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What should you do if you find a baby bird?

With the end of June nearing and July just around the corner, you may have noticed the native birds being more active, carrying nesting material, or sitting on their carefully woven nests. These are signs that we are well into the breeding season of Georgia’s native birds!

Most think of trees when imagining where birds nest … however, your local birds may have different plans. From the bush in front of your window to the corner of your front porch awning, birds will build their nests wherever they feel is safest, which might not always actually be the best spot, for their soon-to-be chicks.

It is very common to find a stranded nestling on the ground underneath a tree, or more unfortunately, dead chicks on the pavement. If you happen to notice a nest being built above your patio, driveway, or any other hard surface, you can help by putting something soft underneath the nest so that when the chicks leave, they will have a safe, cushioned landing.

If you do find a bird on the ground, it is important to assess the situation before attempting to handle the bird. First, is the chick a hatchling, nestling, fledgling, or adult? A hatchling will have closed eyes and little to no feathers. A nestling will have opened eyes and fluffy feathers with a little bit of their pink skin showing. A fledgling is almost fully feathered with some fluff left.

It is a common misconception that if you touch a chick, the parents will stop caring for it. Since this is false, if you find a hatchling or nestling on the ground and are able to find the nest, you can carefully put the chick back in the nest and monitor to see if the parents are still caring for it. For the safety of you and the chick, it is best to wash your hands before and after handling the chick. If you are unable to find the nest, the next best option is to make a nest with things from around the house and secure it to the tree closest to where the chicks were found. If these steps are followed and you have not seen the parents or fresh poop, it is best to bring the chicks to a bird rehab. Take a picture of the chicks in the nest and then put them in a shoebox-type box that has a lid and provide them with the warmth they would be getting from their parents via a heating pad or a microwaved sock with rice. Do not try to give it food or water; instead contact your nearby bird rehab.

Since a fledgling has most of its feathers and is almost fully grown, it is able to hop around on its own. Fledglings tend to do this until they have built up enough strength to fly. Unless the fledgling is obviously injured, it is safe to leave it alone and make sure to keep animals and children away from the area.

By visiting www.wildnestbirdrehab.org, you can find more detailed information on what to do when you find a stranded chick or injured bird. You can also donate or volunteer with this organization! During chick season, rehabs like this are often overwhelmed and need as much help as possible! If this rehabilitation is not near you, they can help you by having a volunteer retrieve the bird or by finding a closer rehab.

Madelyn M.
Keeper I, Birds

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