By Krista Morgan
Each year hundreds of people find “orphan” baby birds. Many of these orphans end up being hand-raised, usually without success, in captivity. Few of these baby birds are truly orphans. The following information will provide you with the steps you should follow if you come upon a baby bird you feel is in need of a helping hand.
1. It does not matter if the baby bird has been touched by humans. The parent birds will not reject it due to scent because birds have little sense of smell.
2. Look for the nest in the area where the bird was found. Remember that nests may be found in unusual places such as hanging baskets, on roofs of buildings, and even on the ground.
3. Next, determine whether the baby is a fledgling or an “infant”. An infant may be pink and naked, fuzzy or downy, or covered with developing “pin” feathers. An infant needs to be in a nest with almost constant parental care. A fledgling bird has feathers, a short stump of a tail and a not-quite-grown look. The fledgling is at a normal stage of development where it will no longer stay in the nest even if you put it back in. The fledgling is being coaxed by its parents to find its own food. The best way to help a fledgling is to put it in a nearby bush or shrub, not too high up in case it falls or jumps. You may also help by keeping an eye on the baby, but at this point you must rely on Mother Nature to work out the problem. An infant bird, however, needs to be returned to its parents. If the original nest can’t be found, make an artificial nest from a plastic berry box, hanging basket, or similar container. Place the nest and baby securely in the nearest and safest spot to where the baby was found. The parents will come to care for the baby when they hear it call for food.
4. If you have tried these suggestions to no avail, contact the Louisiana Nature Center for more advice.
5. If you must provide temporary care to an orphan bird, here is the information you need:
Place the baby in a “nest” (margarine tub with paper towel in the bottom) and place the nest in a cardboard box. A top may be needed to keep “fledglings” in. Place the box in a warm, quiet, safe place. Do not handle the bird unnecessarily. The best temporary diet for most baby birds is dry cat or dog food soaked in warm water until it is soft. If the baby is hungry it will open its mouth when the nest is jostled. When the baby is full it will no longer accept food willingly. The bird will need to be fed approximately every 15-30 minutes from sun-up to sun-down. Don’t attempt to force water or milk into any bird’s mouth.