What Do I Feed a Baby Bird I Found?
The use of the internet has made our job as saviors a lot easier. Using the bird's colouring, size, shape and beak form are our best clues as to its identity. Many sites are available to help with that identification. Admittedly, it is a difficult task when the baby bird has not yet grown any feathers. Most times, common sense is our best key to identifying the newborn. Take note of the Local bird life. Noting which birds are the most common to the area where the baby was found can be very helpful. Once you have made a decision on the possibilities, then your best best is to research each of the choices in order to decide which of the breeds are the most likely.
It is important to the newborn to be kept warm. Since Mother is not around to snuggle with at night, the loss of body heat can be devastating to the young, featherless bird. Make sure the tiny one is out of drafts and in a reasonably warm, quiet location. A small box with high sides or a secure bird cage, with a layer of toweling under the bird will usually be comfortable for the baby. At its early stage of life, it is preferable to keep it in the house, safe from predators and warm and snug in its new nest.
Feeding The Featherless Baby
Although it is important to know why type of bird you have for its feeding, some birds being insect eaters and some being seed eaters, the first weeks they all eat basically the same thing. Just hatched out of their shells, a diet of egg yolk (without white) mixed with a small amount of water will give it most of the protein it needs to survive that first stressful separation from Mother. Mashing a small amount of bread into the mix (dried then crushed to a powder), forming a smooth, consistent gruel will give it some of the bulk it also needs. Regardless of what many may say, mixing bread and milk is NOT recommended. No bird can survive drinking milk. Not only is it unnatural for a bird to drink milk, it can be indigestible and dangerous to the bird's survival. Trying to stay as close to what Mom would feed her young gives the best results.
Water is very important for the babies. Feeding them a bit of water in their gruel is not sufficient and is only used to make it more liquid and easier for feeding. Between shots of gruel, it is best to give it a tiny bit of water. The water should always be lukewarm and fresh. Cold water can chill their fragile digestive tract. Especially during the first weeks of life, dehydration can be a major killer of the young bird.
Now, feeding a tiny bird that is screaming for food, reddened mouth gaping wide to accept the offerings, can be a very messy and trying task. I have always found that the best way to feed the young one is to use syringes. Remove and throw away the needle (safely) and just use the syringe tube itself. Many veterinarians, once explained what it is to be used for, are quite willing to supply a headless syringe for your use. Some pharmacies will also supply the syringe if asked and the use is explained to them. Usually explaining the reason and stressing that the needle is not wanted or needed can sometimes convince them to supply this handy and necessary tool. It can be understood if they are unwilling to supply something that can be used for other uses if that needle is included. They may insist on giving you the package, opened, with the needle removed and disposed of before you get it. You will be amazed though at how willing many will be when it is explained that you have a tiny, helpless baby bird that is in dire need of care and help.
There are many foods on the market for baby birds. Mash made of specific ingredients to match the type of bird you have in your care are readily available at most pet food stores. Remember to match the mash with the breed of bird you are raising. Seed eaters and Bug eaters need a different type of mash.
Baby Bird Mash
Commercial brands like this one made by Hagen, give the optimum feeding for a baby bird. Although not exactly low priced, it is the best idea for those that are serious about saving a baby's life without fear of not giving exactly what that little one needs to survive. I have always found it to be a quick and easy way to ensure feeding my birds exactly what they need, when they need it. One bag goes a long way.
Feeding The Feathered Bird
Once the bird has started growing its feathers, it is usually stronger and looking for a more substantial diet. Again, the breed is important. If it is a seed eater, a mash can be made using cooked corn, peas or any other form of seed vegetable. Adding a bit of egg yolk and bread to the mix is always a plus. If the bird is a Bug eater, it can exist on a lot of our own human food; fish, ground beef, etc, mixed with a bit of egg yolk and a bit of bread (dried and crushed to a powder). Grind it all together into a mash until the bird is old enough to actually eat those tidbits as solid pieces. Most Bug eaters like corn as well. Starlings, Blackbirds, Redwings and such actually adore corn. So, adding crushed cooked corn to the mix is recommended until they are able to eat dry, cracked corn. Keep dry food and fresh water available in the cage. When you notice the bird eating and drinking on its own, continue to hand feed it occasionally during the day, to give it the little extra that it needs to flourish.
Do the best you can. You will not always be successful in saving a young bird's life. Sometimes they are injured when they fall from the nest, are hurt by predators or just too scared and shocked to survive. Many of the younger ones do not survive and never blame yourself. Nature can not only be beautiful, it can be cruel. The only thing we can do as animal lovers is to give them the best chance we can and hope for the best. Educate yourself, love them, care for them with all your abilities and hope that one day you can set them free to fly wild and free to a life in the sky where they belong.
© 2016 Susan May Gudge