For the Birds: If You Find a Baby Bird

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Fledgling Song Sparrow Photo by Elaine Chuang
Most sparrows will leave their nest long before they can fly for safety sake.
If attacked the nestlings will scatter running, so safer than staying in a nest.

By Christine Southwick

Baby birds are starting to hatch and leave their nests. Sometimes fledglings are found on the ground and may appear to need help. 

Unless the bird is bleeding, or has an obviously broken wing or leg, it doesn’t need any help, and any interference is unnecessary and can cause undue stress and unforeseen consequences. 

Leave it alone and make sure to keep cats and dogs away from the youngster.

Robin nestling Photo by Elaine Chuang


Here is the official word from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

“If the bird is fully or partially feathered, chances are it doesn't need your help. Fledglings, also known as “branchers,” typically leave the nest and move about on the ground and on low branches for a few days before they can fly. Their parents are nearby and continue to care for the birds, answering their demanding calls with regular deliveries of food."
Golden-crowned Kinglet fledgling Photo by Craig Kerns
Note the bright gape (around mouth)

"Unless injured, a fledgling bird should be left where it is. You can help by keeping cats, dogs, and curious children away from the bird so the mother can continue to feed it. However, removing a native bird from its environment is illegal, and deprives it of the essential care it needs from its parents.”

Sometimes nature throws us a curveball. Three days ago I heard a loudly peeping duckling dodging under a car to avoid being pecked by five crows. I yelled them off, and then set about calming the duckling until I could capture it. There was no water nearby, no parents and no other ducklings. This was not the right environment for a duck — I wonder how it had wandered so far... 

Rescued duckling swimming toward other ducklings
Photo by Christine Southwick

Being so young, this duckling needed water and food right away. (Baby ducks, unlike birds, start eating on their own right after hatching, therefore getting it to a place with the right type food was important) So we took it to a large pond that we knew had other mallards with some ducklings about the same age.
 
As soon as I put it in the water, it started peeping loudly, and swimming to the other ducklings. By this action I knew it had imprinted on other ducks — wherever it had hatched. 

This week I saw a smaller duckling with a couple of others, and I like to think that was the duckling I saved. At least I gave that duckling a fighting chance.




2 comments:

Unknown June 6, 2020 at 3:36 PM  

Just found Christine's article on beavers in wildlife section. Happy to see articles from her again. Used to get the Briarcrest newsletter which I don't think exists anymore. Kate F.

DKH June 7, 2020 at 3:49 AM  

Her articles are tagged "For the Birds" She wrote articles once a week for years. Then we went to themes - holiday birds - colors of birds - and now she writes when she gets inspired!

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