When you have a beautiful garden, it’s irresistible for creatures of the wild such as birds to visit and nest among the trees. Inevitably, some baby birds leave the nest accidentally and fall to the ground. As a human being, you have the instinct to save the baby bird on the ground and do whatever you can to help it survive.
The First Thing to Do
It can be heart-wrenching to find a baby bird out of its nest that it can stir up your sense of responsibility to nurse the fallen baby bird back to health. It’s noble and heroic, but before you go all out to nurse and feed a baby bird, you should evaluate the situation first.
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Look for Support
Before taking baby birds to your custody, you must ensure that it is already abandoned. If you are not 100% fully committed to caring for wild birds, you can ask a wildlife rehabilitator for support or turn it over to a rehabilitation centre to save the wild baby bird.
Identify the Baby Bird
If you’re not proficient with birds, there are easy ways to identify if you have an altricial bird or precocial bird. Altricial birds are entirely dependent on their mother for food and warmth primarily because they are born with their eyes closed and without feathers. Most songbirds and perching birds such as cardinals, robins, and blue jays are altricial. If you live in a suburban area, you may stumble upon a helpless baby bird that requires assistance. If you can find its nest and you can bring it back, do so.
Precocial birds such as killdeers, ducks and geese are easier to care for as they are more developed upon hatching. Their eyes are open and have soft downy feathers, making it easier for their mothers to guide them to walk and peck food. This type of bird is usually nested at ground level. So, before picking up the chicks, it’s best to observe first if there’s a mother bird that will reunite with their lost chick.
Verify the Baby Bird’s Age
If you find a baby bird perching that you think has been abandoned or fallen from its nest, you must identify if the baby bird you found is nesting or fledging. Knowing the development stage of the bird is crucial to help you provide the proper care.
Nestling baby birds are not fully developed birds that are too young to leave the nest. Because of its undeveloped feathers and eyesight, a nestling baby bird has a meagre chance of survival when left on its own.
Fledgling baby birds are more developed birds and have the potential to learn how to fly. You have to be observant before taking in a fledgling baby bird. It may appear crying for help, but you have to make sure that the baby bird has been abandoned by its parent. The situation could have been that the baby bird is learning to fly and fell – if so, there’s a high probability that its parents will come and feed the bird.
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The most crucial part of baby bird rescue is to secure their safety. Feeble as they are, baby birds can’t fend for themselves and are an easy target for predators. Scan the nearby surroundings to find where the baby bird belongs to. When you find the nest, return the young bird and leave as soon as possible. If you find dead chicks inside the nest, there is a high possibility that the baby birds have already been abandoned. If that’s the case, prepare a substitute nest where you can safely care for the baby bird. Ensure that the bird is safe from harm, especially if you have other pets.
It is still best to seek professional advice from a rehabilitator or veterinarian. If you have a wild baby bird in your custody, you must report it to the proper authorities to ensure its safety and well-being. It is illegal to keep wild birds in captivity unless you have the proper permits and licenses.
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How to Feed a Baby Bird
Feeding baby birds requires a lot of time, effort and dedication. Baby birds have a demanding feeding schedule, and to feed a baby bird may require special equipment that only the rehabilitation centre has. Feeding a baby bird is not as urgent as it may seem, which gives you ample time to assess the situation. Baby birds can survive as long as 24 hours without feeding; if you don’t have the proper guidance, do not attempt to feed the baby bird as it may cause more harm than good.
If you have to care for the bird yourself, you must know what to feed a baby bird and what tools you can use to effectively feed the found baby bird.
Diet to Feed Baby Birds
The diet of baby birds varies depending on their breed and age. But, before choosing the proper nourishment for the young birds, you have to be aware of the food items they should not ingest.
What not to Feed Baby Birds
Unlike mammals that rely on milk for nourishment, baby birds can drown if you give them liquids such as water and milk. Fluid supplements can fill the baby bird’s lung that causes them to drown. When the bird eventually develops and can hop around, you can provide a shallow container filled with water to allow them to drink by themselves.
A popular belief that birds eat bread primarily does not apply to baby birds. The same goes with adult birds food; worm, birdseed, whole grains, and kitchen scrap should not be fed to baby birds.
Recommended Baby Bird Food
It may sound surprising, but some human food and pet food can be given to a rescued baby bird. High-protein food can be given; these include raw liver, hard-boiled egg, moistened dog food, cat food and dog treats. But, you still have to consider the breed type and age before giving the birds food.
As the baby bird develops, you can start giving them suitable food based on their type. Insect-eating birds can consume crickets, earthworms and grasshoppers as long as they are chopped into bits. Fruit-eating birds can eat grapes, berries, and raisins soaked in water.
Some birds require a special diet. There is a substitute milk formula for such birds (pigeons, doves, and parrot-like breeds) that they can consume. Hummingbirds that depend on nectars for food will need a specialized formula. At the same time, fish-eating birds can eat chopped-up minnows.
Feeding Tools and Techniques
Feeding the bird yourself could be daunting and delicate at the same time. Here are some tips and tools to help you get the bird food properly to your rescue.
Considering that a baby bird will be ingesting the food, the bird food you give should be spongy in texture. You can moisten the dog food kibble with water, but it should not be drippy with liquid to avoid drowning the baby bird. You should serve the baby bird food at room temperature.
Cut the kibbles or the hard-boiled egg into tiny pieces suitable for the bird’s size. The aim is to avoid the risk of stress and injury to the bird. Therefore, do not force the bird’s beak to open when feeding.
Tools and Techniques
Feeding baby birds require a particular method – unless you are a bird. For hand-feeding the baby bird, you can utilize plastic forceps, tweezers or thin chopsticks to fit the bird’s mouth. You can tap the baby bird’s beak lightly to signal the baby bird that it’s time to eat. When it opens, you have to drop the food in its mouth. If the bird won’t open its beak, gently force it to open. Keep feeding the baby bird until it rejects the food you are giving but avoid overfeeding the chick.
When you find a baby bird, and you commit yourself to taking care of it, you should be ready to give time to feed it. A baby bird needs to feed every 15 to 20 minutes – its parents make a lot of effort and trips to provide food for the chicks. You don’t necessarily need to stay up 24/7 to feed the baby chick, but this schedule applies from sunrise to sundown.
When the bird grows feathers and opens its eyes, you can change the feeding interval to 30 to 45 minutes. You can feed it every hour when it starts hopping around, then gradually change the feeding schedule with 2 to 3 hours intervals until the bird learns to peck its food.
Taking care of baby birds can be an exciting new venture. However, it’s not as easy as it seems. If you find a baby bird perching on the ground, there could be possibilities other than it needs to be taken away from its wildlife. Birds need to be in their natural habitat. It is still best to find the fallen bird’s nest to make sure it is not abandoned. But if it is, call the proper wildlife authorities to take care of the situation.
Feeding the bird yourself should be the last option when all else fails. If it comes to that, be mindful of the baby bird’s diet and prioritize its safety first and foremost.