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Little Beaks, Big Hearts: A Guide to Caring for Baby Birds

Hey, nature lovers! Spring isn’t just about flowers – it’s for the birds too! That’s right; it’s baby bird season. Some of you might be lucky enough to have a nest near your home where you can observe a new generation of native birds coming into the world. I thought I’d write a little bit about what you should and shouldn’t do when you come across a nest, eggs, or chicks.

Situation: You find seemingly healthy eggs or chicks in a nest.

First of all: Cool! You found something really interesting!

Do:

  • Say, “Cool! I found something really interesting!”
  • Snap a pic and try to ID the species of bird
  • Become a backyard biologist and keep a logbook with your observations

Don’t:

  • Stand too close to the nest
  • Purposefully scare parents away from the area to allow you access
  • Linger near the nest; the parents might think you are a predator and abandon ship
  • Touch or remove eggs or chicks. No, you won’t leave a human “scent” behind (that’s a myth!) but you could accidentally do some damage.

Situation: You find a nest in an inconvenient place…such as in a wreath on your front door or in another highly trafficked area.

Do:

  • If possible, try to avoid that area until the chicks fledge. Luckily, most native songbirds have short incubation periods (the time between the egg being laid and a chick hatching) and fledging periods (the time between a chick hatching and leaving the nest).
  • If it’s not possible to avoid the area and you find yourself accidentally disturbing the parents, attempt to move the nest to a more convenient location, as near to the original site as possible. Only do this as a last resort!

Don’t:

  • Move the nest far away from its original location.
  • Destroy or harm eggs or chicks inside of a nest. Fun fact: the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 makes it illegal to destroy or disturb nests with birds or eggs in them.

Situation: You find a baby bird injured and/or out of the nest.

Baby bird guidelinesThis fun flowchart is a great way to help you make a decision:

Mosco, Rosemary. “If you find a baby songbird out of the nest.” Audubon, 11 June, 2014, https://www.audubon.org/news/find-baby-bird-out-nest-heres-what-do.

When in doubt, talk to a local wildlife rehabber. Wild Nest Bird Rehab (https://www.wildnestbirdrehab.org) is a great resource in the Atlanta area!

Now that you’re all well-informed backyard birders, have fun out there! I hope you all peep some cool birds!

Kelsey K.
Keeper III, Birds

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl