Watch & Wait
During Baby Bird Season (BBS), watch wildlife for an hour before interfering;
Call us before acting: 250-337-2021 or the emergency line at 250-897-2257.
May 1st through mid-August is a very busy time at MARS: Baby Bird Season is a time when we receive large numbers of phone calls and baby birds brought to our Wildlife Centre for care: often they have been kidnapped!!
Many of the birds we see are not injured, orphaned, or abandoned. The fact is that they are normal fledglings, on the ground, learning to find food and to fly. Many of these young birds are in the process of “fledging” (leaving the nest). In most species this takes several days. Often their parents are nearby or away for brief periods to hunt and find food to bring back to the baby.
If you find a baby bird that seems alone and in distress:
The best mother for a baby bird is its own mother, so before you intervene take these steps:
- Watch and Wait at least one hour, from a distance;
- Watch and listen for the parent birds;
- Put dogs, cats and curious children inside;
- Phone MARS before you take action.
If you find an injured bird:
The stress of captivity can kill wild birds, so if you find an injured bird:
- Drop a towel over the bird
- Quickly put the bird into a cardboard box, NOT a cage
- Close the lid — handle as little as possible
- Put it in a warm, dark, QUIET place
- DO NOT give it food OR water
- Keep children, cats and dogs away
- Phone MARS immediately; a volunteer will call back as soon as possible.
If you love wildlife and want to help ~ Don’t Touch: Watch & Wait
MARS Policy for accepting baby birds:
- We do not accept Starlings or Pigeons.
- We do not pick up baby birds.
Developmental Stages of Baby Birds
Nestlings are either blind or naked or have pinfeathers and some fluff. They can be knocked from the nest by high winds, plucked from the nest by predators, or evicted from the nest due to aggressive siblings or by parents who know there is a problem with the baby.
- The “healthy” birds can be replaced in the nest, which is probably located near where the orphan was found. It is a myth that the parents won’t return to the baby once you’ve handled it.
- By watching from a distance, for an hour, you should notice bird activity. By patiently watching, the parents should reveal where the nest is located when they come and go about feeding. Very young birds are fed every approximately 15 minutes, or less, all day long.
- Carefully place the baby back in the nest. If the baby is naked, blind and feels cold to the touch, warm it in your cupped hands first.
- You should ensure that you are putting the baby back in the right nest, by checking the other siblings to see if they are the same age and species. A mirror can be handy for doing this without disturbing the other occupants.
- If the nest is out of sight or reach, or destroyed, but the parents are obviously nearby, then a substitute nest can be made.
- Use a yogurt container, with drainage holes drilled in the bottom or a strawberry basket for small to medium sized birds. Larger birds will need larger baskets.
- The nest should be fashioned in a cup shape out of dry ~ not green ~ grasses. It should not be any larger or deeper than the bird that is going to live in it, but it should be able to expand some as the baby grows.
- If the bird is a cavity nesting bird, then a box should be placed around the nest with a hole that allows the parents to enter and leave as needed.
- Give the baby a roughened area to climb out when the time comes. Attach the substitute nest to the branch, or trunk securely, as close to the original location as possible.
- Observe the nest for an hour or more, from a distance, to ensure the parents have heard and answer the baby’s feeding chirps.
Branchers are fully feathered and tend to want to stand on the edge of the nest or a nearby branch (thus their name). They often fall, jump, are pushed or predated. The parents will feed them even if they aren’t in the nest.
- They can be placed back on a nearby branch and then left alone. It is critical that this is done as soon after the baby is found as possible.
Fledglings are ready to leave the nest. This is a natural event, and it doesn’t matter how many times you put them in the nest, they will immediately jump out. They don’t fly well for the first day or two.
- They can be placed in the nearby bushes for cover, and the parents will feed them, and show them how to hunt for food, and how to recognize predators – including humans.
- Ask neighbors to keep dogs on a leash for a day or two and keep cats inside. The babies will soon learn to fly well enough to escape.