How to Feed a Wild Baby Bird

Updated on July 25, 2019
Mrs. Menagerie profile image

I once came across an injured wild bird and was able to help it, so I am sharing my advice.

How to Feed a Baby Bird

Feeding a baby wild bird is an enormous undertaking and takes time and dedication. Whenever possible, babies should be left with their parents. They will always be best off with their own avian mum and dad. However, there are circumstances in which orphaned wild birds require a little human help. If you find yourself in charge of a tiny, gaping neonate, brace yourself for a labor of love and follow these tips.

Baby birds eat often and require excellent nutrition to develop normally. Start with an instant baby bird formula specially developed for wild birds. This can be purchased online or at your local pet supplies store. If you have an insect-eating bird, add protein such as hard-boiled egg yolk and/or kitten chow soaked in water until moist. Until you can obtain this formula, a temporary supplement can be made at home by mixing softened cat or dog food with rice cereal for infants.


  1. Soak dry cat, dog, puppy or kitten food in water until it is soft all the way through.
  2. Mix rice cereal with hot water into an oatmeal-like consistency.
  3. Mix a bit of the pet food in with the cereal and dilute with warm water, if necessary, to make thick enough to stick to your feeding tool but not so thick that it is glue-like.
  4. Add hard-boiled egg yolk if you have a bird that usually eats insects.

Mix your formula into an oatmeal-like consistency. (The formula tends to keep thickening for the first few minutes.) Use a SOFT stick such as cotton swab with the cotton removed. Do not use tweezers or forceps as they can damage the soft lining inside the birds beak.

Now, dip your feeding stick into the formula. If the formula is the right consistency, it should stick a bit to the Q-tip. Gage the size if the bird's beak to judge how big the bite should be. You can always start small and increase the size; use your powers of observation and judgement.

Hopefully, your baby bird is gaping (opening his mouth) for you. Just pop the food right in his mouth. Stop feeding when baby stops gaping. If he is not gaping, he is possibly dehydrated or sick.

How Often Should I Feed a Baby Bird?

Baby wild birds grow extraordinarily quickly and must eat frequently. How frequently depends on their age and stage of development. Feeding should start at sun-up and continue until sundown:

  1. If the baby bird has no or few feathers and his eyes are still closed, this is a very new hatchling and he must be fed every 15-20 minutes.
  2. If the bird's eyes are open but he cannot stand up, he is a nestling and needs to be fed every 30 minutes.
  3. Older nestlings that have feathers and can stand, should be fed every 45 minutes.
  4. Baby bird's that are out of the nest but not yet flying are called "branchers"; they should be fed every hour. At this stage, the baby bird should be offered food to eat on his own and hand-feeding should be gradually cut back. Keep track of how much food the bird eats himself so that you can supplement accordingly. Or weigh the bird daily to ensure that he is not losing weight.
  5. Weened Fledglings should be kept in a large enclosure so that they can gain strength and develop flying skills.

How and When to Catch a Baby 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.

When to Start With Solid Foods

Like with human babies, solids can be introduced to older babies. To be safe, wait until they are standing to start adding minced bits of solid food to the formula. Birds have varying diets depending on the species, below is a chart of general food preferences by family of bird.

What to Feed Various Types of Songbirds

Songbird Family
Species Included
Substitution Foods
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars)
Nighthawks,poorwills, Whip-poor-wills
Waxworms, mealworms, crickets, softened high-protien dog or catfood, chopped hard-boiled egg (shell included), wheat germ, bone meal, cuttlebone, avian vitamin and minerals
Hirundinidae (Swallows and Martins)
Tree, Bank, Cave, Cliff and Barn Swallows, Martins
Waxworms, mealworms, crickets, softened high-protien dog or catfood, chopped hard-boiled egg (shell included), wheat germ, bone meal, cuttlebone, minced grapes, spinach and grated carrots, avian vitamin and minerals
Corvidae (Jays, Magpies and Crows)
Jays, Clark's Nutcrackers, Magpies, Crows, Ravens
Lean ground beef, Mice, Nuts,Grated cheese, Waxworms, mealworms, crickets, softened high-protien dog or catfood, chopped hard-boiled egg (shell included), wheat germ, bone meal, cuttlebone, minced grapes, apple, berries, pear, banana, melon, spinach, lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, beans, peas, corn, and grated carrots, avian vitamin and minerals
Paridae (Titmice)
Chickadees, Titmouse
Waxworms, mealworms, crickets, seeds, nuts, rolled oats, grated cheese, blueberries, currents, alfalfa sprouts, softened high-protien dog or catfood, chopped hard-boiled egg (shell included), wheat germ, bone meal, cuttlebone, avian vitamin and minerals
Muscicapidae (Thrushes)
Bluebirds, Thrushes, Robins (American), Babblers and Wrentits
Earthworms, Waxworms, mealworms, crickets, seeds, nuts, rolled oats, grated cheese, blueberries, currents, alfalfa sprouts, softened high-protien dog or catfood, chopped hard-boiled egg (shell included), wheat germ, bone meal, cuttlebone, avian vitamin and minerals
Columbidae (Doves and Pigeons)
Doves and Pigeons
Millet, poultry starter, whole corn, sunflour seeds, pigeon pellets, wheat, barley, rice, minced grapes, berries, currents,spinach, lettuce, alfalfa sprouts and grated carrots, avian vitamin and minerals

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Betty Pohl Barnes 

      2 weeks ago

      We just found a very young meadowlark. He has some feathers but cannot fly. What can we do to keep him alive and well?

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

      Mrs. Menagerie 

      7 years ago from The Zoo

      Hey Kerry!

      Last summer was such a busy one, I actually miss the little guy that was in this video. He was evicted from someone's attic when he was about a week old. (Probably because he was so darn loud.) We named him Fritz, he was hilarious! We released him when he was about 6 weeks cute.

    • KerryAnita profile image


      7 years ago from Satellite Beach, Florida

      I love this hub! I grew up in a woodsy area and I can think of several occasions when my Mom would find an orphaned baby bird in our back yard and she would nurse it back to health. I would love to help her feed them. We were successful in releasing a few of them back into the wild:)

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

      Mrs. Menagerie 

      8 years ago from The Zoo

      Oh my Scribenet...I forgot to mention that you can knock off for the night! Yes, feeding should be sun-up to sundown! Thank you for bringing that to my attention!

      Thank you Letitia...I'm glad to hear the starling is doing well!

    • LetitiaFT profile image


      8 years ago from Paris via California

      This is fantastic! I sure could have used this info last week when my husband brought home a nestling starling after a carrion crow dropped it in on the lawn in the Tuileries gardens. I looked all over Internet for this info, to no avail, and voilà, here it is right in my own backyard so to speak! No worry for the starling. We cancelled our Saturday night plans, my husband dashed off to get the car and I filled a ziploc baggy full of luke-warm water to keep it warm during the drive to the wild bird shelter outside of Paris. Latest news is its appetite is huge and its wing is healing. It'll be released in the countryside later this year. Voted way up.

    • Scribenet profile image

      Maggie Griess 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Animal lovers will thank you for this one. I had no idea what to feed little fledglings and definitely no idea of the feeding intervals. Now I will be prepared! I imagine the little guys sleep thru the night? (hopefully)

      That is a cute video... really showed how effective your method is...thanks!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)