Please stop “rescuing” baby birds and then asking me why they died

Please, please, please do not “rescue” baby birds if they are covered in feathers. They are fine: they are hiding, and being fed by their parents, and growing, and soon they will be able to fly even if they can’t yet. If you find a naked pink baby bird, and can’t see the nest it fell out of and put it back, then please use the internet to find a local wildlife rehabilitator and bring the animal to them. They know how to keep baby birds alive. It is difficult. If you try to raise a baby bird yourself, without specialized knowledge, it will probably die. I volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation hospital, and our care of baby birds is complicated, from determining the diet to the amount to the best way to house and eventually release them. We are constantly advised by trained veterinarians. This is not something you should be trying to do at home unless, for some reason, there is absolutely no way to get the animal to a rehabilitator (maybe you live on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean?), and even then, you should contact a rehabilitator and ask for advice. Don’t just try to guess. You will guess wrong.

I know you want to help. I know you mean well. But good intentions will not prevent you from killing a baby bird. And then you comment on this blog to ask me why it died, and I get so many of these comments, so many stories of people accidentally-but-avoidably killing birds, and it makes me dread checking the comments on this blog in case there is another one of these stories. The baby bird died because you are not a bird and not a trained wildlife rehabilitator. Let the birds raise their babies.

I covered this is in this older post, including ways that you can help birds.

This wildlife rehabilitator has a good article on how to tell if an animal needs your help.

9 thoughts on “Please stop “rescuing” baby birds and then asking me why they died

    • That’s a sad story, and illustrates another danger of interacting with baby wildlife: the risk that the animal will grow up thinking that humans are friendly, which is not a good attitude for a wild animal. A friendly bison calf is cute; a friendly adult bison is dangerous. (Although I do wish they could have placed the bison calf in that article in a zoo or something…)

  1. Pingback: Amendment: if you rescued a baby bird and it hasn’t died yet | Tough Little Birds

  2. I found a mockingbird in my yard. It had some feathers. It was flailing around in a circle with its head dragging on the ground. It seemed like the mother and a crow were at battle probably making sure that the crow did not attack the Baby Bird!. I made a nest and put it up in the tree as far up as I can get it and put the bird inside. It’s 115° here and after six hours the mother never went near the nest. The Baby Bird! was breathing heavy and I got nervous. I called the wildlife rehabilitation they just said leave it alone and let mother nature take it’s course. I’m sorry I cannot watch Baby Bird suffer and die in a nest that I made only to have to go up there and clean up the body. Why wouldn’t they take the Baby Bird… rehabilitated. I ended up bringing it to the vet to make sure that it didn’t have a broken neck they took x-rays and said it looked fine and thought it was more of a neurological problem. We had antibiotics and another medication for inflammation and they gave me back the bird. I’ve been feeding it freeze dried mealworms and blood worms. Adding water to it to make it soupy and then putting it on the tip of the cut off Q-tip while he eats it. I feed him until he acts like he doesn’t want anymore. He’ll actually throw the food out of his mouth when he’s done. I have a little saucer of water and he puts his beak down to it and drinks. He cleans himself, he does sit up with his head normal now but he cannot walk forward. He flails around backwards when he wants to get anywhere but he does consistently move. I have him in a infant bathtub with towels down. I have some freeze dried blood worms scattered on the ground in case he wants to try to pick them up with his beak. And I have a little saucer of water in there in case he tries to drink. I also have a heat lamp on him. It’s been a week and a half. Although he is now lifting up his head and looking little bit better. He still is not capable of walking around normal. I don’t know if this was just trauma from falling out of the Nest or if this is permanent damage and the mother kicked him out of the nest. I have no problem taking care of him if he can learn to eat on his own. So I guess the question is since the rehabilitation wildlife does not want to help when do I start introducing him to wild bird seed and what else can I offer him for food. He chirps when he’s hungry and he wants me to feed him otherwise he just lays there and flails around his home.

  3. So true… This makes me so sad… I made this exact mistake… Hard lesson to learn except the price was paid by poor bird parents who lost their baby whom they worked so hard for so many weeks to feed and care for… And for that poor creature. R. I. P. I will never touch a bird again who looks like it’s abandonned. I will let mother nature deal with the matter. That just broke my heart, and every time I hear a little “chip chip” my heart sinks. 😔😢

    • I’m so sorry, this is such a hard thing and it’s really an easy mistake to make. Wildlife orgs try to spread the information but it’s so easy to miss. I wish we could add it to school curricula or something. I hope the sound of baby birds doesn’t have bad associations for you forever! You can’t change the past but you can spread the word to friends and be an advocate for birds in the future. <3

  4. My grandmother found a little bird lying in water by my garden. She looked around and waited a while and it wasn’t moving just lying in the water, when she went to pick it up, it didn’t attempt to fly away or anything. It may have been a juvenile but it’s wings seemed quite formed and it was able to jump but not fly. Our wildlife center wouldn’t accept it because it is a starling I believe. I brought it home and put it in a lined box. I tried to feed it but it would try to eat then it didn’t want any. Around 10pm he went to sleep, I put some water and food and put it on a lined open box outside (incase it wanted to leave). When I came back in the morning it was dead. I am heartbroken and have been scouring the internet looking for what could have gone wrong. Could it be that it was Ill from the beginning? It was oddly ok with me petting him and wouldn’t try to avoid my hand or anything. Hoping you can tell me what may have happened.

    Thank you

    • Hi Zoe,
      I’m sorry, that’s a really rough experience. I think your starling was definitely in bad shape when your grandmother found him – not moving in water is *not* normal behavior. He sounds like a fledgling, so, old enough to be out of the nest but still dependent on the parents. He should have run away from your grandmother and been scared of you; that he wasn’t tells me that he was very sick, and I don’t think there is anything you could have done. That you tried to take him to wildlife center, and then tried to take care of him yourself, means that you did everything you could have. Thanks to you, he was dry and safe and free when he died – that’s not nothing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s