fly yet i hope it survives x

  24. I’ve cared for animals since I was a child – I’m now 55. LOVE, love, love them!
    I’m presently caring for a baby mockingbird who, my cat brought me, at 3:30 in the morning completely unharmed. We were good buddy’s after 24 hours of being together. (I don’t really know the sex). It’s been a week now! It is SO cool watching a bird grow up! It was just yesterday when he started pecking at things. It’s like having a child and for the first time and see what he’s learned. He’s getting more balanced with his flying but still falling from time to time. Especially when he can’t figure out why he can’t stand on the window when it’s showing cross bars that are in between. LOL. It’s funny to watch.
    How soon do you think it would be before he can eat on his own? Presently I have a bowl of water with raisins smashed and torn apart, grapes in smaller pieces and blueberries. Yesterday was his first day of having crickets. It was interesting to watch his reaction. Earth worms was Ok in the beginning but he gets picky on me. In another bowl is cat food soften. I know this is a little advanced but I had brought this bell shaped bird food – for song birds. This way, maybe once he starts to really peck, he can learn where to get food in case all else fails. I’ll be hanging it up at the time I release him outside to really sore. Right now my whole glass room is devoted to him. I leave a window open so he can hear his own kind. As you read earlier, I have cats – 2. The bird may have been lucky the first time but may not be so lucky the second. So I have to be careful on how I do this.

    • Hi Diana,
      I’m glad your mockingbird is doing well so far. He’s going to peck at things *and* expect you to feed him for a while: he needs to learn how to eat, which takes time. Don’t stop feeding him if he’s gaping (opening his mouth) at you still, but if you see him eating on his own, you can start to gradually feed him less. Eventually he will stop gaping at you at all, and just eat on his own.
      The food you’ve been giving sounds generally good. Blueberries, any other berries, and grapes cut in berry-sized pieces are good. For your softened kibble (i.e. dry cat or dog food soaked in water), also chop up a hard-boiled egg and mix it in with the kibble for some extra protein. A little bit of chopped-up leafy veggies and chopped-up fruit would be a great addition too. Store this mix in the fridge so it doesn’t go bad, and don’t store for more than 2 days. The crickets are a good idea, but even better would be mealworms. You should be able to find live mealworms at a pet store or bait shop. (Don’t use earthworms – there are lots of different kinds, and some are toxic.) You can leave a bowl of mealworms for the bird to practice picking up and eating.
      You’ll want to have all of these food things available to the bird. I.e. a dish of berries/fruits, a dish of wet kibble mix, and a dish of mealworms. And a dish of water, of course.
      Mockingbirds aren’t big seed-eaters, especially the young ones, so he may not be able to do much with your birdseed bell.
      Don’t release him until he is eating *entirely* on his own – never gaping to you – and until he can fly very well. (Watch out, as he learns to fly he may try to fly out windows, and could hurt or even kill himself crashing into the glass. Cover windows if he is flying around a room.) This is especially important because of your cats: he needs to be able to escape them. Another problem with the cats is going to be that he may approach you after you release him, and if your cats are nearby… So consider taking him somewhere where you know there are fewer cats, or keeping your cats indoors for a few days after you release him. *Definitely* don’t let him get used to the cats in your house: if he thinks cats aren’t dangerous, he won’t live long outside.

  25. Tragic outcome here in Rockville, MD. Robins constructed a nest last month under our deck umbrella, which was an amazing feat, and two chicks were being raised in it. Yesterday we came back home and discovered their two butchered bodies on the deck, as well as same of a parent a few feet away. The predator left wings and legs strewn about, but nothing else. We know that there’s a stray cat roaming in the area. I collected and buried the body parts, and closed down the umbrella after removing the empty nest. We don’t wish to go through another horrible episode like this one.

    • Oh no! That’s a sad story. Unfortunately that’s part of being a small bird, especially a baby: it’s a very dangerous world. About half of all baby birds don’t survive. Of course, it doesn’t help when humans introduce extra predators (cats) either. I hope you have more positive bird experiences in the future!

  26. What do you do if you find baby orphan birds, they are now fledglings, they were hopping around but I think one hurt it’s leg and since it won’t hop around the other won’t either. They are still eating and alert but just won’t get up…what should I do?

  27. Pingback: What Are The Little Yellow Birds Called | ziitika1

  28. Hi. I’m afraid before I read up on baby birds I found 2 fledglings on the ground and thought I was saving them and put them back in the nest. One of the fledglings immediately got back out of the nest the other one has remained in the nest for what’s going on three days now. Both parents are around and it looks like the mom is feeding the fledgling in the nest. My concern is by putting it back in the nest I’ve somehow stunted its progression and now it will not leave. Should I put the fledgling back on the ground where I found it? Or put the nest on the ground with fledgling in it? Or do I just leave it alone and let the mother care for it?

    • Don’t worry, it doesn’t sound like you had any negative effects. The fledgling who stayed in the nest maybe decided he didn’t want to leave home yet after all :-) I’m confident he’ll leave within the next few days; fledglings get restless. As long as the parents are feeding him there, he’ll be fine. Don’t handle him again: he can figure out where he wants to be.

  29. I’ve heard a bird chirping frantically for the last two hours. Went outside and found it on a small tree twig. It did not fly away when I came close. Listened to it for a while longer and heard it go to the front of the deck. Peaked through the door and saw it’s mom, a Cardinal, come and feed it. I realized then that it was a baby bird or fledgling. It must be capable of flight since it could not have hoped onto the front deck. So enjoyed your article and never knew that fledglings looked so strangely cute. It was so special to me to be an eyewitness to the baby feeding!

  30. I am devastated right now. For the past several days we have had a fledgling (finch?) in our yard and have watched the mom feeding it. A couple of hours ago I watered the yard and must have scared the baby. My husband found it drowned in the pool. The mother has been flying around looking for her baby. I feel so guilty and sad. Just sharing.

  31. Concerned about a pair of baby robins that have returned to a nest on the garage door opener .. The babies look almost full grown and they have returned to the nest two days ago … There is a drought here in Ontario and am worried they can’t find food or water .. There are no worms coming up with the ground this dry .. Help !!

    • Hi Dylan,
      You could try putting out a robin bird feeder. If you set out a shallow dish full of mealworms (can buy these at pet stores or bait shops) somewhere obvious, there’s a chance the parents will see it and feed there. (Or at the least, you’ll make whatever birds do find it very happy.) If you can put it near where the babies are, they might even feed themselves from it.

      I recommend mealworms over worms because some kinds of commonly-sold worms are weirdly toxic to certain species. Also, the mealworms will crawl around in the dish a lot, and the motion should be better able to attract the attention of the robins.

      This is a bit of a long shot I’m afraid, but it’s all I can think of. Let me know what happens!

      • Thanks for the quick reply !! The issue is the birds are in an indoor structure, about 20 feet inside the shop. So I am concerned he won’t land on the floor when I put the meal worms down. Also a few chipmunks in there that may quickly devour those .. But it is an idea .. Any way to take that a step forward in the location this nest is in? Once again it is I too of the garage door opener far inside the shop ..

        Also one of the babies is gone again. It’s funny me calling them babies because the my appear to be full grown and no baby feathers left .. They are fully capable of flying around and everything .. It’s just with this drough, I feel the parents abandoned them to early, based on the assumption they couldn’t be thought to find worms because the ground is so hard .. Maybe they don’t know how to find food?

        Thoughts?? I will also try the meal worms tomorrow anyways , worth a try .

  32. Hi there.. This is a shot in the dark looking for answers before morning but here it goes! I found what appears to be a yellow bellied woodpecker fledgling, I thought he was injured in some way because my dog ( such a sweet girl) found it on my lane way. The bird didn’t appear to be scared and didn’t try to get away.. Over several hours there was no sign of a parent coming by to check the baby although I did move it as it was unsafe where it was and Being too late in the evening I wasn’t able to take it to a wildlife rehabilitation centre I decided to bring him in for the night. He he is happily and safety sleeping now. My question is can I put him back out in the morning in hopes that a parent will come to find him or has it been too long over night and the parents will have given up hope? Or should I go ahead and send him to rehab? He doesn’t seem obviously hurt or sick… Any advice is greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Andrea,
      Definitely put him back out in the morning; the parents will sleep over night, then look for him in the morning. If they don’t come for him all day, then it’s time to think about a wildlife rehab center.
      Hope it works out for your little woodpecker!

  33. Hi! I have a nest with three baby robins just outside my house. Today I witnessed one of them come out of the nest! After a while I hanging in the nest’s tree, it took off in flight and appeared to fall in some bushes pretty far away from the tree! I could not find it in the dense brush. Do you think there’s any chance this little fledgling will survive? Is it a good thing it flew off to different cover? Seems too early and too far for its first day out of the nest. Any expertise is much appreciated, thank you!

    • Absolutely – I think your little robin has good chances. Fledglings generally stay relatively close to the best at first, but that’s on the scale of the parents, who can easily fly a long distance quickly: their idea of “close” may not match yours. It’s a good sign that the fledgling went away from the nest: the nest is dangerous, because it’s full of other noisy birds who could attract predators. The fledgling is more likely to go undetected in his new hiding place (which is why the chicks fledge).
      You’ll have trouble seeing the fledgling – he’ll be hiding – but you can look out for the parents hopping around holding bugs and not eating them: if the parents are doing that, they’re collecting food for the babies, meaning at least one is still alive.

  34. Hi. I’m from South Africa. We found a baby swallow on the ground in our garden. It doesn’t look like the little thing’s legs is working properly. Is a fledgeling’s legs supposed to be developed probably or do they still struggle to stand or walk or jump?

    • Hi Michelle,
      A fledgling swallow should be able to perch, but might not be good at walking/jumping (swallows don’t really do those activities). He probably overestimated his flight abilities, poor guy. If you can put him somewhere high up, he may be able to get food from his parents, or follow them to a safe place they choose.

  35. How long does it take for a fledging to learn how to fly? I have dogs and they sadly killed one baby bird. I don’t want to let them out into the yard until the birds have the capability to fly off.

    • The longer you can keep the dogs away, the better; but the crucial time is the first week out of the nest. After a week, most fledglings should be at least somewhat flighted. (How flighted they need to be depends on how skilled your dogs are at hunting, too.)

  36. What can I do if my cat has caught a fledging? It is not hurt and I have left it in the garden but my worry is that the cat may have brought it in to the garden from somewhere else and it’s mum won’t know where it is.

    • The best you can do is to put it somewhere safe (in a bush or dense vegetation is generally good) in your garden. It will call for the parents, and it’s likely the parents will find it – fledglings often wander off, so the parents should be looking over a broad area. (I also doubt the cat could have carried it very far without harming it, so it probably came from nearby.)

      Also, keep your cat indoors for a while if you can! Otherwise the cat may just finish the job.

      • Thanks. I have done my best to hide it in the garden. It has been calling out for about an hour now and no sign of parents 😢 I’m worried it will die

        • Give it a few hours. Contrary to what you might hear, baby birds – especially fledglings – can survive a few hours without food no problem, and the parents may be busy feeding their other kids.

          As a backup plan, it wouldn’t hurt to search online to see if there is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator near you. If you find one, and if the fledgling hasn’t been found by the parents after 3-4 hours, consider calling them to see what their advice is. (They may tell you to wait longer.)

          If you have a photo of the fledgling and send it to me at klabarbera[at], I can try to figure out how old it is, which may affect what you do here. A young fledgling needs its parents much more than an older one.

  37. We’ve had a nest of fledglings on our porch & they just left their nest tonight. Is it dangerous for fledglings to be active at night?

    • It’s more usual for chicks to leave the nest in the morning, but it’s fine if they leave in the evening. They’ll probably scatter to some safe hiding places in dense brush, go to sleep, and be awake and begging for food from their parents bright and early the next morning.

  38. We left for vacation and came back to a nest in the lid of our propane tank. In a high traffic area for us and our dogs. It’s right next to the house and deck. Mowing and gardening happen in that area a lot. As well as when the propane gets filled. I peaked in and they aren’t old enough to leave th nest, but aren’t pink. How long do they fledge? It’s unrealistic to keep the one dog out of the yard since they need to be outside some as well. If our presence gradually increases will the mother tolerate it?

    • It’s hard to be exact without photos or knowing the exact species. Given that they have feathers, it could be up to 14 days until they’re ready to leave (but probably less). The adult birds probably won’t feed the chicks while you (or the dog) are close, but if you can stay away for scattered periods of time (e.g. mow for one hour, then stay away for one hour), they can feed them in your absence.

      The most dangerous time, with respect to the dog and the mowing, will actually be right after they leave the nest. The fledglings will be clumsy and slow, not yet able to fly, and will rely on hiding; they’ll be vulnerable to being mowed over or being sniffed out by the dog. If you can keep an eye on the nest and try to give the area a wide berth the first few days after the chicks disappear, that will make a big difference. (Even if the dog can’t be kept away all the time, everything helps – keeping an eye on him to see that he isn’t eating a baby bird, reducing his time out in that area, etc.)

      Good luck!

  39. Why would 2 out of 4 robin fledglings leave the others behind? I’ve been watching a robins nest for about 10 days now and there are 2 missing, but the parents are still feeding the remaining babies. Thanks!!

    • Baby birds generally all leave the nest at the same time, but sometimes they leave over the course of 24-48 hours, so you can have a time period where some are fledged and some aren’t. Probably the ones who left were the biggest/most developed, while their siblings are still growing a bit (or just feeling lazy). Fun fact: in robins, when some chicks are fledged and some aren’t, it’s usually the female who feeds the chicks that are still in the nest while the male attends the fledglings.

  40. This year we have a nest on the guttering by our front door. Though it is cool to see the progress of the chicks, I worry for them as if I am their parent. I no longer let my dog out front, and keep the bird feeder full so the “real” parents don’t have far to go to feed, however, I worry that THAT will make for fledglings who are going to be eternally dependent on the feeder. While I intend to keep it full, things happen, and that makes me worry what will happen if something happens to me. I may not always be able to afford to feed them. I guess I just want you to tell me they’ll be fine, so tell me that, please. :-)

    • It’s actually a great idea to keep the dog away for a few weeks. When the chicks first fledge, they’ll be very vulnerable, and dogs have a talent for finding them at that stage.

      The feeder is probably having less effect than you think. Almost no birds can eat seeds as babies (certain finches, like Zebra Finches, are the exception, but I don’t think any of our native North American finches are included); they need soft, protein-rich food that is easily digestible: bugs! So there is no way that the chicks will grow up dependent on the feeder. The parents may be eating for their own nutrition from the feeder, or they may not; this time of year, there are so many bugs around that birds don’t really need feeders.

      Which is all to say: if something happens to you, they will be okay! And if you want to make your birdseed budget stretch as far as possible, consider prioritizing the feeder in the winter, rather than right now. You’ll make more of a difference by supplementing birds in the lean months.

  41. Hi, so nice to read your article…soo beautiful that u know so much about their world! I hav a bird nest just outside my window, the baby will soon get into fledgling stage. Do all fledglings fall from nest (no matter how high their nest is) to come on ground for few days untill they fly? Dont they get hurt? Mother dove has also reduced its visits a lot to the nest. Can u explain please. Many thanks.

  42. Hello, my husband and I are having a dilemma. We have a robins next on our porch on top of one of our colums/under our upper porch. Today we found what we think is a fledgling on our porch in the open. The baby bird has feathers but cannot walk or fly (he can’t seem to get his legs under him to stand) and when he lifts his wings up there is a lot of pink skin still. My husband and I made a new nest from a cardboard box and paper towels and put it on top of another column two columns down from the original nest. Then we used gloves to put the baby bird in there. The mom has since flown in and out to feed the original nest but hasn’t gone to the new nest (it’s been about an hour). What should we do? We are worried the baby bird is going to starve and are worried we did the wrong thing by putting it in a new nest. It just didn’t quite look like a complete fledgling when it was struggling on the porch (i.e. I don’t think it could perch). Also, it may have fallen from the nest because we had a strong storm come through with high winds prior to finding the bird. Please help.

    • Can you reach the real nest to put the chick back in there? If the chicks are too young to fledge, the parents may not look outside the nest for them. (Don’t worry about that myth that birds won’t take babies back after humans have handled them – it’s completely untrue.)

  43. My husband and I think that the 4 fledglings we saw (species unknown) fell from their nest. They were near our parking spot which is near a pole. The nest was in the top of that pole. We put them back in their nest, but, judging from their condition on the ground, they may not make it. I’m a sentamentalist. So, holding something so fragile and small in my hands was an incredible experience I will never forget.

    • You did your best – it’s great that you were able to put them back in the nest. That gives them the best shot at survival that they will have.

      I don’t know what about their condition has you concerned, but baby birds can sometimes come back from a lot. That combination of fragility and resilience is one of the things I find so amazing about birds.

  44. Thank you for all of your information. I have a house finch nest with babies under the carport. It is a bad spot for them because of my 2 cats. I have done my best to make sure the cats can’t reach the nest. After the birds fledge, can I remove the nest and put up barriers so the birds can’t rebuild there? Will the birds have time to find a new place to nest before their next brood? I love all animals, and it is too stressful for me to have the birdies where they are. I live in the country, so one would think the birds could find a new place, but they are called “house” finches for a reason, I suppose. They used this nesting spot in 2015, but not in 2016, and now in 2017….stressful for all involved. Thank you in advance for your reply.

    • Yes, once the nest is not in use (no eggs or chicks present) you can remove it and block off the space. I don’t know whether the birds will be able to find another spot to nest; house finches are cavity nesters, and cavities are in high demand, since they are created only by a few species (woodpeckers) but used to nest by many more. This is why bird houses often attract birds: there are always birds looking for a new cavity. If you’re feeling guilty about removing that spot as a possible nesting site, you could consider putting up a birdhouse somewhere safe.

      • Thank you so much for your prompt reply. I moved the bird bath closer to the carport and more in the open (cats) and parked the cars on the other side of the driveway (cats) and I have done what I can do for them. They made their first quiet chirping sounds today (they were born about 6 days ago). I will definitely put up a cavity for them in a safer spot. I think I will make a small crude wood box with a cover overhead,and place her old nest in it. Do you think saving the old nest and putting it in a new cavity would help her accept her new home??? I would assume she would know it was hers. Your website is awesome, and you are so very helpful.

  45. Hi again. Forget the above post. Michelle with the carport house finches here. This is my last effort to save the birdies. So my cats can somehow jump up 5 feet high– My only hope to save the birds is to move the nest about 5 feet away to a higher spot my cats can’t reach (~ 9 feet high). The parent birds land there all the time to fly to their nest. Is there any hope the birds will make the move??? In a perfect world, I could keep the cats in for 10 days, but that will just not work-they are used to being outside in the daytime and darned insistent about it. So, any advice about moving the nest, or shall I make up a different type of nest (box, old soft hat) and place the birds in it. I know the parents would know where they were, I just don’t know if they would reject them after I touched them and moved them (if I can’t get the nest intact). The nest is resting above a light fixture–relatively flat on the bottom. Or do you think I should just let nature take its course, as heartbreaking as it would be?

  46. Oh, one more question. My friend has a bird house-the kind with the little hole in the front, but I am not sure I could get the birds through it, or if the parents could get through it. Or are they able to squish themselves into smaller spaces than one would think??

    • Hi Michelle,

      Try to keep the old nest, and don’t put in into a birdhouse if you aren’t sure the parents can get in. Putting the old nest in a box (ideally just big enough to fit the nest, with high walls) would be good.

      The parents won’t care that you’ve touched the babies, and probably will find the nest and continue feeding as long as you’re moving it somewhere not too far that they already frequently go to, which it sounds like you are.

      Don’t just “let nature take its course” – cats aren’t natural. Cats are human-created and human-supported, so a bird killed by a cat is no more natural than a bird hit by a car. I know your cats are used to being outside, and obviously this is your decision; but consider that after you move the nest, the chicks will eventually fledge, at which point they will be fairly helpless and easily accessible for 3-5 days. If you don’t keep the cats indoors then, they are pretty much guaranteed to kill at least some of the chicks. You are weighing your cats’ annoyance against the birds’ lives.

      I certainly don’t underestimate an annoyed cat – I live with two cats – and I know it can feel very mean to deny them something they want. But they are intelligent and adept predators, and what they want right now is to play with, and then kill, these baby birds. So I urge you to consider how willing you are to aid in that (unnatural) occurrence.

      Sorry – I hate to sound preachy, or like cats are bad. I love cats. But you have the ability to save some lives here, and you’ve already shown that you care about these little lives; I hope you’ll consider it.

      • Hi and thank you for your response and advice. Don’t worry, you don’t sound preachy…you sound like an animal lover with a lot of knowledge of birds and cats. The nest move went well. We put the bird nest in a little flower pot (edge of pot level with the top of the nest), sleeping birds and all, and moved it up another two feet away from the cat access …still under the carport with no way to get up there except to jump up 8 feet straight up. Momma bird found them almost immediately and seems to be happy with the site.
        Ok, how long until they fledge? They were out of their eggs on Monday Memorial day, this is June 6. Do they hang out with mom and pop for a bit, or are they left to their own devices? Two years ago when I had a bird nest in the car port, I heard them squack for a week or so, then one morning they were all gone, not to be seen again. I was hoping that is what would happen this time. I am considering keeping the cats in. I have already left them in the house in the morning later, and I gather them up and bring them in earlier, and put them in the house for a few hours in the afternoon to give momma bird a break from them. She dive bombs them when they are near, and I am in awe of their parenting skills and devotion.
        Once they fledge, I will probably remove the flower pot nest holder and hopefully they will build a quick nest in another spot. My car port does not seem to be a good place for them. Of course, I will block off their old nesting site.
        Thank you again for all of your help and advice. You are a blessing.

  47. I’m so glad the nest move went well! House finches can fledge as early as 12 days after hatching, but usually more like 16 days; 12 days would be June 9, 16 days would be June 13. You may be able to tell by their vocalizations: just before fledging, they should switch from little baby peeps to more demanding squawks. Unfortunately most observers report that house finch fledglings stay in the region of the nest for the first 2-3 days, then begin roaming. However this does depend on what the area is like: generally the new fledglings will want some cover, like a good thick bush, and since I assume there are no bushes in your carport :-) the parents may lead them at least a little ways away to find somewhere appropriate. How long they stay in the area also depends on when they fledge: the younger they fledge, the less adept they will be at running/flying, so the longer they will linger in the area.
    Keep me updated! Your concern about these birds is so lovely to hear.

    • Michelle with the house finches in carport here. The birds began to flit about the carport yesterday June 11th (both cats are in the house). You really brought me down to reality when you said my cats want to play with the birds and then kill them, bottom line truth. They are cats. There are 4 little birds, they have a faint yellow on their breast. Today, we are having 35 mph wind (sustained) with gusts of 48 mph, so they are quite content to be hanging out in the carport (several good spots near their nest, but they prefer their first nesting spot, go figure). I will keep the cats in for a few more days so the birds will have a chance. Hopefully tomorrow will not be so windy, and they can practice their flying skill. I don’t blame them for not trying today in 35 mph wind. I look at keeping the cats in the house this way now….I am adding to my “good karma” bank by protecting the birds….perhaps keep my cats out of the bellies of coyotes and owls and hawks in the future, or as thanks for protecting them thus far (I have had 17 and 20 year old inside/outside country cats that died of old age). God is always good to me, and he knows and cares when a sparrow falls from the sky…it is the least I can do for the little fledglings. Heck, when I go out of town or camping or vacation, the cats get lots of food and water and litter boxes and are locked inside for days, so it is no different for them now, with the exception that I have to look at them and listen to them whine a bit. I can deal with it. I think the momma bird knows that I am a friend and am doing my best for her little brood. She never dive bombs me or chirps to loud at me when I am around. So, I will update you again when everyone is flying around on their own and finally leave the nest. You are very kind to share your knowledge and spend your time with me and others who are concerned about baby birds. You must be proud that you make a difference!

      • Michelle, thanks so much for the lovely update! It sounds like the fledglings are doing well, and you are definitely making a difference by keeping the cats indoors. I like your idea of adding to your karma bank – and in a way, you’re doing the cats a favor too, by not putting them in a position to do harm. (Not that the cats would see it that way, I’m sure… haha.)

        Let me know how the birds continue to fare!

  48. I found a fledgling 10 days ago, it’s a crow, and there were no parents around, I know because people that I talked to said that it was there for a couple of days alone, couldn’t stand, was out of balance, and generally very weak. Any way she is doing great now, hopping around, she can fly down from 2 m high cupboard, but still has not flown more than 30-40 cm up, she can fly from and to 2 improvised branches i made, but they are on the same level. When should i release her, because I don’t think I’ll find her parents, even though I thought about releasing her in the same place I found her, and how long does it take for them to learn how to fly/and/or how can I help her fly up more efficiently. And there are no wildlife rescues where i’m from, so I’m on my own.
    Thank you

    • Hi Elena,
      If you’ve had her for ten days, she’s definitely not going back to her parents. You’ll need to keep her until she is ready to be fully independent. That is likely to take a while – crows are big, smart birds, which means it takes longer for them to grow and to learn all they need to be a crow. I’d plan to have her for at least another month. She isn’t ready to be released until she is flying easily in all directions.
      She’ll learn to fly on her own; you can’t teach her. She will need space to practice this: the larger an area you can give her, with perches at various heights, the faster and better she will learn.

      A good diet will be important to keep her healthy and give her experience with what food looks like. An ideal diet would include the following:
      – dog kibble soaked in water until it is soft; hard-boiled eggs cut into quarters (shell on, for calcium)
      – small raw fish, like smelt, or small trout cut into pieces (the bones are also for calcium)
      – various fruits and green veggies
      -peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans (shells cracked if whole)
      -live mealworms (available at most pet shops)

      I know that’s a lot, but the more pieces you can include in her diet, the better. It’s very important that she get protein and calcium, and that she gets the vitamins in fruits and veggies. Mealworms and nuts will teach her how to eat insects and nuts in the wild.

      Good luck! Let me know if you have more questions.

      • She has a room 4×2.70 m for herself(I live in an apartment, that’s the best I can do), I already feed her most of those things, except I don’t know where to find worms, I mean to buy them. Is that enough space for her to learn to fly, and how should I release her, because I don’t live on the ground floor, and she has never flown outside.
        And thank you for the answer, because I’ve been asking so many people for days now, and you are the first one to answer to every question and this is tremendous help

        • A bigger space would be better, but what you’ve got isn’t too bad. Try to give her a high perch near the ceiling so she can work on flying up.

          For the mealworms, if you have a pet store (Petco/Petsmart or a local one), they will probably sell live mealworms in a little deli container for people to feed to their pet lizards. Just ask if you don’t see them – they’ll probably keep the mealworms in the fridge, so they may be tricky to find. Make sure you get MEALworms and not just “worms” – regular old earthworms can have parasites and aren’t nearly as good for birds.

          You have a few options for the release. One is to simply take her somewhere where you have seen crows (so you know it’s a good area for them) and let her go. If she’s fully capable of flight and has been given lots of food to play around with on her own (i.e. you haven’t been hand-feeding her recently), she will probably figure out how to be a crow outside on her own. She’ll almost certainly find other crows quickly and she can watch what they do.

          Another option is to slowly acclimate her to the outdoors by taking her outside in a wire-type cage a few times, so that she can poke around in the grass and see the sky and get used to the noises, but not escape yet. Then you would release her at that spot, and put out some food in that area for the next few days or until you stop seeing her in the area. This requires a suitable cage, an investment of time, and a good place to leave food out; the benefit is that it’s more gradual on your crow, and gives her some food while she figures out survival in the outdoors.

          A third option is to release her by opening a window and letting her fly out. (Don’t do this unless the area around your apartment is a good place for crows!) It’s possible that she would then come back to you for the first few days for food, which again would be good as she learns how to feed herself; however, it’s also quite possible that she would simply fly off and never come back.

          • Ok, so far she can fly up 1.5m, she can fly in all directions and across the room from the window to the top of the cupboard, she is starting to be really vocal and is showing me what she wants(if she wants food she will bring me a piece of leftovers and put it in front of me). She still did not fly up from the ground to the top of the cupboard , but there’s a chance she can, because she is learning really fast. So do I wait until she can fly up from the ground to the cupboard (2.5m), or not, and since I have decided to release her on ground(I live on the 6th floor), should I release her somewhere where there are a lot of crows(there’s a place nearby that has a lot of crows and a lot of youngs and fledglings ), or somewhere where there aren’t that many of them (basically my neighbourhood).
            Thank you

      • It sounds like she’s sufficiently adept at flying to be released – that’s great. Does she also feed herself, or does she still gape and have you place food in her bill? If she doesn’t gape anymore, and has no trouble eating the food you put out for her, then she sounds ready for release to me.

        I’d release her where there are other crows. It’s clearly a good area for them, and crows are very social – she’ll watch them to learn how to be a crow.

        Good luck to her! She was very fortunate that you found her.

        • She has been eating on her own for the past 10 days, she was acting like a little kid up to a couple of days ago, and then I started to notice that she is acting more like an adult, and I noticed she was eager to go out, and that she was, I guess, understimulated indoors (like there’s much more she wants to do). Ok, I’ll release her in the next couple of days, I’ll go check out where the trees she can reach flying are, and where the younger birds are.
          I thought I’d trick her buy food to get into a larger box, and then transport her like that.
          Anyways, thank you very very much for the advice and help you provided

          • Now I have a dilemma, the place where the young crows and fledglings are has trees with lowest branches way too high, and I know that she is still not capable of reaching them, and the crow population that is predominant there is not the same as she is, they are smaller black crows, not gray ones like she is (there are also gray ones , maybe 20 of them, and they usually stay high in the trees, haven’t seen a lot of them on ground . The smaller black ones are the ones that are more ground oriented). On the other hand , here in my neighbourhood, there is a smaller population of gray crows (around 10)that resemble her in appearance, and there are some much more suitable trees, and also I could maybe feed her once or twice a day if she remembers me.but no young crows here. In your opinion, which one is the better place for her.

          • It’s very important that you release her near her own species. Definitely release her near the crows that look and behave like her. Cover – including trees with branches that she can reach – is also essential, so again, yes, I’d release her in your neighborhood.

            It’s a good sign that she’s acting more like an adult and is interested in things! Very promising. Sounds like she’ll do great outside.

  49. Hello!
    The family cat brought home a new house wren fledgling. I’m gauging about 12-14 days old based on what I’ve read. He seems to be in good condition. We have been feeding him cat food temporarily and made a makeshift best on top of a heating pad until we can take him to our local vet who helps with orphaned wildlife.

    After reading your blog, I’m quite concerned about his chances of long term survival and success. Do you have any words of wisdom, other than kill the cat” which has already crossed my mind.

    • Taking him to a knowledgeable vet ASAP is crucial – make sure the vet knows he was cat-caught and gives him a course of antibiotics (e.g. Baytril), as cat’s mouths are full of bacteria and he could quickly die of infection without antibiotics.

      Is the vet a wildlife rehabilitator who will take the bird himself, or will he treat the bird but leave him in your care? If the latter, you’ll want to give him a more varied diet – let me know if that’s the case and I’ll reply with the appropriate diet.

      His chances of long-term survival aren’t bad, as long as he gets antibiotics and the right food until he is ready for independence (about 2 weeks from now, probably). He’ll learn to fly on his own as long as he has room to practice, and he’ll learn to find and identify food if he’s given appropriate food items to practice on (e.g. live mealworms). He would learn faster in the presence of a parent bird to demonstrate such things, but you can make up for that disadvantage by providing food for longer than the parent would.

      Good luck! Let me know if you need that diet info, and get him antibiotics ASAP.

  50. This week there were 3 blue jay fledglings in my backyard. Today I found 2 of them dead. No trauma. Should I remove the dead ones. I saw the adults come to it and nudge it but it didn’t move. What are the chances for the one fledgling that is left. Will the parents come back to feed it? I feel so bad about them.

    • The parents will certainly keep feeding the remaining fledgling. (It’s possible that just the father will keep feeding it, while the mother gets started on a second nesting attempt; but that would be fine for the fledgling.) However, it does seem ominous that both siblings were killed right in that area. Are there cats that hang out right there? (I know you said no trauma, but it can be hard to detect injuries in birds if you aren’t experienced in their anatomy.) Is there rat poison in the area, looking yummy? If the remaining fledgling can avoid whatever killed his siblings, he has good chances – but it’s hard to say what the likelihood of that is, without knowing what killed them.

      Moving the dead siblings is a good idea; they will attract scavengers that might attack the remaining fledgling.

      • thanks for the quick response. I really don’t know why they died since I saw them alive in the morning and two dead before evening . Saying a prayer for the one that is left.

  51. Thoroughly enjoyed your article! I had a baby that I have successfully raised to a fledgling Who is still taping for food as I expected it would. Do you have any helpful hints for me teaching it to find its own food when I eventually release it at adulthood?

    • This somewhat depends on the species of the bird, but assuming it’s a common songbird: start providing various food items for it to pick at. Important ones will be:
      1) live mealworms (available at pet stores)
      2) fruits (recommend grapes & berries cut in half) and veggies (leafy greens; broccoli crowns are GREAT)
      3) mixed birdseed

      Provide things from all three of these categories, and the more different types, the better. Continue feeding if he’s still gaping; you’ll find that he gets increasingly interested in self-feeding, and will reduce his gaping eventually. Don’t release him until he no longer gapes at all, and is fully capable of flight, including flying straight up from the ground.

      Note on mealworms: live insects are crucial, as he needs to practice finding, catching, and eating these. Mealworms are NOT worms (despite the name) and worms are not a good idea. Make sure you get mealworms.

      If he is a crow/raven/jay, woodpecker, shorebird, duck, or anything else not similar in size and habits to a robin, let me know and I’ll give modified diet instructions.

  52. Hi Katie,
    Michelle with the house finches here. Success! After two days of 40+ mph winds and the little finches flitting about my car port, the third day was nice and calm. I got to see the babies fly around and hop and land in the tree outside my front window. On day 4, I could see them flying about the property, and day 5 they are gone as far as I can tell. It was great joy watching them test their landing skills and hopping from limb to limb, and almost trying to go through the window-they figured it out. So the worry and effort paid off! Yea! My cats are now back outside. I haven’t seen the adult birds either. I guess they moved the whole family to the nearby hills! Thank you for all of your help and advice in the matter, I greatly appreciate it.

    My new bird issue is this: a fishing lake I take my dog to has a gravel trail, and low and behold, right on the side of the trail is a nest with 3 whitish eggs with brown speckles–the momma bird is small is like a finch, light grey in color. I almost stepped on it twice and she comes out all startled. I only found the eggs because my dog was sniffing at them and I looked real well and saw the eggs. The nest is only an indentation in the ground lined with grass or something. The diameter is no bigger than a fat coffee cup. It is right on the side of the trail where they will probably be stepped on, eggs or baby birdies.
    Can I gently move the eggs off the trail about 2 feet where they will not be stepped on??? Should I try to make a nest of sorts out of grasses, or better yet, can I take the house finch nest and put it off the trail and gently lay the eggs in it????? Will the momma bird ignore the eggs in a different nest? I could pick up the original nest grasses and lay it in the finch nest with the eggs in it. I am just sure they will be stepped on, if they have not been already, what a sad sad thing to behold. I go to this lake about 3 times a week. So what do you think….use the old house finch nest (Lord knows I don’t want them in my car port again), or just move the eggs by making a little scrape in the ground lined with new grass??? I don’t think she wants any structure above her nest, as her original is on flat land with only a bit of tall grass (not very much) around it. I feel the urge to put it in a cubby with a few branches sort of over it, but there probably is a reason (quick escape?) why it is so open. Oh, I wish I just did not care, but I do.
    Thanks again for your response, you beautiful bird woman you!

    • What great news about the house finches! That’s so wonderful.

      The new nest you’ve just found is a junco nest, the species I studied for my PhD. They have terrible taste in nesting sites. (I mean, it must actually work most of the time, but it always looks terrible to me.) The one you found is typical: very little in the way of nest structure or cover, and right next to/on a trail. They also like to nest right next to roads – they really like edges.

      I’d discourage you from doing anything to the nest, at least right now. If you move the nest, there’s a good chance the parents will abandon it. (The house finches already had peeping chicks, which attract parents; but parents don’t expect eggs to move, and the eggs don’t attract attention, so moving eggs is unlikely to work.)

      You say you go to this area frequently. If the eggs hatch, and if you still think there’s a high risk to them being where they are, then moving the nest might be something to consider, because then there would be chicks to attract the parents to their new location. You’d need to be careful – there IS a nest structure there: there is a cup of grasses worked into the ground, and that will be hard to move without damaging it. You’d need to dig you fingers in underneath it to pull out as much of the structure as possible (out of the ground, it will look something like a regular nest) and replace it in a new indentation in the ground.

      Let me know if the nest survives to hatching and you’re still considering moving it. You’d probably want to wait to move it until the chicks can make noise, which they don’t for the first few days. At first they look like pink alien jellybeans; you’d want to wait to move until you start seeing some grey feathers growing in. The youngest you would want to move them, I think, is when they look like the chicks in this post:

  53. Thanks again, Katie.
    I will wait for the nest move. I enjoyed your article about the Juncos. Your “voice” comes through clearly, and it puts a smile on my face. So, to be clear, I should NOT use the old house finch nest with the new found nest inside??? Of course, I will bring a garden digger and dig a little divet in the ground and place the Junco nest (with or without) the old finch nest, as per your advice. Poor little birdies…right on the side of the trail.
    Many years ago, when I first became interested in birds, I would feed the birds black oil sun flower seeds and watch the goldfinches gorge themselves. Then one day, I saw what I assumed to be a huge goldfinch and I said to myself, “Wow, I am feeding these birds too well, look at the size of that goldfinch! Come to find out, after looking at a bird book (before internet), it was an Evening Grosbeak! Ha! I lived at the foot of the Cascade Mountains then, and it was a bird heaven! There were tons and tons of Oregon Juncos. Another bird would sing at night the loveliest song (nightingale I presume). I live in Central Washington state now, and I don’t see many huge evening grosbeaks, or gold finches… or Oregon Juncos. I hear we have bluebirds up in the hills a bit, but I guess they are elusive so I haven’t tried looking…there are none down in the valley here.
    Well Katie, please clarify the point of my using the old house finch nest to put the newfound nest in, or NOT. I will keep you posted on their welfare.

    • Don’t use the old house finch nest. There isn’t really a benefit to doing so (I know the junco nest looks inadequate, but it works for them) and there is some risk of passing on mites or parasites that the finches might have had to the junco chicks.

      I love your story about the “giant” goldfinch! Evening Grosbeaks are stunning. Your night-singing bird wasn’t a nightingale, as they are only in Europe, Asia, and Africa. My guess would be a Black-headed Grosbeak; scroll halfway down this post to find a recording of their song, and see if you recognize it.

      Mountains certainly have incredible bird diversity. I’d expect there to be some interesting birds where you are now, too, though – perhaps just harder to see? Here are some species that USDA is concerned about conserving in central Washington: burrowing owl, loggerhead shrike, sage grouse, sage thrasher, grasshopper sparrow. If you head up the hills where the bluebirds are, you might also see pileated, black-backed, or Lewis’ woodpeckers.

  54. Hi there,

    Please I need your help. I live on the 15th floor and noticed a dove sitting in a flower pot (in my balcony) all the time. Realized it was laying eggs and yes soon I saw two. Only one baby bird hatched on June 7th or 8th. I have been watching it grow in leaps and bounds and fallen in love with it. It has hopped out of the flower pot and loves moving around and started flying pretty well too. I noticed the father feeding it yesterday.

    Unfortunately today my son was a bit too near for comfort and it flew out of the balcony. We are devastated. It flew very well indeed , so that is ok. But it cannot feed itself yet I assume because I saw the father feeding it yesterday. My questions. (a) Will it be able to feed itself?. (b) Will the parents be able to find it (they were in the balcony this morning looking for it) (c) Will it ever come back to its nest?

    I am seriously totally depressed and have spent the entire morning searching for it on the ground levels or just looking out into the balcony hoping it will fly back:((((((

    Please help me.


    • Hi Asra,
      Assuming your dove is a mourning dove, it actually left its nest more or less on time. Mourning doves usually leave the nest at 13-15 days old, but can leave as early as day 10 if frightened; your dove was 12 days old. It won’t be able to feed itself yet – the father will need to keep feeding it for about another 12 days.
      The only part of your story that concerns me is that you saw the parents searching for it. I’d expect them to have no problem finding it – it should be on the ground, in a nearby tree, or even back on the balcony (the chicks will sometimes come back for a few days), and the father should still be feeding it. The mother won’t feed it; she’ll be gearing up to lay more eggs.
      If you happen to find it and think that the parents haven’t found it, I’d suggest bringing it back to the balcony. But if you don’t find it, I still think there’s a strong chance that it will be fine – the father just needs to find it, and they are built for that. They expect the chick to be leaving around this time. Don’t panic if the chick doesn’t come back to the balcony; they don’t always do that.
      If the female dove lays more eggs on your balcony, just try not to get too close starting about 9 days after hatching, and then you’ll be certain that the chick(s) are leaving when they want to. But again, this chick left just about on time, so I wouldn’t be too worried.

  55. Hi, it’s Elena from the previous post about a crow.
    I’m sorry to bother you again.
    I released her yesterday, in my neighbourhood, se immediately flew and i was really surprised how well and how far she could fly. I left some food and stayed there with her. In a couple of minutes a couple of local crows came and they were surveillancing her from the top of one tree. Then one crow flew to the other tree and my crow and the remaining crow flew up at the same time, my crow was flying low, but really good considering it’s her first time flying outside(she flew almost 15 m in length), but the other crow flew on top of her and pushed her from above, and she fell in some bushes. She was fine, but she hid there for 30min, the bushes were really thick and I eventually went in and then she came out (I couldn’t catch her). She started exploring the surroundings, and I was there with her for a good hour and longer. Two more crows came (not sure if they were the same ones), but they did not seem to want to attack her. After those crows left, since I’ve been carrying the box and food and other stuff, I left for 1-2 min to go to the dumpster and get rid of all of that. When I came back my crow was gone, I looked everywhere, in all the bushes, anywhere on the ground that I could think of, but I could not find any trace of her. I started to look if I could spot her in any of the tree branches, but I could not see her. I repeated all of the search steps several times yesterday and I also went outside to see if I can find her today, but no trace. I’m kinda depressed now, don’t know whether I did a good thing releasing her. I HOPE SHE’S OK.

    • Hi Elena,
      You absolutely did a good thing. The fact that you couldn’t find her suggests to me that she went off with the other crows, which is good. If she was upset or scared, she would likely stay in the same place and hide.
      I wouldn’t worry about the “attack” from the other crow – crows are very social, and most social animals interact through physicality, pushing and jostling and so on. Where humans might meet someone new and say “What’s your name? What do you do? Where are you from? Do you like this TV show?”, the crows will go *see new crow* *SHOVE* and it’s pretty much the same thing.
      If she didn’t want to be released, she would have stayed near you. Crows are absolutely smart enough to tell the difference between staying with you and leaving you. Her flying, exploring, and connecting with the other crows are all very good signs, and she will be so much happier out in the wide interesting world with her fellow birds than she could have been staying in your apartment. I know it’s hard not to be worried, but she’s probably having the most exciting days of her life right now – all this new stuff! All these birds to watch and caw to and shove! All this space to fly!

      • Thank you for this reply, it really helps, and thank you for all the help. I will continue to check if I can spot her, because I know what she looks like, and I could, for the time being, tell her apart from other crows. Later , when she grows up even more, I probably won’t be able to, but if she is ok, then I’m ok too.

      • Hi, I feel like I’m exploiting your good nature, but still I have to ask.
        Today I think I saw my crow. It’s been a week since I released her. I saw a crow that resembled her in a tree underneath the path I was on. The other craws here have pointy tails and have a little bit of a different way of jumping, taking of, movement in general then my craw. She resembles more in looks to the crows on the site where I found her, with tail spread out more like a fan, and little bit different markings. (They are all gray craws but tiny differences like that distinguish between I guess families). Any way, craws here when I look at them fly away, and even if they don’t, they most certainly don’t look at me back and try to talk to me. But this one did, and she looked and sounded like my craw. I wasn’t convinced at first, but when she started doing something she was doing while in my home, I started to think it might be her after all. So that brings me to my question. After initial 2 weeks of her normal vocalization and the one that I generally hear from craw, she started to do the following, to extend her neck, and bend it downwards as if she was choking (at first I thought she was and I got really scared), and then she started to make rumbling sounds almost like trying to talk to me differently than she would with another craw. Well this is what this craw on the tree was doing, she was trying to talk to me in such a manner. I started to talk back at her (like ga ga ga), and she was listening to me just like my crow did while I took care of her (not to mention that people walking by were having a field day by laughing at me). After 10 minutes I started to walk off and she flew after me, above my head and onto a building I was approaching.
        So my question is, is this behaviour (especially neck breaking rumble noise she made) something usual for crows, or could it be that it might actually be my crow I saw.
        I apologize again, but I don’t know anyone else who might know this.
        Thank you

        • It’s hard to say for sure – you’d need someone who was a specific expert on exactly your species of crow to really know. (I *might* be able to answer a question like this on juncos…) The vocalization you describe sounds like a natural vocalization, but perhaps one that is only used in very specific circumstances – maybe the equivalent of “Hi, close buddy!”
          I certainly think it’s possible that you saw your crow. I have no doubt that you could recognize her after raising her for so long, and she would also still recognize you. (Crows are known to be able to recognize individual humans by their faces. When crow researchers need to do something the crows may not like, like temporarily removing crow chicks from the nest to weigh them, they will often wear masks so that the crows can’t learn their identities and hate them forever after.) If she looked to you like your crow, and behaved differently from all the other crows toward you, it seems very likely that she is your crow.
          Which is awesome! She’s doing well! I hope you continue to see her around.

  56. Our baby robins were scared from the nest by furniture deliverers. They can fly, but the mother bird keeps coming back to the empty nest. Do you think they’ll survive?

    • Yes, I think they will be okay. Many chicks leave the nest even before they can fly – being able to perch and run are the crucial skills – so if they can fly, they’re in good shape. The parents will find them by their cheeping; they may not be making noise when people are around, so as to not be eaten by your scary furniture deliverers :-) but when they get hungry and the coast is clear, they will call to the parents. This is normal – young birds often have to leave the nest because a predator has gotten too close, and they are evolved to deal with this situation.

  57. hello mate very interesting article we have a fledgling here it was away from it’s parents (abandoned maybe?) and was just flumping around on the ground unable to do much. we’ve taken it in to help it rehabilitate as the parents were clearly nowhere around. it looks like the ones in your pictures, full “youth” feathers (not sure of the correct terminology) with the eyebrows but we’re finding it hard to get it to eat anything. he will pick at mealworms but just drops them and we’ve tried dogfood (canned) and the rehydrated kibble mashed up recipes from elsewhere, too, but to no avail. would you be able to suggest how to get it to take food and what we could feed ?

    • Hi George, sorry for the delayed response – this comment flew under my radar somehow. Do you have any wildlife rescues nearby? Taking the bird there would be the best option, as they are very experienced with these situations, and can also treat the bird if it has any underlying injuries.
      Are you putting the food out for the bird, or feeding it yourself? Picking at food and dropping it sounds like a fledgling who isn’t ready to feed himself yet. You’ll want to pretend to be a parent bird and feed it with tweezers (for the mealworms) and a syringe (for the soaked kibble mix). He should open his beak and beg from you; if he doesn’t, try holding the syringe/tweezers at different angles, moving them in small circles, or just holding them still for a long time. Some bird species beg readily, while others take a lot of persuading.

  58. My husband had to bring his diskbine home to prepare for haying. When he was going to leave, he realized there was a nest inside. He managed to get two birds out, which were fledglings, and were able to fly a bit. When he got home, we were dismayed to find out there were two more fledglings in the shaft. We managed to get them out. One can fly a bit, the other can’t. Having cared for birds before, I fed them as they had beef close to 24 hours without food. If I bring them back to the site the piece of machinery was, what do you think the chances are that the mother will still be around and will care for them?

    • Hi Anna,
      Sorry I didn’t see this sooner! Generally speaking, bringing the chicks back to the area should work fine. However, if they are swallows (as you mention in your other comment – sorry for the duplicate posting; I had to put up manual moderation, because I was getting TONS of comment spam) you would need to create a new nest for them, because swallows are one of the few birds that don’t leave the nest until they can fly really well. So if your fledglings can’t fly very well, but AREN’T swallows, they should be fine; if they are swallows, they’ll need a box placed high up near where they were found.

      Anyway, I fear this advice is too late – what happened? Do you still have them?

  59. I found this finch just gripping onto our chair outside and it’s fledging I don’t know what to do with it can I have some help

  60. Hello,
    Thank you so much about your easy explanation about baby birds:)
    I hope you can help me to understand very imortant thing…
    I was raising a baby sparrow,he was around 5 days when i found him.
    I was thinking to release him around day 25…
    But he was very active and fly so high in my room,rest of the time he was in the cage because i d t want him to hurt himself.
    When he flyed first time he did that very good and fly up to the chandelier and meny times around the room:)

    Last 4 days i put him on the balcony in the cage,i teach him how to eat seeds,drink water,bring from the outside meny flowers,tree pieces and other stuff what they eat.
    He was smart and eat them,only problem was his beak was little bit to small….

    And then yeaterday i give him freedom to fly around balcony and i had little bit open window and he fly out:(
    I called him 3 ours and seeing him flying around trees,he seems so happy.
    I was crying alot and felt gilty because think is my foult…
    But then again he want to get out because d t come back to me when i called him.

    How you think he will be ok? I know that in this area is others sparrows too.
    He was 19 or 20 days.
    I saw meny videos about raising baby sparrows,but mine seems very active and developed.
    I think because i gave him much proteins,i made for him cat food with 45% protein mixed with dry mealworms and water,like baby food.
    And when he chirp for me to give him food from my finger i just stop it and he learn eat it himself,i put in small spoon and hang it up in the cage….

    I will be very thankful if you write me your opinion:)
    I believe if God gave him to me so small to raise him,he will survive…

    Thank you,

    p.s. There is meny sparrows in this area.. Not excatly that trees he was but very close.

    • Hi Gaida,
      At that age, the birds do get very eager to fly and explore. If he was able to eat on his own and fly well (which it sounds like he was) then I think he has a good chance of survival. It wouldn’t hurt to put some food out for him on your balcony, just in case he has trouble figuring out how to find food: that will be his biggest challenge in the next few days. It sounds like you did a great job raising him – you should be proud!

      • Thank you.
        I did put food on the balcony,but he d t came becaus i think he d t realise where he flyed from…. I live in block house,they all look same.
        But i believe too he is ok and met his family birds!


  61. I’m interested to know why the photo shows a person holding a baby. They should not be held unless its the only way to rescue an injured bird.

    • I’m a field ornithologist, and those photos are from my field research on the birds’ breeding behavior. The young birds were measured and banded for identification, then replaced safely. I was well trained for this and had all required permits.

  62. I hope you can help me. I live in Louisiana. We have had a barn swallow build a nest on one of the beams on our garage. We have a patio very close to the nest,and have been watching it for weeks. I’ve become very interested in birds even bought books and binoculars. Any way,I am wondering if or how the parents know which it has fed? There were five birds in the nest,but one is way smaller then the rest. I’m thinking it’s not getting fed. I’ve been searching the web and haven’t found an answer. Maybe you help? Thanks,

    • Hi Sheila,
      Birds can tell their chicks apart and do seem to keep track of who they have fed and how much. It’s not uncommon to have one especially small chick in a nest, especially a nest later in the season (as this one is). Sometimes they can just about catch up to their big siblings, and sometimes not. Unfortunately if your little swallow is remaining small, its chances aren’t good. Keep an eye on the nest and see whether that chick remains in the nest after all of the others leave. If it gets left behind and the parents stop feeding it, you might consider retrieving it and taking to a wildlife center. (It may not survive that long – sometimes the small ones are small because they have a developmental problem.)
      Sorry I don’t have better news! Maybe your little swallow will beat the odds.

  63. I loved your blog & plan to follow you. It’s so very informative and answers a lot of questions. I raised 4 kids (I’m 73yrs old) and this Lil Bit has condoned hours & hours to keep him warm and alive around the clock!I found a 1 day old White wing dove and have hand fed it. It flys to my head. I’m scared to “turn him loose for fear he won’t survive. He’s now 19 days old . What should I do??? He’s attached to me. I believe he can’t make it. I’m putting seeds in his formula and he’s eating on his own. I’m in a panic about this precious little bird called “Lil Bit”. Can you possibly advise me? On one hand I know he’s wild I’m scared mod my 4 cats who ignore him in his cage but get doves sometimes. He probably won’t be a good pet, could he???
    Golly I would love to see something on this subject. I have gone to great lengths to get him this far & sure don’t want something to happen to him. A male & female come around his cage- could they POSSIBLY BE HIS PARENTS? What if I open the cage outside???
    Sincerely, AnitaThomas

  64. There is a fledgling blackbird who now looks more like the adult ones. He has their look and build but his feathers are still slightly fluffy snd downy. I noticed today that two male blackbirds were intimidating him. Every time he tried to come close, they would fly and land close to him and he would fly a few feet away and they would repeat it. They would not let him sit close. Is this normal? I really feel for the guy, there were sparrows there and they didn’t bother them.

    • The joys of being a social bird! Yes, this is normal. Young fledglings are generally excused from the dominance games, but once they get older, as your bird has, they have to take their place at the bottom of the dominance hierarchy. Young adults in all social animals generally start out subordinate and have to deal with the sort of mild harassment you witnessed; as they get older, stronger, and more experienced, they will start fighting back and will move up the hierarchy. The interactions you saw were a way of emphasizing “You have to move when we say you do” – so when there is competition over food or another resource, it will be clear who gets first access and who has to wait his turn. (And the sparrows don’t get harassed because, being another species, they aren’t part of the blackbird dominance hierarchy.)

  65. I found, or rather- my two Great Pyrenees found a fledging Cardinal. They didn’t hurt it, but got it all wet with slobber this cold morning. I tried to dry its wings off, and warmed it up. The parents were still around, so I put it down. A squirrel and two mockingbirds went for it, and both the parents and I lunged for them. The bird was eventually able to hop, but went through a hole in the fence and is now in a deeply covered piece of land. I guess what I’m asking is- what are the chances of survival? It did better, but in doing so, ran away from me into a viney area.

    • That viney cover is probably his best shot, since it will protect the young cardinal from the mockingbirds, squirrels, etc. The parents will still be able to find it: when it’s safe, the parents will call for the fledgling, and the fledgling will call back to indicate its location. Young fledglings rely heavily on staying hidden. Assuming that the fledgling didn’t get too cold, and that the mockingbirds didn’t find him, I’d say his chances of survival are excellent.

  66. I enjoy your posts very much. I have two questions for you:

    1. Last year, I placed a hanging plant outside of my front door, and was surprised to find baby robin eggs in there a few days later. They hatched and fled, and after several days of no activity, I removed the nest to allow the plant room to grow. Much to my surprise, when I went to water the plant the following week, I saw another nest, with more eggs! Fast forward to this year … I hung a plant in the same spot, and within days, a robin’s nest was there, with robin eggs. My question to you: is this just a coincidence, or is it that the same robin (or offspring), is coming back to the same spot to nest?

    2. I got used to showing off our little nest with the hatchlings. So yesterday, I took down the plant to show a friend who had come over and the fledglings (I never knew that term until your blog), were all scared and jumped from the nest! While this was happening, what appeared to be the mom and dad started flapping their wings wildly and chirping in a panic, and they attracted what seemed to be all of the birds around, who all began chirping and flapping their wings as well! There were at least a dozen birds who responded to the mom and dad’s chirps … all screaming at me! So two questions for you: 1. I have never seen a bird behave this way … and was amazed at how brave they were and how they attracted their ‘friends’ to help them rescue their chicks. Is this a common behavior? Is there a term for it? And 2: will the fledglings be okay? I found one in the grass … and put it back in the nest, but he left within an hour of being placed, and the mom and dad were both nearby, coaxing it to the yard across the street. I found another one in a nearby bush, and tried to handle it to put it back in the nest, but it hopped/awkwardly flew away nearby. I couldn’t find any sign of the other 2 fledglings. But the mom and dad still come back to the nest … and I still see them across the street in the grass. Do you think the fledglings will be okay?

    • Hi Helen,

      Your plant must be the perfect nesting place! I think that the robins who are repeatedly nesting there are either the same pair, or (in the second year) offspring of the first pair. Birds will re-use nesting spots that have been successful.

      Defending the babies and attracting other birds is common. The parents give alarm calls, and other birds come to see what the danger is and to help fend it off. This isn’t selfless on their part: the other birds likely have nests in the area, and by all working together to drive off the predator, they themselves are put at very little risk.

      The fledglings should be fine. If they readily leapt from the nest, and continued to leave after you put them back in, then they were within a few days of leaving on their own; and the fact that they can move well (walk, if not fly) means they are ready. As long as the parents are looking after them, they should be just fine.

  67. I have two fledglings… Robin’s…. what r some of their body language. .. I’m wondering why one robin, insists on standing on the other sibling.??? He is trying to build his stench the in his wings, what should I look for when he is ready, to make that first flight…?? Thank u ,

    • Fledglings do seem to like to stand on each other, at least when in a confined space (I see this a lot in the orphaned baby birds at the wildlife rehabilitation hospital). My guess is that they have an urge to climb and be high up – that’s how they will be safe when they leave the nest but can’t yet fly, and being high up also makes it easier to practice wing-flapping, as you’ve seen.

      It sounds like maybe these are fledglings you are caring for? If you’re asking when to let them go outside, you should do that well after they have started flying. In the meantime, keep them in a large enough area that they can practice short flights and build up those skills and muscles, and keep providing food. Release them when they are good fliers and, crucially, when they are eating on their own and not begging you for food at all. Try to provide them with lots of different types of food to practice recognizing and eating: berries (only ones you know are edible!), seeds, mealworms.

      Good luck!

  68. Hi, I found a fledgling on the ground, it can fly down,not up, but once on the ground it can’t walk, it falls and rolls, but is very uncoordinated when trying to walk unless it already has a momentum and has gained some speed, but even then if it tries to stop or change direction it falls on its head, or back, it spends most of the time lying on the ground, and mom and dad are nearby, but, being in the condition that it is I took it home, mom and dad didn’t object that much because I was with it for a while and they got used to me not trying to hurt it. Any way, I took it home, and I have helped crow fledglings before, but this one was completely different, it was not dehydrated, it refused completely to take any food or water from me in any form, liquid or solid, it was actively trying to get away, and was awkwardly, but with determination running around my room. I honestly didn’t know what to do, so I took it back to its parents, and they were ok with me returning it, I built another nest and put the fledgling in, but it will not stay there, it absolutely refuses to stay there, even though the parents figured out that it’s the new nest and accepted it right away. So now I left it hidden in the bushes, I know there are cats in the area, I can’t control that, so now I don’t know what to do, and also, there is no bird society or wildlife society in my country that I can turn to, so if anyone can give me any suggestions please do.
    Thank you

    • As an update, the fledgling died during the night, nothing attacked it, but more worrisome is that today I found more baby fledglings dead in the same area, I wonder what is the cause, some education from a knowledgeable person would be greatly appreciated

      • Hi Elena, I’m so sorry to hear that it died. It sounds like it might have had some neurological condition that effected its ability to use its legs. (I’ve seen this a few times, and still don’t have a good explanation.) I think you made the best decision: as long as the parents were feeding it, it had a chance, and if you had tried to keep it with you it likely would have died from stress if not starvation.

        As for the other dead fledglings, they could be the result of cat attacks (you might see signs of violence on the bodies, but you might not; a cat could shake or crush a fledgling without leaving any blood), or they could mean that whatever your fledgling had was contagious, and others had it too. I’m afraid I don’t know enough from here to tell which it might be.

        I’m so sorry you’ve experienced this, and so sorry for your local fledglings.

        • Thank you for answering, I thought as well that it might have been something contagious, I know that in New Jersey and New York, they monitor West Nile epidemic outbreaks in corvid population as an early indicator of possible human epidemics, since it can be transmitted via mosquito bite from one species to another, it might be something similar, a viral or bacterial infection that affected the nervous system. I was really saddened, the parents actually stayed with the fledgling even after it was gone.
          Thank you for helping me with my question,
          Best regards

  69. Do fledglings go off and find their own homes or live close to where they are born? I’m thinking specifically of the fledgling Robins, bluetits coal tits and blackbirds that have been on my bird feeder recently being taught where to get food. There is a plentiful supply of food in my garden but not too much room in the trees that they nest in so I’m just wondering if the fledglings are likely to stick around or go off and find their own territories? Thanks in advance. Jill.

    • Hi Jill,
      Fledglings will hang out near where they were born for a while, gradually venturing further and further afield. Eventually their parents may encourage them to leave, or they may leave on their own for migration (if they are a migratory species). Generally speaking, adult female birds settle far away from where they were born, while adult male birds find territories close to where they were born. (The opposite is true for mammals, interestingly: male mammals tend to explore while females stay where they were born.) In any case, if the area is already too full of birds, the males will find territories nearby where the density is less, or else they may have to simply wait their turn, becoming territory-less “floaters” for a year or two until a spot opens up.

  70. We have a robin’s nest with four babies. Three beaks, then heads, popped up over the days. Now it looks like the fledglings have left. But there is still one left in the nest shivering. Perhaps it hasn’t thrived. Should we do something?

    • Aah, that’s hard. Can you tell if the parents are still feeding the one in the nest?

      It’s not terribly uncommon for one baby to fail to thrive, and the parents won’t necessarily keep caring for it if it seems like a lost cause. If the parents aren’t feeding it at all, you might think about taking it to a wildlife rehabilitation center if you have one nearby. (Or, if that isn’t an option, you might consider trying to raise it yourself. Soaked kibble cat food, hard-boiled eggs, and mealworms are all good options for food. You can provide a water dish, but don’t ever try to feed it water yourself.) Unfortunately if the parents have abandoned it, there is probably something wrong with it, and it’s unlikely to survive. It is possible that with more care than the parents can afford to give it, it *might* survive, though. (The parents, after all, have 3 other babies to worry about too! So they may not be able to feed it as much or for as long as a human wildlife rehabilitator could.)

      • Thanks so much for your advice (you must say these things over and over). A parent seems to be visiting the nest and the fledgling is chirping, so there may be home! :)

  71. hey! I need some info asap! My mother found 6!! holy smokes 6! fledglings,they have feathers with some minor pinkage, heres the set up we have a cardboard box, paper towel udnearh with a thin towel sorroduning a heating pad, we have one on top , the rest close by the edges, and two are in a teashirt, but it seems they cant quite move on their own, I cant tell if they are just that afraid to move or might be injured, we dont know if the people actually picked them up then placed them or threw them, she heard a tree being chopped a few houses down in the morning from work, hours passed already it was 5 and we recovered them , from ours and i think they touched them since they havent been recovered, we took them in, its sadly night and i think they are too distressed and exhausted from being terrififed, we tried to feed earier with warm soaked dog kibble, no luck, I called in a place to bring them in the morning I hope they survive, I can try to give them in a few when they wake up . idk if i should give water

    • Hi,
      Don’t try to feed them water directly – they can inhale it and develop fatal lung problems. Feeding them moist food, like the kibble, is the best way to get water into them. You can also use a moist Q-tip to brush water onto the inside of their mouth (but not too much!), although this will also be hard if they are not gaping. Keep them for tonight at least; they would normally just sleep overnight anyway, so there’s no harm in them sleeping in the box.

      If they are really fledglings – i.e. decently feathered and able to walk – then I would strongly recommend putting them back outside tomorrow morning and watching to see if the parents return. Bird parents *will* take their babies back even if humans have touched them, I promise!

      When you say they “can’t move” – do you mean that they sit in a tight huddle and don’t do anything? Or do you mean that they sort of flop and flail around and fall over? If they just sit tight, they may well be okay but just scared of you and trying to not be seen. In that case, again, I’d encourage trying to put them back outside in the morning.

      If they’re flopping and flailing, then they’re in trouble and should be brought to a wildlife center.

      Feel free to write back/update with more questions!

      • sorry! I was able to rush them to a hospital and we waited for hours yesterday with no luck on the moms, they were also fairly large for their size. there were no other trees or nests and birds nearby and they were very close to the road on a neighbor’s house from my mom’s work, and I dident want to take the risk of leaving them or checking again, and yeah cant move im sorry! I meant I found out it was because it was sundown and they were tired, they knocked out and were breathing healthy throughout the remaining night hours, and didnt start waking up till 8 am with the cries and shrills of panic, 2 of them were loud, the other 2 were still sleeping or were weak (runts), 2 were terrified with shrills as well,. I tried my best to feed them super tiny bits of egg and raspberries (very difficult as they were probably still terrified/used to their diet and I can totally understand why and I was too afraid to pick them up because I dident want to stress em out even more), I was able to cover the top of the box with my jacket in the car ride to stress em less as their precious shrills calmed down much more from not seeing me, , I was able to drive them to an animal hospital and they were able to call an avian rescue sanctuary just an hour away that specializes in them, They are in more professional and safe hands! I am in joy, and I found out they are 6 adorable northern flickers that were just days away from flying! absolutely sweet little things. These guys are high in season in Jersey!,

        • Flickers! That explains some things – woodpecker fledglings are much less good at walking than usual fledglings, for example, since they’re designed for trees. And yes, I bet they were loud! Baby woodpeckers are incredibly loud.

          I’m glad you could get them to the experts to care for; you did a very good thing.

          It seems likely to me that their nest was in that tree that was cut down, and they were scared out of it. That would explain why they were all together and out early. They are lucky you found them!

          (To avoid things like this, if you ever need to have a tree cut down, don’t do it in the spring or early summer. The animal rehab hospital is filled right now with baby squirrels and birds whose nesting trees were cut down.)

  72. Hi! I love your helpful blog! And I have a fledgling question. I had a mockingbird nest with 3 eggs in a bush right next to my garage door. Left them alone, was able to peep in a couple times…saw when newly hatched, and later when they were feathered but still in the nest. I was watching closely for fledglings…when cutting the lawn, leaving the driveway, etc. I never saw any fledglings, but knew they were around because the parents were still around. There are some very dense bushes next to my house where the nest was, so I figured they were in there hiding and growing. I was saddened today by a find – around the corner of the house from the bushes I have some huge hostas – 3-4 feet wide. I went to pull a large weed from behind one, and found a dead bird. It had the colors of the mockingbird, but wasn’t really intact – i e…loose feathers, couldn’t really see the head or body. Could see the feet, which looked big, so made me wonder if it was adult…however given the location and timing, I can’t help but think it was one of the fledglings. Rather fresh, because the ants had found it. I’m wondering what could have happened…can a fledgling get “stuck” in brush and not be able to find a way out? It was between the wall of the house and the base of the hosta, completely protected by the arching hosta leaves. It would seem like a very safe place. I don’t think a cat got it…I don’t have many strays, and not a dog…I have two dogs (they did not have access to this area) and I would know if another dog was around. Can chipmunks attack fledglings? There is an abundance of them around here, and it’s likely they frequent the area I found the bird. Thoughts? TIA!

    • Hi Lyn,
      Fledglings certainly do have large feet, so it could be one of yours, I’m afraid. It’s unlikely that the bird got trapped in the sense of “couldn’t find a way out;” mockingbirds hop around in brush all the time, and the parents could have led the fledgling out. If the carcass was tangled in the hosta, then the fledgling might have gotten stuck in the branches, but it sounds like you found it on the ground. Chipmunks certainly can attack fledglings; a mockingbird would be a bit big for them, but I wouldn’t rule it out. A rat could kill one too. Most other predators that might kill a fledgling would probably have moved the body (snake, anything in the weasel family), so a chipmunk or rat seems most likely.

      Unfortunately this is par for the course for bird parents; the mockingbirds are already doing well to have fledged their chicks, and losing one would be pretty normal. Every other animal is having babies – and needing to feed them – right now too.

      It sounds like you provided a great habitat for them, with good cover and no cats. I think it’s likely that the other fledglings will do very well.

      • Thanks so much for the quick response! I think you are right. I took another look today, and it looks like it was a fledgling :(…and someone ate the body area…feet, head, beak, large feathers are still intact. Sorry to be graphic. I had no idea that chipmunks would eat baby birds!

        • Yep – chipmunks are the primary nest predators of juncos on the east coast, in fact. Cute little vicious predators!

          On reflection, it’s possible that a weasel of some kind could have been culprit. The body wasn’t out in the open, so the weasel might have eaten it in peace where it was.

          Whoever it was, the protein almost certainly went to nourish some of its own babies.

  73. I had two birds,zebra finches female and male and the male died a week ago so I got another one a female a white zebra finch yesterday when I came back home there was an egg.The white zebra finches back was turning brown and had brownish speckles on it’s head.What happened to my white zebra finch?

    • Probably an expert specifically in zebra finches would be more helpful than I can be, but here goes: it’s normal for female birds to lay eggs sometimes, even if they haven’t been with a male. It’s not clear which of your finches laid the egg, though; if it was your older female, the egg might be fertile (because she used to be with the male), and I suppose if it was your white female the egg still could be fertile (if she was housed with a male in the past). In any case, if the female starts sitting on the egg, you’ll need to decide if you’re up for raising baby finches; if she doesn’t sit on it, then just leave the egg in the cage for a week or so, then throw it away.

      Birds’ feathers can’t change color after they’ve grown in, so if your white zebra finch appears to be turning brown, she’s probably dirty.

  74. I have two baby doves on my back patio that will soon begin to venture our barren backyard that is closely guarded by my killer Bichon. I am thinking about how to make hiding places til they can fly. I was thinking of getting small moving boxes from Home Depot and cut out several ground level holes as well as small ventilation windows (Arizona’s hotttt!) then camouflage boxes with leafy branches and weight down to keep doggo from knocking over. Do you think this could work? Any other suggestions/advice?

    • Doves like to hide in dense bushes. I’m not sure the boxes will work; they’re not used to going into dark holes, and even if they did, the parents might not look for them there. (Doves aren’t really tunnel-dwellers!) The leafy branches would help, but I’m still doubtful.

      The best thing for the doves would be to keep your “killer” (!) inside, or at least away from your backyard, for a week while the doves learn to fly. Ideal would be to keep the killer inside and plant some good cover in your yard, but of course there’s not time for that now! (But if you’ve considered planting cover, your local wildlife would love it, in the future.) Second-best would be to move the doves somewhere outside your backyard (assuming the killer is restricted to within the backyard) where there is cover – not too far, because the parents need to be able to find them.

  75. Hi, I hope you can reply to me because your website is the most informative one I have found so far… I found a fledgling a couple days ago. I know I should have left him alone as parents might be nearby, but this was an exceptional case: He was in the city center of a big city, in a very highly trafficked area with a lot of cars and people and dogs being walked. I have no idea what he was doing there. I first thought it was a toy, then I thought he was dead, then I realized he was blinking so I picked him up as people already surrounding us. The closest green stuff (trees, bushes etc) was far away, so no idea what he was doing there on the concrete pavement. He was insect/fruit-eating species with a long sharp beak. He didn’t have any visible scars or injuries. He just seemed shocked and afraid, but physically well overall. I took him home, got him a nice big cage, first night fed him fruit puree with a syringe, then I realized he was already old enough to eat by himself, so I hung some fruits inside his cage, which he nibbled and ate happily. Up until last night (so… around 30 hours with me) he was completely fine. He was eating a lot of fruits, chirping, flying from one perch to another. I even took videos of him, and everybody was like, oh he is so healthy and happy, I was thinking oh cool, soon he will be strong enough to release (we have a nice botanical park close by with lots of fruit trees), and he fell asleep on one of the perches. And this morning he was dead on the cage floor! I was devastated! I can’t understand… if he had any sign of stress, injury, anything, I understand… But he was so active, happy and healthy, eating well, hopping, chirping… What just happened? Do you have any experience like this? Can you tell me what might have gone wrong?

    • I’m so sorry, that sounds very upsetting! I can’t tell you for certain what happened, but here are some guesses:

      1. He may not have been ready to live entirely on fruit. Most birds eat insects when young, and even as they transition to “adult” food, they will eat some insects as long as they can find them. Baby bird nutrition is surprisingly complicated (to humans, at least – the parent birds manage just fine) and while I can’t tell you why this would have killed him, especially without knowing what species he was, it’s a possibility. If you ever find yourself in a similar position again, offer mealworms or another easy-to-catch live insect food. (Not earthworms.)

      2. He may have had an injury you couldn’t see. Considering where you found him, he might have smashed into a window (especially since it sounds like he acted stunned). This could have caused brain damage that wasn’t immediately fatal, but then killed him. Or he might have been caught by a cat; even if he escaped with bites minor enough to survive in the short term, he would have been infected by the bacteria in the cat’s mouth and eventually died. Both of these injuries would be easy to miss: birds’ feathers cover injuries very well.

      I’m so sorry that your rescue did not end well. It sounds like you kept him safe and happy while he lived, which is better than being terrified on a busy city street, and I’m sure he was glad of that.

      • Aww thank you, I feel a bit better now. Yes he died peacefully in his sleep instead of being crashed by a car or mauled by a dog. I wish we could save them all…

  76. I had twin fledglings that went from nest to nearby grapevine, parents still feeding and watching, I put some water under the bush as to help a bit as we are in drought here. last night they were huddles together on a low branch, this morning they are dead and out in the open, no maul marks , parents are still close by, what would have killed them? would it be bread crumbs as near is a vegie patch that all food waste including bread gets thrown in,, I am so sad to see these little babies dead this morning

  77. I came upon this page today while looking up information to help me understand why the baby thrushes I have been watching suddenly disappeared from their nest! According to your writing, they may be around but hidden. Yesterday there were calls from the nest – a cheep about every 20 seconds, continuously, for a long time. I hope they were not in distress! The day before I had seen both parents bringing them food. There are three, and I have been photographing them. I hope they are okay!! Thanks for this article. It was helpful. Becky Phillips, Wolcott, Vermont. I think my birds are hermit thrush, our state bird.

    • Hi Becky, thanks for your comment! It sounds like your thrushes are doing exactly what they’re supposed to. Hermit thrush chicks generally leave the nest at 12-13 days old, at which point they will be able to fly short distances but mostly will walk around under/inside vegetation. The parents should still be feeding them, but you might not see them since they will try to be secretive. The cheeping near the nest could have been a chick begging for food, or it could have been a parent giving an alarm call telling the chicks to stay hidden, which they will do if they see a predator (including a human) nearby. Either way, it suggest that the chicks were still in the area.

      Unfortunately it’s hard to follow baby birds after they leave the nest – you may not ever know for sure how they got on. But it sounds like everything was going just as it’s supposed to, which is promising!

  78. I had 5 baby birds I hand fed for awhile until one day I went to feed them an they were as all over the room so I picked them all up fed them an put t them in my bushes well they flew out of my hand an all went to the bushes I went out later an call them Here baby here baby an one went to my hand an I fed him then he flew back to the others in the bushes so cute but I tell you that was hard to do but I needed the brake alot of time an patients went in to caring for them finches but so cute an so little

  79. I found a young finch sitting in the middle of our garden but made the mistake of throwing some crumbs & dried meal worms to it & thinking it may eat a worm. It died 2 hours later. Is it my fault?

    • I can’t think of any way that this could be your fault! Dried meal worms are excellent bird food, and crumbs certainly aren’t poisonous. It must have either been sick or had an injury you couldn’t see. I’m sorry you had this experience – you didn’t do anything wrong!

  80. We had 4 house finch eggs. Three of the fledglings left today. The 4th wasn’t ready for whatever reason. Will Mama still take care of it or will she abandon it?

    • It’s not uncommon for fledglings to leave the nest over multiple days. That said, if the fourth chick stays in the nest for more than an extra day or two, there becomes a chance that the parents will abandon it (presumably because that would indicate it is too weak to thrive). I’ve seen this happen, but only with chicks that were very “runty” – small and underdeveloped compared to their siblings. There’s a very good chance that your finch will leave the nest tomorrow morning and all will be fine; I wouldn’t start worrying yet :-)

  81. This is a great article:)
    I know you posted this years ago but I just came across a fledgling on the other side of my fence in my backyard. There are small trees and brush that haven’t been taken to the dump. It jumped and scooted back in there but I noticed it’s mother was looking for it. I didn’t hear it chirp back or anything and I’m afraid something has happened to it. I hope there isn’t another small creature in there. How long will the mother continue to come back and chirp for her baby? Should I try removing some of brush or will that scare both of them more? I feel so bad bc I think my presence scared it:(

    • Don’t worry, the fledgling will be fine! It went silent because the “threat” (you) was still present, so it was being safe by staying concealed. Once it felt safe again, it would chirp and the parents would find it that way. You didn’t do anything bad – this sort of thing will happen many times a day, as the fledgling hides from squirrels, crows, etc.

  82. Katie, I found a baby blue jay fledgling in my backyard on Monday, he looked healthy and kept chirping, I observed his parents were around and they came here and there to feed him, so I didn’t worry. Next day it was raining and the baby bird moved along the fence to behind a shed area where he stayed close to a fence and a tree trunk with some tree leaves protecting him. I wasn’t sure whether to intervene, didn’t really want to touch him so his mom wouldn’t reject him. I put a cardboard box with bird seed inside closeby, hoping he might take a shelter in it. After the rain, sun came out and I was happy to see his momma stopped by to feed him. He seemed like he dried up as well and after that I didn’t really worry about him and went on to do activites with my family. We got home late and I didn’t think of checking on the baby bird anymore. The next morning, Wednesday, we found the baby fledgling dead, close to the fence where he was waiting for his parents to feed him. I couldn’t stop crying and thinking, maybe if I just intervened and took him in for the night, or provided better shelter, maybe he would not have died. I was hoping his parents, or at least one of them would keep the fledgling a company at night, but I’m not sure that is the case. Are the fledglings left alone all night on the ground and do the parents just show up to feed them in the morning? I’m so heartbroken, and would like to know what to do better next time we have a fledgling in our yard.

    • I’m so sorry. You did everything right; a fledgling being attended by his parents would have no problem with rain, especially with some leaves for shelter. They have enough feathers to stay warm, and the parents usually will keep feeding them during the rain. The parents don’t feed them at night, but that’s normal and the fledglings just sleep through the night. You couldn’t have provided anything he didn’t have, and you would have stressed him (and his parents) out by trying to catch him.

      As for what happened to him – either he was killed by a dog or cat (any wild animal would have eaten him) or he had something medically wrong. Wild animals get developmental problems (heart issues, etc.) too, we just don’t see it much because they just quietly die and we don’t know why. It sounds like he had a good life, even if it was short.

  83. Thanks for the excellent info! We have some Carolina wren fledglings in a nest under our porch. About five days ago, I noticed a mess of feathers under the nest, so I’m afraid one of the parents was eaten by…something. I looked at the fledglings today and they were still alive. I assume that means a parent has to be feeding them still. Certainly they wouldn’t have lasted that long without warmth and food, right? And second question, is it true that a parent bird will abandon their nestlings or fledglings if they’re touched, or is that a myth? Thanks again!

    • The chicks are definitely still being fed if they’re young enough to be in the nest and have been okay for five days. (They should be growing noticeably, getting bigger and developing more feathers – if they haven’t grown over the five days, something is wrong.) If one parent dies, the other parent sometimes abandons the nest and sometimes doesn’t. They’re generally more likely to abandon young chicks than older ones, presumably because the older chicks have had the benefit of two parents for longer, meaning they’re healthier, and also they represent a longer time investment than younger chicks. Sometimes female wrens raise the chicks entirely on their own from the start though! There’s a lot of variation.

      It is a myth that birds will abandon chicks if they’re touched. Birds do have a sense of smell, but they don’t particularly care if their chicks smell a bit like human. However, they will abandon the nest if they get so disturbed that they decide the nest is unsafe/doomed anyway – e.g. if someone regularly scared them off the nest and handled the chicks several times a day. I suspect that’s where the myth comes from. They also will have trouble identifying a young chick (before it’s old enough to leave the nest) if it ends up outside the nest somehow, so if handling the chicks results in them being outside the nest, they may be abandoned. As the chicks get older, birds switch from identifying their own chicks as “the ones in my nest” to learning their chicks’ voices and identifying them that way, so by the time they leave the nest naturally, the parents can follow their chirps.

      I hope your wrens continue to do well!

  84. Hi there!
    I have a House Finch nest inside my wall-mounted AC unit. This Friday will be 14 days since I first heard their faint “peeps” (they are very loud now). The nest is on the second story, directly above my apartment complex’s driveway. Will they survive their initial leap from that height? Thankfully, there is an open field with trees about 10 feet from their nest, but they have to get there first.
    Thank you, Susan

    • Hi Susan,
      Your House Finches should be fine. Birds that nest in cavities generally don’t leave the nest until they are capable of at least a sort of fluttering-falling version of “flight.” (This is in comparison to birds with open-cup nests or ground nests, which often leave the nest as soon as they can run but before they can do much of anything with their wings.) The young finches might not be able to fly *up* yet, but they will certainly be able to slow their fall enough to land safely.

      Of course, I can’t speak to other driveway dangers – if there is frequent traffic on the driveway, or a local outdoor cat, those would still be a concern.

      Best of luck to your feathered neighbors!

      • Thank you for the reply; you put me at ease. Good news! All fledglings left the nest this morning. I observed them sitting and squawking up in a tree. When I got within 10 feet, mama showed up to let me know I was close enough. Then, they all took flight… it was beautiful! Can I now remove the nest and cover up the access hole in my AC unit? I’d like to use it this summer for something other than a nursery ; )
        Thank you,

          • They just came back to the trees where I first saw them this morning. One actually perched on top of the AC, but did not go inside to the nest. I kind of love them.

  85. Thank you for this article. I have a family of sweet black phoebes in my backyard. They nested in the rafters above my bedroom window until about a week ago, and both mamma and dad have stayed with the fledglings in the backyard since that time. I have noticed that they are still feeding the little ones. Sadly, I woke up to find one of the fledglings had drowned in our pool overnight. I am sad. I took the baby out and left it in a place that the parents could find it. They don’t seem to notice, and from what I have read, it appears that nature has them focused on the survival of the others instead of the death of the one. Undoubtedly, nature knows best. Just sad for this sweet little guy. On a brighter note, I have a little nest of baby houses finches that just hatched in a bush in our front yard. Love hearing all of this beautiful chirping outside!

  86. Hello
    Thank you for your article. I was outside yesterday when a fledgling fell out of our pear tree from up high. It seemed ok but wasn’t old enough to move far I suppose. I saw it trying to hop and it did call out a little but no birds came toward it. At nightfall we tried to make a little shelter to protect from the elements and predators because where it fell was out in the open. We never touched or fed the bird because I read not to…that it’s parents were probably watching it. When my husband went out in the morning, to check, it had died.
    Should we have done something different?

    • You did everything right; unfortunately sometimes things turn out badly even when you do the right things. Fledglings should be left alone (it’s okay to briefly touch them if you have to, for example to move them out of the way of traffic, but it’s stressful for them so you want to minimize it; and feeding them is a bad idea unless you’re trained in wildlife care because it’s easy to accidentally feed them the wrong thing or injure them while feeding them). Usually the parents would take care of the fledgling. I don’t know what happened in this case; maybe the parents were injured. It sounds like the fledgling may have been injured or ill to begin with, since one day without feeding shouldn’t be fatal.

      Wildlife rescues recommend that you watch fledglings for 24 hours and confirm that the parents don’t come during that time period before you try to rescue them. The fledgling died within 24 hours, so you followed the recommended advice and sadly it just didn’t work out this time.

      • Thank you for your quick response and knowledgeable advice which is especially helpful as this was our first time in a situation like this and is a comfort to me.
        Good Day!

  87. Fledging crow won’t fly its Been 3 weeks. I see no injury like bleeding. He is eating and takes some water .he can hop and fly about 1 to 2 feet up and that’s it. What is going on with this baby. We are watching over it. Do u know a rescue by victorville calif ?

  88. I have had this this little bluebird now for a while. Its 3 siblings were dead in the box. I believe to be from cold weather we had. Anyway, put Bird back In box and male decides to attack it. Retrieved her and been caring for her, problem is I let her go and she came back. Other birds trying to attack her also. So now what do i do? HELP PLEASE

    • The best thing would be to find a wildlife rehabilitator who could take her; try searching “wildlife rehabilitation [my location]”. If you’re in the US near a major city, it’s very likely that there is one near you. That has a much greater likelihood of success than you trying to follow instructions I might give.

      However, if you can’t get the bird to a rehabilitator, you can try to raise her. It sounds like she’s close to fledging age if you were able to let her go and have her come back – she is fully feathered and can hop around well? If so, then you need to feed her for the next two weeks or so while she learns how to fly and feed herself. The best food would be mealworms, killed (crush their heads or leave them in water for 10 mins) so they can’t bite. Most pet stores and even bait shops sell mealworms. You can also soak dog kibble in water until it’s mushy, mix in hardboiled egg bits, and feed her that. Don’t ever try to feed her water; you can give her a little dish to drink from if she needs water, but never put liquid in her mouth. Over time she should start feeding herself more and more. She’ll be ready to be released only when she is an excellent flier (just as good as an adult bird) and is feeding herself entirely, and is able to catch, kill, and eat live mealworms.

  89. A cat killed the parents of this fuzzy little bird& there are cats all over our area- would another set of parents adopt this fledgling aged chick- or is it likely to die? I took it out of the yard after I heard the skirmish… the parents must’ve gotten killed trying to rescue their baby- but one cat got one and another swooped in and snatched the other, who was screaming and hopping around. I raise chickens and ducks and have raised a series of other birds, but domestic doves don’t account for indigenous dietary needs, etc. I didn’t feel like it was safe and I know that there is nobody to feed this chick& likely it’s siblings now too, unless there is adopting behavior in this species of robin… this is in Reno, NV. I’ve now taken it home with me to Truckee, CA. And will be feeding it some softened cat food& hard boiled egg yolk now as an emergency measure.

    • Hi Kat,
      Can you bring it to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care ( – call them first at 530-577-2273)? It should be about an hour’s drive. That’s the best chance for the fledgling, as they’ll know exactly how to care for it and, most urgently, will check it for injuries and treat it with antibiotics. Cats have really nasty bacteria in their mouths, so even a scratch from a cat bite can kill an animal from infection within days.

  90. I found a fledgling robin in a wheelbarrow under my maple tree it looks like other robins go to the wheelbarrow and even look like they stand guard should I remove it from the wheelbarrow or leave it alone

    • Sorry for the delayed response – fortunately whatever you did was almost certainly fine! There’s no need to move it out of the wheelbarrow unless it seems stuck (or I suppose if you need to use the wheelbarrow) but moving it a few feet also won’t hurt anything.

  91. I have a question their is a Robin fledging that I found in my backyard and it was in plain site and their are many predators around where I live and I decided to put it in my fenced garden so their parent is able to still feed it and also the fledgling is still well hidden. Did I do the right thing? If not what should I do?

    • Moving fledglings that are in danger short distances to safety is generally fine. My only concern here is how far the garden is from where the fledgling originally was – is it pretty close? Have you seen the parents near the garden at all recently?

  92. Some kids in the area found two mockingbird fledglings and took them home. The parents called (and I believe mourned) for 2 days. These birds have been in this area for several years, always building in the same tree. My question is, will they now abandon this nesting site and territory? I hate to lose them. I know if my purple martins loose their babies due to predators they will not return to my gourds the next year.

    • It’s hard to predict. I’ve seen birds go far away after a failed nest, and I’ve seen them renest just a few feet away. The fact that the nest made it so far – the chicks survived to fledgling age – and that the parents have used the area for years makes it more likely that the parents will try again in the same area. If they do, anything you can do to prevent kids from kidnapping the babies again would be good! There’s a strong chance that the fledglings won’t survive in kids’ inexpert care, so they should be discouraged as strongly as possible. (It’s technically illegal to keep wild birds, even chicks, and in this case it’s also just really unfortunate, because the fledglings weren’t in any need and now they may not survive.)

  93. You’ve set my mind at ease on what to do with the Queen Palm branch that fell with a nest. The chicks were fledglings and unfortunately one was killed by a community cat immediately, but one made it into the bougainvillea. The baby has climbed up to perch, and the parent is bringing it food. The parent is constantly raising a ruckus. (You’d think being quite while near the fledgling would be safer). I’ve blocked off that side of the house to all the community cats (roughly 9 of them hang around) but if the cats are diligent they can climb the chain link on the other side. Hoping the fledgling will survive & can fly soon, I’m working from home due to Covid, and the parent is awfully loud due to its proximity .. All Day Long.. .

  94. When or how do baby birds know when to fly south? I rescued two fledged house wrens in late August in CT. Fed them meal worms till they could fly, then released them outside. The live in my backyard and still come to me for food when I go outside. They are very healthy and learning to forage, but I still supplement them. They fly right up to me to get a meal worm snack. They are always together. I want them to survive!

    • It’s innate! If you raise migratory birds in captivity, without any cues from other birds, they will start to exhibit a hyperactivity called zugunruhe (German, meaning “migratory restlessness”) at the time when they should migrate, where they repeatedly try to move in the direction they would normally migrate. (They appear to use the stars to gauge direction, and innately know what direction they should go. When it’s overcast, some – maybe all? research still pending – use the earth’s magnetic field to navigate instead.)

  95. Oops I didn’t mean to end what I saying This is was agian I thought it Would be safe because it had spend time with me hunting on some for some food and I will just keep it on or not make sure it was doing OK and was fed enough and sometimes so just be by me for fun But Then it just randomly died I could totally feed itself I just can needed it for mental sport but just gave it complete free Area To roam Wherever I liked Especially after the 1st week I helped it practice flying as much I could have 1st I just started pushing him off gently From that 1′ off just from the top of the box And towards the end he could fly very good and that’s when we stopped practicing Because he could fly just about as good as any other bird And so that is the story of how my Friend bird died and I was wondering if you know or had any ideas of how could he possibly died thank you bye

  96. Hi..I found a new fledgling grackle trying to cross busy traffic..just hopping..I managed to rescue him..I have him in a crate..and feeding him kitty food soaked in water..advice on what to feed and how to wean and release..vets are closed all weekend..

    • Hi, sorry for the delay – I don’t monitor this blog very often anymore. I hope by now you found another source of info; if not, your local wildlife rehabilitator is the way to go (google that and your location to find one). You can also try calling the help line at – they should be able to give advice even if you’re not in California.

  97. I found a fledging in the walkway of my apartment unit. It’s very busy with people and pets do I decided to bring him out of harms way on my patio, which is only about a foot or 2 from where he was found. I have solid walls surrounding my patio so he was safe. I have dirt, small trees and plants so lots of places to find coverage and food. He chirped constantly and licking his mom found him and was able to continue feeding him.
    The next morning he was found dead in the dirt. My heart was broken wondering if I could of done anything different.

    • (Sorry for the late reply, I missed the notification for this message!)
      I’m so sorry, that’s very hard. You didn’t move him far, it sounds like you moved him to a better place, and his parents had no problem finding him, so I think you acted well. The fact that you found him dead, but he wasn’t eaten, suggests to me that maybe he escaped a predation attempt before you found him but then died from injuries. If there are a lot of pets around then he may have had an encounter with them before you found him. (This is why it’s especially important to keep dogs on leashes and cats indoors during baby bird season – the young fledglings are very easy to catch.) At least you know that on his last day he was somewhere he could feel safe.

  98. Have you ever observed parents spending months trying to train their full-sized offspring to eat worms? I noticed the young birds chests looked caramel instead of red; they never learned and six robins were killed by predators and two flew into my window after the first serious snowfall. This year a pair of robins nested in my yard and everything went perfectly; the two bigger sibling birds were finding worms within an hour or three hours on the lawn respectively. The smallest stayed in the tree over night ( his momma fed him) and he landed on grass this morning. Now he is looking for worms on his own. My yard has been organic for nine years and it’s loaded with wildlife. Most neighbors use lawn chemicals. Please reply. I have other observations.

    • I’ve never observed or heard of young birds who were completely incapable of learning to feed themselves. Even young birds raised by humans with no parent to teach them will eventually, through some combination of instinct and trial-and-error, figure out how to find food (although more slowly than if parents teach them). If you observed the young birds begging from the parents for a long time, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they *couldn’t* feed themselves, just that they felt like begging was a better use of their time than foraging. If the parents never stopped feeding them, I could imagine the juveniles just never ceasing to beg.

      (Related to the robins flying into your window – there are many ways you can make your windows less dangerous for birds, varying in difficulty and appearance so you can choose what works for you. Here’s a good guide:

  99. Hello,

    I have a nest of three young starlings in a little nook under my porch onning. I’m always used to seeing mommy and daddy flying up and feeding them. They are getting big now and they are fully feathered and smooth, but still gray in color. Today I didn’t see momma or daddy since the morning. The babies are still in the nest and they will chirp every now and again. I know they are strong birds but I’m a little worried something happened to the parents. Are they just waiting for the babies to hop out of the nest? I know the European Starling fledglings are pretty independent and fly well when they leave the nest. I’m hoping the parents are just hanging around waiting for their kids to start being independent. Now I’m all worried. :( What do you think?

    Thank you for your time and stay safe!

    • The chicks sound like they’re just about ready to leave the nest. At that age they can easily go a while without eating; the parents may just be taking a break, or getting some food for themselves (or, as you suggest, trying to motivate the kiddos to get out and see the outside world!). It would be surprising if something bad happened to both parents simultaneously, so I would assume something benign unless you get more evidence of disaster.

  100. I have a question, I have a chickadee nest in my backyard and this morning the babies flew and left while the parents were gone. Now the parents have been at the nest frantically calling and puffing their feathers and going in and out of the bird house. Is this normal behavior? Do the babies chickadees leave and never come back? I’m so sad watching this mom and dad chickadee frantically searching for their babies. If anyone can help with an answer I’d greatly appreciate. I’ve been searching all day for an answer

    • It’s normal for the chicks to leave the nest, and for the parents to need to call to locate them (the parents call and the chicks call back). The “frantic” parent behavior is less normal – possibly it’s taking the parents a while to get used to the idea that the chicks have left, but I would expect that to be quickly resolved when the chicks chirp to the parents. I can’t think of any reason that they wouldn’t be able to find each other. Hopefully this was a temporary bit of confusion and all is well now!

      • Thank you for the response on the chickadees, the parents have been chirping like mad for two days straight now :( it is horrendously sad to see the dad chickadee crying the way he is and his behavior. Is there a chance the babies flew off for good by accident?

        • I don’t think there’s any chance that they ended up far away by accident. Young fledglings really don’t travel all that much, except to follow the parents around. If the chicks have vanished, I’m afraid they have been eaten by something.

          You say the parents have been chirping for two days though – that seems like a long time to me. I’ve seen birds defend failed nests for a day, and linger in the area for longer, but my sense is that usually any frantic-ness wears off within a day. Are you sure the chirping is “The babies are vanished!” and not “Okay I’ve got bugs for you again, Junior”? Chickadee families are pretty noisy, with the parents calling to the chicks and the chicks begging for food. You might not see the chicks at first, since they often hide for the first few days out of the nest. (I’m not trying to suggest that your observations are wrong – I think I’m more hoping to find a way that this doesn’t turn out badly…)

    • I found a newborn white dove about 4 years ago. Of course it had no feathers & it’s eyes weren’t Evan open. I COULDN’T leave that baby on the he ground because as you now know I feared cats, a hawk or something would get it so I picked it up and put it next tome where it was warm. Not knowing what to feed it – it dawned on me I had food that I fed my parrot when he was a baby so I mixed a little bit with warm water and used a syringe and he swallowed the food- I made it like a thin baby cereal! Low & behold he LIVED!! I named him LilBit & he got to where he flew all over my house, sat on our heads & I could Evan bathe him! I had him for about 31/2 years & he turned out to be a beautiful white wing dove. Well one day we were in my garden- him on my head & he suddenly left me. I figuered he had matured & needed to find a mate. I’d love to share a couple of pics with you.
      I would tell you if those fledgings flew off on their own – they were ready to leave the nest & like us- the mama is calling for them!
      If you ever find another like I did, get some Baby Parrot food ( it’s dry & keeps forever) use a small cryringe, make a warm thin “cereal” NOT WATER OR NOT TO THICK-& feed the “baby about every 2 hrs! GOOD LUCK
      I’d love to share some pics of my LilBit wit all of you folks!

  101. Like your care and knowledge. I have one out of four last fledgling that isn’t leaving the nest. Hope she makes it. The nest is in a cholla cactus and I can’t get to it.

    • Ah, that’s stressful! I saw that happen, rarely, when I was monitoring House Wren nests – one nestling getting left behind. In all cases I think there was something physically/developmentally wrong with it and it wouldn’t have survived anyway, but it was sad to see.
      More common, though, is just that some chicks take a day or two longer to leave the nest but are fine. I hope that’s the case here!

  102. Thank you for the informative article! Mourning Doves made a nest in one of the hanging baskets on our front porch. We noticed two baby chicks in the nest on May 30th, but by the next day there was only one. The remaining chick is now a fledgling and is hiding in the hydrangea plants
    that are near the porch. The parents don’t ever seem to be too far away, but we worry that a coyote or fox may find the fledgling since they tend to walk around in this area at night. So far, we have tried to keep our distance and let nature take its course, but we hate to think that something could happen to this little guy once it gets dark out. Thanks for any info. you can give us!

    • Sorry it took me a few days to see this! I know it’s hard to see young animals in danger but it sounds like everything is going as well as the doves could want: the chick fledged and has a good place to hide. Recently-fledged doves rely on being still and hidden for their protection. Some of them do get found by predators, but yours has as good a chance as any! (And any attempt at protection you might do would just scare the parents, so you’re absolutely taking the right approach just letting the animals be.)

  103. I found a fully feathered fledgling at my door step 3 days ago. I kept an eye on it for over 2 hrs. No nest in sight so I decided to bring it in and care for it until it can fly. I’ve been feeding it soft cat food, hard boiled egg yolks, canned peas and corn. He now willingly comes to me, chirps non stop and opens wide to eat. I keep it in my bathroom ensuite with the door closed because I have a cat. I know he doesn’t stand a chance at surviving unless he’s fully grow and can fend for himself. I want to do the right thing for the Robin but I don’t know what that is.

  104. How sad should I be? is there any hope?  For a month, I watched robins (mom and dad) build a nest outside my 3rd-floor apartment window, hatch eggs, care for 3 chicks.  One afternoon about 12 days after hatching, sitting in my room after an hour of silence there was lots of loud chattering, so I went to the open window, soon saw a crow flying toward the window and nest.  I shouted “no” (loud as I could) but the crow continued, landed beside the nest, and immediately took off.  It happened quickly and my view of the nest was blocked, so I don’t know what happened — did it grab one and fly away? grab all three? just check to be sure there were no more, after all were taken earlier? fly away to never return, spooked by my loud “no”?  Then several times a robin (mama? both?) visited the nest, but I never saw any babies. {I laid on the floor and tried to be “invisible” but it was wary, saw me and flew away, so not wanting to continue interfering, I stopped watching}  After a few hours there were no more visits, and the nest has been empty;  the adults stopped inhabiting the tree outside my window.  Is there any chance that the adult(s) realized their nest-location was known by the crow(s) so they carried the surviving chicks to another location?  Is there any hope for the baby robins?

    • I can’t give you any certainty, I’m afraid, but I can suggest an alternative to “the crow ate them all”.
      First, I should say that it is possible that the crow ate them all; crows are notorious nest predators. However, the date you give – about 12 days after hatching – tells me that the crow would have had some difficulty catching all of them, because robin chicks can fledge as early as 9 days after hatching (average is 13 days, but a predator will certainly cause chicks to fledge early). So what probably happened is that the crow found the nest and scared the chicks out of the nest, at an age when they were ready to leave the nest anyway. The crow may have grabbed one before the rest fled the nest – there’s no way to know – but I can say with confidence that the other chicks would not have stayed in the nest after that.
      Once the chicks were out of the nest, they would find hiding spots (usually in dense brush) and sit very still while their parents fed them, gradually over days becoming more active and adventurous. The crow would still be a threat, but he would have to find them again. The fact that you haven’t seen the parents in the tree lately isn’t especially worrisome because I would expect them to be busy foraging near wherever the chicks are now, which is probably some dense vegetation close to the ground.
      I’d advise against going on a big search for the chicks, because 1) they’re good at hiding, and 2) if you startle them into the open, they might be noticed by a predator. You could certainly keep your eyes out for adult robins carrying food in their bills, though; if you see that, you know they are feeding a chick. And in a week or so you might start seeing the chicks again, as they venture out – they’ll look like adults except with spotted breasts.
      Like I said, no certainty; but if I had to guess, based on what you’ve said, I’d say the crow probably got no more than one of the chicks.

  105. I have a fledgling crow on the side of my house right now. He has been nestled up for around three/four hours next to a big container of water I set out and been drinking out of.
    I also set out a plate of egg yolk with raw bits of steak and dog food all mixed in. Mom came and ate it, fed him a piece or two but I haven’t seen her come back in almost 2hrs.
    I’m also worried about night time predators, like raccoons, possums, and cats.
    Will Fledge be ok and protected during the night or is mom a deadbeat?

    • If the mom is around and fed him, then she’s paying attention and he should be fine. Fledgling are fine not being fed for several hours, and bird parents never feed them during the night. (This is different from mammals, which do feed their babies during the night – but that’s easier because they make milk. Birds would have to go get food during the night, and diurnal birds can’t see in the dark.) Nocturnal predators are a risk, but a normal and expected one; fledglings find somewhere to hunker down and sleep, and hope that they don’t get discovered.

      Thank you for just offering food, and not trying to feed the fledgling yourself! This is *much* safer for all involved.

  106. Wow, what a story! Baby doves eat something confusingly called “milk” that their parents produce in their throats; your baby parrot food must have been similar enough. At the wildlife hospital we feed them a special baby dove mix, which exists for people raising pigeons; but we use a stomach tube to feed them, to mimic how far the parents stick their heads down the baby’s throat. I’d strongly encourage anyone who finds a baby wild dove to try to get them to a wildlife rehabilitator because this is a pretty tricky set-up. I’m a bit surprised that you managed with just a syringe, but I’m very glad it worked out! Thanks for sharing your story.

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