Most wild babies are born in the spring. As the weather warms, the birds begin to nest. Some nest on the ground or in buildings. Many nest in trees or shrubs. For this reason, it’s a very good idea to cut trees and prune shrubs before spring. In the unsettled weather of spring, many song bird nests are blown out of their trees. If the nest is only slightly damaged and the young birds are unharmed, the nest can be replaced in its tree and secured with strong twine. As long as the new nest location is near the original site, the parents should return to care for their young. A severely damaged nest can often be tucked into a strawberry basket and then returned to the tree and secured. Songbird parents, with their poor sense of smell, will be none the wiser that you’ve handled their babies.


Those best qualified to raise baby birds are parent birds. Song bird babies are naked and helpless at hatching time. They must be kept warm and fed often by their parents. Young birds have very special diets. Some eat seed, some eat insects, some eat a mixture of both. Whatever the baby bird eats has been predigested to some extent by the parent birds. Song bird babies are ready to leave the nest at only 3 weeks of age. At this stage, they are called fledglings. Their bodies are covered with feathers although their tail feathers are very short. Some still have down on their heads. The parents now begin to teach their youngsters how to avoid the many dangers of today’s world. The fledglings are clumsy and easily distracted, as are all young things. They may not fly well yet, but they learn quickly or they do not survive. The parents continue to feed their young until they learn where to find their own food.


Fledgling birds should be left alone to allow their survival lessons to proceed without interruption. A fledgling found sitting in the street can be tucked away in a nearby shrub; the parents are always close by. If you have cats and dogs, lock them up for a few hours. You should sit and watch the young birds and do so from a distance for about an hour. You will be rewarded by learning first hand some of mother nature’s secrets. If you do not see the parent birds, call your wildlife center for further instructions.


Baby birds that hatch out covered with feathery fuzz, and able to run and peck at their food immediately, are called precocial birds. They are herded along by the mother and covered (brooded) until they are able to control their own body heat. These youngsters are taught survival and foraging skills by their parents. Ducks, quail, pheasant and killdeer are some of the species that are precocial. Young precocial birds who may seem to be lost and alone usually are not. If left alone, their cries for attention soon bring the worried parent who will hurriedly escort her youngster to safety. Remember to stay back, mother birds know about and fear humans. Again, if the parent bird is not seen for an hour, call your wildlife center for further instructions.


The downy babies of hawks and owls need their parents too. Predatory birds feed on rodents and other small prey. Only the parent bird knows which morsels of a mouse are best for their rapidly growing infants. Even a young bird of prey can be dangerous, their feet and beaks are used as weapons when necessary. Young hawks and owls sometimes fall from their nests. It is not a good idea to try to replace them in the nest; the parent bird may misunderstand your intentions and attack. Call your wildlife center for help!


Mammals are warm blooded creatures capable of transmitting rabies. Furry mammal infants need specialized care too. Food you have in your kitchen will cause serious and often deadly problems for any wild thing. Young helpless mammals found away from their denning sites should be left alone. If they are still in the same spot an hour later, call your wildlife center for help. Mother deer often leave their fawns bedded down in a quiet spot while they are off feeding. If you happen to discover the hiding place of a tiny fawn leave it alone! The mother will return for it and it understands that fact. Do not touch the youngster. Learning to trust humans is not a safe thing for a wild animal. Mammal parents have a very good sense of smell.


Nearly all wild birds and mammals are protected under the law. They may not be taken from the wild and kept as pets or patients of an inexperienced person. When a wild animal is truly in need of assistance, it should be taken to a wildlife care facility holding permits through the Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Department of Interior. Wildlife rehabilitators have received extensive training on the care and feeding of native wildlife. The process of rehabilitation and eventual release is more complicated than diet and includes many steps beyond daily care.

Unless you are an experienced rehaber, there is great danger in offering any food or water to a young wild bird. Each species has different dietary requirements which must be met in order to insure survival. A drink of water can drown a young bird. Cow’s milk can cause intestinal problems in wild birds and mammals.


Call a wildlife center. If you are in an unfamiliar area, call a local veterinarian, Sheriff, Police Department or the Department of Fish and Game and ask for the phone number of the nearest wildlife center. Call first to alert the staff and allow them to make necessary preparations.

REMEMBER: Your wildlife center has a staff of people who are knowledgeable in the field of wildlife rehabilitation. They are dedicated and trained to raise a young wild creature so it can be given its freedom and make a successful release into the wilds.

A power greater than our understanding has created the wealth and beauty of nature as we perceive it. Let us all treat wildlife with the awe and reverence it deserves.

Posted in Blog by npwrc