First aid

I Found An Injured Bird

Anaëlle Laurent
By Anaëlle Laurent. Updated: March 21, 2024
I Found An Injured Bird

When spring ends and summer begins, high temperatures cause baby birds to jump out of their nests, even if they are not ready to fly yet. There are also other reasons why a bird can jump from their nest, such as a predator's attack.

This is why, unfortunately it is fairly common to find an injured bird or a fallen baby bird. In this AnimalWised article we will guide you through what to do if you find yourself in this situation. This way, you can correctly care for the bird and help them survive.

  1. How baby birds develop
  2. Different bird diets
  3. What do I feed a baby bird?
  4. What do baby birds drink?
  5. What to do if you find a fallen baby bird
  6. What should I do if I find an injured or abandoned bird?

How baby birds develop

The time that elapses from hatching to maturity varies between different bird species. The smallest usually mature faster and pass from small newborn chicks to young adventurers in a few weeks. As for larger species, such as raptors, they remain in the nest with their parents for several months.

However, sexual maturity, usually takes longer. For small birds it may take between one and two years, while it can take several years for long-lived large species.

When the babies hatch out of their eggs, they can be altricial or precocial:

  • Altricial: no feathers, eyes closed, completely dependent on their parents. Some examples of altricial birds are songbirds, hummingbirds and crows.

  • Precocial: born with down (soft feathers), eyes open, are able to walk almost immediately. Some examples of recocial birds are ducks, geese and quails.

During their first days of life after hatching, all chicks need a lot of care from their parents, including precocial birds. Their parents give them heat, protection, food (or guide them towards food) and defend them from predators.

At first, the chicks eat several times per hour. Altricial birds are clumsy, weak and can't move much. They ask for food by opening their beaks. As they grow and strengthen, they develop their first feathers. On the other hand, precocial birds can walk or swim immediately, making them more independent. However, they tire easily and stay close to their parents.

As altricial birds grow, they develop feathers, open their eyes and grow larger, gain weight and begin to move more than they could when they were born. Once grown, they are covered with feathers. There may be areas, such as the head and face, without feathers. At the same time, precocial birds become larger, stronger and develop more mature feathers.

Once the chicks have reached their full adult size, several things can happen. In some species, young birds stay with parents until the next breeding season. In other cases, families can stay together for a lifetime. In other species, parents abandon their young chicks once they are self-sufficient.

Different bird diets

When we find an abandoned bird, the first thing we want to do is feed it. So we try to give it bread or cookies dipped in water or milk. Doing this, we are making several mistakes that can result in the death of the animal. Both the bread and the cookies that humans normally consume, are ultra-processed foods, rich in sugar and refined oils. These types of food are harmful to our own health and deadly to birds.

Mixing food with water does not pose a risk. In fact, it can be beneficial as we make sure that the animal is hydrated. However, using milk goes against the nature of the bird, since birds are not mammals. The only animals that should drink milk are the offspring of mammals. Birds do not have the enzymes needed to process milk in their digestive system. This is why feeding them milk causes severe diarrhea that ends up killing the animal.

So what do birds eat? That depends on the species of bird. Here are the different types of bird diets:

  • Avivorous: eat other small birds. Some examples are sharp-shinned hawks, american krestrels and peregrine falcons.
  • Carnivorous: eat meat, including rodents, mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles. Some examples are vultures, eagles and terror birds.
  • Frugivorous: eat fruit and berries. Some examples are toucans, aracaris and cotingas.
  • Granivorous: primarily eat grains and seeds. Some examples are sparrows, finches and pigeons.
  • Insectivorous: eat insects. Some examples are new world warblers, spadebills and pewees.
  • Molluscivorous: eat mollusks such as snails, slugs or oysters. Some examples are limpkins and shorebirds.
  • Mucivorous: eat sap from plants and trees. Some examples are woodpeckers, waxwings and warblers.
  • Nectorivorous: feed on flower nectar. For example, all the species of hummingbirds.
  • Ophiophagous: eat snakes. Some examples are the snake eagle and secretary bird.
  • Palynivorous: feed off pollen. Few birds are strictly palynivorous, mostly are nectorivors and palynivors.
  • Piscivorous: eat fish. Some examples are ospreys, mergansers and even some raptors.
  • Omnivorous: eat what's available. This is the most common. Although they show preferences, omnivore birds eat a widely varied diet. Some examples are ducks, jays and ravens.

Although in a city it will be more common to encounter crows, sparrows and jays, it's still very important to know how varied bird diets are and how different they can be to humans.

I Found An Injured Bird - Different bird diets

What do I feed a baby bird?

If you find a baby bird that needs to be fed, it is important to contact your local bird or wildlife center for professional assistance. If you live in the United States, it's important to note that it is illegal to “try to care”, “rehabilitate” or “rescue” a wild bird. It is best to call your local wildlife rehabilitation center and allow professionals to care for the bird. However, until that is possible you may need to feed the bird so it can survive.

As we've previously mentioned, every wild bird has a different diet. Nevertheless, in crucial situations, certain types of food can serve as emergency rations when necessary. It's also important to note that chicks have different nutritional needs than adult birds.

Here are some high protein sources that can be easy to find:

  • Earth worms, meal worms or waxworms
  • Crickets
  • Canned or soaked dry cat food
  • Commercial parrot formulas

For baby pigeons or doves you can make a processed formula with:

  • Cornmeal
  • Ground bird seeds
  • Vegan milk (soy, oat or almond)

Under no circumstances should you feed a baby bird these following food as it will kill them:

  • Any milk with lactose
  • Bread, cookies, pasta
  • Any processed food
  • High fat meat

However, we cannot stress enough how difficult it is to care for a wild birds. To prevent their death it is highly important you contact a professional.

What do baby birds drink?

Baby birds do not drink water to be hydrated. Instead they receive proper hydration from moist foods. Do not offer water to a bird until it is walking or perching. If the bird if dehydrated, they need the fluids by injection. It is the only safe way and it must be done by a professional. Contact your local veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitation center to help the chick survive.

What to do if you find a fallen baby bird

If you have found a fallen baby bird, the best thing to do is to find their nest and place it back home. There is a misguiding myth that a human's scent on a chick may lead their parents to abandoning them. However, this claim is false. A parent will only abandon their nest if the nest is no longer safe from predators or if they have died. One way of verifying if the parents have left is by checking the nest. If there are one or two dead chicks still within the nest, then that means that the nest has been abandoned. The best thing to do is to take the surviving chicks to a wildlife rehabilitation center. If the nest has broken or fallen down, try to fix it to the best of your abilities and place it back. As baby birds grow quickly and usually only spend a couple of weeks in the nest, the parents will continue to try to raise them even if the nest has taken some damage.

When placing a baby chick back to their nest be very careful with how you handle the chick. Do not hold them by their legs or wings. If you are right handed, hold the baby bird in your cupped left hand and cover it with your right hand as, because they are frightened, they may try to jump or flap their wings. Try not to stress them more than they already are. Walk slowly, try not to be loud and return them to their nest. Do not feed them or give them water as it will probably do them more harm than good. The best thing for them is to be back in their nest under their parent's protection.

I Found An Injured Bird - What to do if you find a fallen baby bird

What should I do if I find an injured or abandoned bird?

It is common to think that if we find a bird on the ground it is because they have been abandoned and need our protection and care. However, it is not always the case and removing it from the place where we found them can lead to the death of the animal.

The first thing we must do is make sure that they are not injured. If they are indeed injured, it is important that we contact our local wildlife rehabilitation center.

Before assuming they are injured it is important to note that when birds are learning to fly they may often practice on the ground and take refuge in bushes. If this is the case, the bird is safe and should be left alone. Other times, when birds get injured by running into a window or being attacked by a cat, they may stay still in shock or simply because they are very tired. In these cases, we can look after the bird by leaving it where it is and giving them time to recover. You might just be surprised that after a few moments they get up and fly away.

In other unfortunate occasions, the bird is seriously injured and cannot recover on their own. In these cases the only solution is to get in contact with a professional. As we have mentioned various times in this article, the best solution is to call your local wildlife rehabilitation center. If you do not know their number or cannot find it online, you can contact a local veterinarian that will surely be able to provide you with this information.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to I Found An Injured Bird, we recommend you visit our First aid category.

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I Found An Injured Bird