Baby birds are appearing on limbs, the ground and in pet’s mouths, but help is possible if you just know what to do.
First and foremost to help prevent the death or injury is by keeping your cats inside and watch your dogs. Domestic pets are now the No. 1 cause of death in urban wildlife. Any native North American mammal or songbird in need of care should be helped quickly in getting them into the care of a wildlife rehabilitator.
Here are a few easy steps you can do to help our little feathered friends:
▪ The No. 1 myth: if you touch a baby bird its mother will not take it. Mother birds want their young. Put the baby bird right back in the nest IF it is warm to the touch. If not simply warm the bird in your hands. The parents will not care for a baby that is cold.
▪ If the nest is down, place it back in the tree in a safe spot and the parents will likely return. It may not be immediately so a watchful eye is important. Give it a few hours.
▪ If the nest is in tatters, place what is there in a container that cannot hold water and place it as high as you can reach. A plastic butter tub with holes in the bottom works well.
▪ Never attempt to feed a baby bird as this may cause more harm than good. Putting anything in the mouth can block the airway and cause instant death. Also, cow’s milk is toxic to most birds and wild mammals.
▪ IF the bird is fully feathered and does not appear to be injured it’s probably a fledgling which means it’s almost ready to fly. Allow it to stay where it is and keep pets, (especially cats) and children away. The parents will feed it on the ground until it can fly. This transition from fledgling to fully-flighted adult takes only 12-18 hours.
When these steps are not possible, or the baby is injured, put it in a box with T-shirt material and keep it warm and quiet.
Now you need to call for help. Some of the numbers you need can be found on line; look for wildlife rehabilitators or call the wildlife commission.
Years of research has provided formulas that we use to promote good development in both birds and mammals. Those of us trained to do proper rehabilitation have these special formulas on hand and can keep the babies on track.
Want to help? Good-hearted and dependable volunteers are always needed to feed, clean and care for these babies in the busy season. Tiny babies need to be fed every 30 minutes from first light to dark, so assisting a few hours a day on a regular schedule is of great help.. If you have a skill such as carpentry or work with boy and girl scouts, we always need nesting boxes and cages to safely house these babies. If you have some time each week there are people who find creatures and can’t get them to us, so a transport volunteer really comes in handy.
Finally, and you knew this was coming, there are financial donations so we can continue to buy the necessary formulas and food. As one donor said, “I can’t tube a possum, but I can write a check.” Her selfless contribution has helped save many opossums, rabbits, squirrels and birds which enrich our lives on a daily basis. These financial donations are tax deductible.
Linda Ostrand of Hillsborough has been a state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator for more than 25 years. She can be reached at at her nonprofit organization Our Wild Neighbors: 919-428-0896