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My Experiences On Raising Orphaned Baby Birds
When I was in my late teens I found an orphaned baby bird, which I later found out was a Chipping sparrow. I took it home with me and put it in an old bird cage I had, in a nest of soft cloth. Chipping sparrows eat mostly seed when they are adults. But they feed insects to their young. At first it was hard to get the baby to eat. I bought worms and chopped them up and fed it with tweezers. In the beginning I had to force the beak gently open to put the bit of worm into it. Soon though, the little guy would pop his beak open every time he thought I was coming. I would make noises similar to it by forcing air out between my teeth with my tongue, so it made a type of cheeping sound. As the baby got older I figured I better start teaching him how to fly. To start with I would raise and lower the hand he would sit on, forcing him to exercise his wings and making them stronger. Eventually I started taking him outside and putting him on the ground and calling to him like I did when feeding him. He was soon following me around everywhere. When he showed a desire to fly, I set him on a bench and stepped one step away and called to him. After much hesitation, he finally plucked up the courage to make the short hop onto my wrist. Little by little I lengthened the distance between us. Finally he could fly. From that point on he stayed outside, though he would often call me outside because he wanted his treat. His treat was bread soaked in milk. Not to runny or to thick. It helped keep him fed while he learned how to be a bird by hanging out with other birds. When feeding baby birds, it must be done very cautiously. Normally they get all they need to drink from the food they eat. The worms didn't seem to me to have much moisture, so I fed him bread and milk. That had just enough moisture to provide all he needed. I fed him til his crop or gizzard area was nice and rounded, and I did this every two hours. At night I turned a heat lamp towards his cage to keep him warm. It was a great pleasure to walk outside and call him and have him come swooping out of nearby tree like some tiny hawk, to land on my wrist.
The most exciting bird I ever raised was a Poor Will. My neighbor called one night late, all excited, and said he thought he had found a baby owl, would I come see it. I went up to his place only to realize the bird he had cupped in his hands couldn't be the baby barn owl he thought it was, it was to small. As soon as I saw it I thought it was a NightJar. I asked a friend of mine who studied birds and he informed me it was a Poor Will. I was about to embark upon an adventure into uncharted territories. I had never tried to raise a bird that only ate while flying. I caught moths and flies and fed him those. At first I tried keeping him in a bird cage but he was so unhappy, I only put him in it at night. During the day he slept on my DSL modem where it was nice and warm. I took him outside for flying lessons when he was ready for that. I encouraged him as much as I could to fly. But he did not seem to interested in flying. After I knew he could fly, I left him outside one night. It was getting awfully close for the time for him to migrate and I didn't want him to miss his flight. The next morning I went outside and he was not there. I looked around and was pleased to not find him. I hoped he had decided to grow up. However, later that afternoon, I found him sitting in a shady gully and cold. I took him back inside to warm him up. As it got chillier, he did most of his flying around inside, even when the front door was open. He became a handy moth and other flying insect controlling agent. I had about given up hope that he would go south and began to think of him as regular folk. My step dad always got a kick out of watching him catch bugs. He would sometimes land on him, thrilling him to no end. Then one night I noticed he seemed restless and kept flying at the walls like he was trying to fly through them. So I took Him outside and sat on the porch and he sat on my palm for a bit looking around in a more animated was then I had seen in him before. I said my good bye to him and after a few cheeps, he launched himself off my hand and flew like he had a purpose, without looking back. The next spring I noticed a large number of Poor Wills hunting insects under our yard light. I hoped he was one of them.
The Baby doves had a sad ending. The same neighbor brought them to me after he felled the tree their nest was in. I had to once again turn to the internet and research how to feed them. Did you know that doves feed their babies a milk like substance? I did not have any "milk replacer" on hand for doves, So I tried to make my own following a recipe online. We would be going to town in a few days and I would pick up the right stuff then. I fed them out of a baby bottle, with a hole big enough to let them stick their beak into it. Sadly, either the formula was not right or something, but they both died before I could go to town. While in town I bought some, the same stuff they feed baby parrots and pigeons, so I would have it on hand should I ever need it.
I remember one time finding a baby Mockingbird in my backyard. We had quite a few roaming cats around our place, So at night I took it in while in the daytime when I could keep an eye on it, I put it in a bucket on the ground. Mockingbirds are very protective parents and do not forgive the death of their young easily. I watched as the same pair of Mockingbirds tormented a cat every spring-fall...all because the poor cat made the mistake of killing one of their young ones. During the day, the parent birds would stay near the bucket and protect the baby and feed it. At night it was safe inside. I had no idea where the nest was, or I would have returned it to its nest as the parents had no qualms about taking care of it, even after it had been handled by a human.
Baby birds need to be kept warm and when feeding them it is important not to overfeed them. Also be careful to feed them things with adequate moisture content. It can be tricky business to give them water without drowning them.
Whenever you find a baby bird out of its nest, try first to return it to the nest if at all possible. It is not true that birds won't have anything to do with them or may even kill them once handled by a human. If you must take care of it, I hope my experiences will come in handy for you.