Miss Gudge has written over 10 books and has a lifelong passion for wild birds. Since childhood, she has cared for and released them.
Finding a Lost Baby Bird
Most people have come across a lost baby bird at one point in their lives and wondered what to do. It's heartbreaking to consider not stopping to help, but it's also intimidating to imagine caring for a wild animal, especially a baby.
One thing to consider is the bird's situation. Is it stranded and injured or just temporarily separated from its nest? If it's clear the bird will die without immediate action, helping it is an act of love and kindness.
Throughout my life, I've cared for and released many wild birds. This article will pass my knowledge along: the equipment needed and the steps to take when you find a lost or injured baby bird.
Step 1: Try to Identify the Type of Bird You Found
To determine what a bird needs, you first need to figure out what type of bird it is. The use of the internet has made our job as saviors a lot easier. Using the bird's colouring, size, shape, and beak shape 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.
Step 2: Determine the Baby Bird's Age
How to Feed a 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 (no white) mixed with a small amount of water will give it most of the protein it needs to survive that first stressful separation from its 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 potentially dangerous for the bird's survival. Trying to stay as close to what mother would feed her young gives the best results.
How to Feed a Feathered Baby
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.
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.
Mash and Commercial Foods
There are many foods on the market for baby birds, including commercially made baby bird mash. Several kinds of 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.
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Step 3: Provide Water
Water is very important for the babies. Especially during the first weeks of life, dehydration can be a major killer of the young bird. Feeding them a bit of water in their gruel is not sufficient and is only used to make it thinner and easier for feeding. Between shots of gruel, it is best to give the baby a tiny bit of water. The water should always be lukewarm and fresh. Cold water can chill their fragile digestive tract.
Step 4: Keep the Baby Bird Warm
It is important that the newborn be kept warm. Since its 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 this early stage of life, it is preferable to keep the baby in the house where it is warm, safe from predators and snug in its new nest.
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. Or they may have been wounded by predators or just too scared and shocked to survive. Many of the younger ones do not survive and you can't 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.
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.
© 2016 Susan May Gudge
Susan May Gudge (author) from Canada on July 11, 2020:
Asli, if you have ever watched a mother bird in the wild, you can see that it is a constant job to feed her young.
The baby will open its beak when wanting food. If you hold the syringe near it and it opens wide, feed it as much as it will take.
For most birds (non-nocturnal), when the sun goes down the feeding stops.
Yolk-mix feeding should continue until the baby has started to grow pin-feathers and then a more substantial diet is required.
Asli on July 10, 2020:
I was wondering how long or how many days do you feed the baby bird with egg yolk?
Susan May Gudge (author) from Canada on May 19, 2020:
When using egg yolk, it is best not to cook it. Use the egg yolk raw.
Tiff on May 18, 2020:
Egg yolk need to be boiled?