I Found an Injured Bird: What to Do

What to Do If You Find an Injured Bird

The Basics of Stabilizing Injured Wild Birds

Chances are good that, sooner or later, everyone will come across a hurt or sick wild bird*. Many of us are kind-hearted, caring individuals who want to help, but don't necessarily know what to do. Well actually, you can help and here is how. The three most important and immediate provisions for stabilizing injured wildlife are as follows: quiet, darkness and warmth.

Stress and shock are both preventable but common causes of death in the first 24-48 hours. Total darkness will help the bird stay calm. Put the bird into a small cardboard box lined with paper towels or fabric (do not use fabric with loops like terry-cloth, as little toes can become hopelessly tangled.) You want the bird to remain fairly still, so the size of the box should be somewhat cozy. Cover the box with a towel or an old sweatshirt...something a little bit heavy. If the box has a lid, like a shoebox, it is fine to use it, as long as there are a few small holes for air.

How (and When) to Catch an Injured Wild Bird*

If a bird is not flying, there is a reason for it. This reason could be because it is a fledgling, especially if it is mid-summer and the bird in question has a short tail and/or looks downy or fluffy. It is normal for a baby bird to leave the nest before it can fly. The parents are probably nearby and will continue to care for their young for some time yet. The best place for baby wild birds is with their parents. Please do NOT "kidnap" baby birds from their parents. Do keep dogs and cats indoors: then, watch from a distance for up to 2 hours. If the parents don't show themselves in that amount of time, you may legitimately have an orphan.

If the bird is not a fledgling and is on the ground, unable to fly, it is likely injured or sick. The easiest way to catch a bird that is running away is to use a blanket, sheet or even a sweatshirt. Throw the blanket over the bird to calm them, then pick them up, through the blanket, and put them in a box. A bird that is shivering or being hounded by flies, is unquestionably in need of rescuing.

*Note: I am NOT talking about raptors. Raptors have particularly dangerous beaks and talons; I recommend calling the nearest wild bird center or bird rehabilitater if you find a raptor.


Now place the box in a quiet location. Again, you want the bird to be able to remain as calm as possible; any chance of healing will depend on it. A dark closet, storage room or extra bathroom will work well.

An injured bird will be in shock and, as with humans, will be unable to regulate its body temperature. Keeping it warm is essential. If you have a heating pad, set it on low and place it under half of the bird's box. The idea is that the bird could move on or off the heat source as needed. Do not put the heating pad into the box; it could be too warm for the bird. If you have no heating pad, fill a plastic bottle with hot water (not boiling, just hot), wrap the bottle in a towel and place it next to the bird, inside the box. If the box is too small to accommodate both bottle and bird, setting the bottle against one side of the box is the next best thing.

Now, get on the phone or on-line and find a licensed wild bird rehabilitator.

*Note: I do NOT recommend handling raptors. Raptors have dangerous talons and beaks: if you find an injured raptor, call a wild bird center or bird rehabilitator right away. Also, be warned that large water birds are very strong and might aim for your eyes...wear sunglasses. Lastly, know that male turkeys have spurs on the back of their legs, and they aren't afraid to use them. So, enough with the warnings. I hope I haven't scared you off altogether, just use your common sense here!

The Do's and Do Not's of Helping an Injured Bird

Do's
Do Not's
Do keep the bird as calm as possible in a quiet, dark place.
Do not handle the bird any more than the bare minimum.
Do keep the bird warm (but not hot.) An exception here would be a bird that is suffering from hyperthermia (i.e., it has overheated.)
Do not play with the bird, even if it seems "friendly." Shock can make a bird act unafraid.
Do resist the temptation to show the bird to others, this is just traumatizing an already injured bird.
Do not feed a bird that is in shock, wait 24-48 hours unless the rehabber tells you otherwise.
Do handle the bird as gently as possible and only when necessary. Birds have no diaphragm and, therefore, use their chest muscles to breath. A tight hold around their body can suffocate them.
Do not put a wild bird in a bird cage. They can damage feathers and injure themselves further on wire bars. Use a cardboard box.
Do provide water, but in an extremely shallow dish, (like an upside-down jar lid.) An injured bird can be completely out of kilter. They can drown in even a small amount of water.
Never force any liquids in the bird's mouth, they can aspirate liquids and drown or develop pneumonia.
Do wash your hands with soap after handling the bird.
Do NOT try to keep the bird. It is extremely difficult, not to mention illegal, (in the U.S.) to keep wild birds.
Do call a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible!
 

A Simple Solution for Saving Birds...

How to Find a Wild Bird Center or Bird Rehabilitator

Many licensed rehabilitators do not list themselves in the phone book, so finding the closest one to you might take a few calls or a little research. Keep in mind that most wildlife rehabilitators are volunteers that are doing this out of the kindness of their hearts. In most cases, being a wildlife rehabilitator is not a paid position. In fact, the rehabilitator is often footing all of the costs him or herself. So, please be kind and know that a willingness to transport the bird to the rehabber is usually much appreciated. Also, keep in mind that the license probably does not allow them to display birds, so please don't ask to see the other birds at the facility.

To find a wildlife rehabber in the U.S. or Canada, try the links below:

Or, call your local veterinarian, Audubon Society or humane society for a list of referrals.

More by this Author


Comments 40 comments

K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California

What a compassionate hub. Love your "The Do's and Do Not's of Helping an Injured Bird" chart. I adore birds and it would be so hard to watch one get hurt, but with your tips for helping a bird through its injuries, I would feel like I had a chance at success. Unique topic and awesome advice.

Great work as usual!

HubHugs~

K9


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

We have a facility here that cares for injured birds. They get pelicans with fish twine around them, and other injuries. Nice info. Hub.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

I have taken many a bird to the rehab center. They get them well and then if they can let them go. We once came home and found our 13 year old son in our kitchen with ana great horned owl on his arm. He had found it in a trap.

Good information on your hub.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

What excellent advice! I, too, have come across an injured bird more than once, and the old shoebox-in-a-closet method really does do wonders! Great tip about water, though- I had not done that and feel kind of bad about it. I'm so glad you've shared this good advice!


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 4 years ago from The Zoo Author

Thanks so much K9, Mary, Moonlake and Simone. I'm sure you are all included in the "kind-hearted types that want to help.":)


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Mrs. Menagerie, great tips and advice to help an injured bird if you happen to find one .This information will help us help those beautiful injured birds, thanks .

Have a wonderful Christmas !!!


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 4 years ago from The Zoo Author

Thanks Tom and happy holidays!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Awesome advice. Having been through a few injured birds, I know that calm, quiet, warmth in a confined space, and no hands-on are the best keys for success in the early moments.

Great tip about not using any loopy fabric like terry cloth.

I learned the phone number of my local wildlife rehabber the hard way, as in on the spot in a moment of crisis. But folks can be prepared ahead of time if they do a little research and know the person they need to call when a bird's in need.

The Do's and Do Not's are critical information.

Voted up and useful.


John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

I found an injured bird once, it was a cold day so I put him close to my heater at home on a large cage which I had in my garage. I nursed it for about 1 week (went to store and bought bird feed...) and he was well after that. Actually, I don't think there was that much wrong with him in the first place, but because we have cats all over the place, I was afraid they might hurt him...

Enjoyed your hub and gave it "thumbs up"

John


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 4 years ago from The Zoo Author

Sally and John, you are obviously saints!


colpolbear profile image

colpolbear 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

This is a fantastic Hub! I once found a bird on my front porch in obvious need of help. My neighbor is a "vet" and told us to leave it alone to die in peace without even looking at it. This Hub makes me regret not doing anything even more. Next time, I'll know what to do though. Thank you!


Swetankraj profile image

Swetankraj 4 years ago from India

This is great hub! And Congrats for being selected as hub of the day! Really it's a great and i admire it to read to everyone. I also shared it to my friends. It is necessary to take some measurable precautions if you find a bird in such circumstances. Your Do's And Do Not's Part i like most and really beautifully explained in decent manner. Voted up!


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 4 years ago from Brazil

Very sound advice. My husband and I have had many injured or young birds that we have cared for. In England, we had a jackdaw fall down the chimney from the nest they had built in there.

Here in Brazil, we have had, a smooth billed Ani, a conure, and are currently raising a young owl that fell out of a coconut tree. These are fed and watered until they are ready to fly away.


elanger333 profile image

elanger333 4 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This is wonderful. Its important to help out wounded animals and this gives us a better idea as of what to do and what not to do. Thank you.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Great advice! We once rescued a robin who lived with us for about a month. The most important thing is not to give liquids. So many people do and the birds aspirate and die almost instantly. I have found soaking a tiny piece of bread in water and offering to the bird (after the first 24 hours) is a good way to get the bird started. Voted up and useful. Thanks for SHARING.


Huntgoddess profile image

Huntgoddess 4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

I really love this information. I always call the city when I find an injured bird uptown, but it's such a big hassle, and they kind of act like you're wasting their time.

They used to be nicer about it.

Also, what about buildings with huge glass windows? Those can be a cause of injuries and even fatalities for birds. I think they should have a hawk decal or something.


ChaplinSpeaks profile image

ChaplinSpeaks 4 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

Thank you for a very informative hub about wild birds. Yes, we have met the statistics once and rescued an injured bird, most likely injured by our cat:( Ironically, we used the small cat carrier to transport the bird to the wildlife rescue center. As you mentioned, these centers are usually volunteer type operations, so please consider a donation when you leave!

Great tips about the raptors!

Congratulations on Hub of the Day!


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Great information! My daughter and I have rescued many injured birds and taken them to the Wildlife Sanctuary in St. Louis. One day, while I was at work, a homeless man found an injured bird on the sidewalk, who had likely flown into the brick building where I worked. He gently held him up to show me outside my window on the world. I quickly made up a box with leaves to lay on. Since I could not leave work to take him to help, I called the courier, who happened to have a woman on staff that used to work at the sanctuary, and after I convinced the courier service, they did not have to worry about liability; that the bird was sure to die without help, they quickly arrived and transported the bird to the sanctuary. I paid for the trip and it was the best $18 I've spent. I got a call from the sanctuary and they told me the bird was a rare woodpecker, not usually seen in our locale, and he recovered fully. I never saw the homeless man again that cared enough to make a difference that this story had a happy ending.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 4 years ago from sunny Florida

You give sound advice here. My daughter worked for wild life rehab and had encounters with many injured animals including birds.

One day on the way home we found an injured baby pelican. She was terrified and flopping around furiously. One of us ran home and got a blanket to wrap her in. Then carefully covered her to calm her. Since she was such a large bird, we called the bird shelter in our area and they came and rescued our fledgling baby. Thank you for sharing this.


arusho profile image

arusho 4 years ago from University Place, Wa.

Great hub, I've never rescued an injured bird, but this is great information I may have to put to use someday. I have a hub about crows and ravens I will link to your hub! Great job!


Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

This is good to know, sometimes it's easy for well-meaning people to do more harm than good. You've probably saved a few birds today.


CloudExplorer profile image

CloudExplorer 4 years ago from New York City

I never came across an injured bird before, maybe since I live in the city, and everything gets swept up quite frequently here. I will use such great info when that day comes if need be, thanks for providing such useful information to us all. Voted up!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Thanks for the advice. I have not come across an injured bird, but as you say chances are I will. I shall then recall this. Congratulations on H of D.


Moon Willow Lake profile image

Moon Willow Lake 4 years ago

I never knew what to do with an injured bird before, so thank-you so much for the information! A co-worker at a previous job I had and I one day found a small bird (in fall, not a baby) just sitting still on the sidewalk of an outdoor walkway between two buildings. We gently moved it to an area next to the sidewalk in an attempt to move it out of harm's way, but just didn't know what to do otherwise. It was looking at us and moving its head, but not its legs or wings. I will certainly keep this in mind for any future situations. It's information like this that needs to get taught at our public schools when we are young as I surely never learned any of this until now.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

Congratulations on Hub of the Day! Well done.

This is an excellent article with lots of great advice. Just one more cautionary tip--be sure to check your area for 'what to do' if you live where bird flu and/or West Nile Virus are a problem.

Make the phone calls first, and find out whether or not to even approach the bird to try to help. You may be advised to keep away until the professionals arrive. This is also true if you find a dead bird. Don't touch it until you make those phone calls.


radhikasree profile image

radhikasree 4 years ago from Mumbai,India

Rescuing the injured is a divine job of service. If you succeed in doing that, you're definitely staying near to God. Great advice for helping and nursing an injured bird.

Voted up as useful and awesome.


oldandwise 4 years ago

Very informative hub. voted up!


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

I appreciate this article. Thank You.

Wakan Tanka will watch over You.

Hoka-hey.


cashmere profile image

cashmere 4 years ago from India

About a month and half ago I had a pigeon which was injured fly on to my terrace. I put down some grain and water for it and it stayed there for five days as its wing healed. Then one day it just flew off


Gemini Fox profile image

Gemini Fox 4 years ago

Thank you for the information! I took birds to a rehab center in Phoenix every once in a while (think they took other wild animals as well). Unfortunately, I don't think that most people even know that they exist!

Currently have glass french doors and every once in awhile birds fly into them. I've always done as you suggest and put them in a cardboard box for a awhile and thankfully(!) I've always had them fly away happy afterwards!


Trinity M profile image

Trinity M 4 years ago

Lovely article and extremely helpful! I always find injured birds, my husband affectionately calls me “The Bird Lady”, but sometimes it’s difficult to care for them. Thank you for the great advice.


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 4 years ago from The Zoo Author

Thank you all for your wonderful comments and stories! I love to read everyone's experiences. Keep it coming!


KateWest profile image

KateWest 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Good info, thanks so much!


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 4 years ago from The Zoo Author

Your so welcome Kate!


LetitiaFT profile image

LetitiaFT 4 years ago from Paris via California

I sure could have used this last year when I rescued a raven in the middle of the traffic on the Bd St Germain outside my apartment in Paris last year! Don't worry, I got it to a wildlife refuge the same day and it made it through. I think I'll write a hub on rescuing newborn dormice, which I had to do the year before! Keep up the great hubs!


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 4 years ago from The Zoo Author

So awesome Letitia! I am so glad you helped that raven...I really love ravens. They are so intelligent and beautiful! I would definitely read your hub about helping any animal!


Ryan-Palmsy profile image

Ryan-Palmsy 4 years ago from In a Galaxy far, far away

Awesome advice! People need to be more aware of how to treat injured animals in the wild, as it's just something that isn't publicized as much as it should be! Voted up


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 4 years ago from The Zoo Author

Thank you Ryan!


Rucha 3 years ago

This is actually a good page I liked it n its very useful.


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 3 years ago from The Zoo Author

Hi Rucha and thank you!

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