What to Do with an Injured Bird

In nature, young animals sometimes become separated from their parents and need help. If the mother’s dead body has been seen or the young one is obviously injured, ill, or starving, intervention is necessary. In many cases, however, when baby birds appear “orphaned” they actually are being well cared for. Over 75% of young animals that are rescued by well-intentioned people do not need help.

If you find a baby bird that is not covered with feathers out of its nest:

  • If the baby is warm, alert/responsive, and uninjured, try to return it to the parents. Watch for adults making noise or protecting the young bird.
  • Try to find the nest. Make sure all the nestlings look the same if there are others still in the nest.
  • If you can’t find the nest or the nest has fallen, fill a plastic hanging flower pot (with drain holes) with pine straw. Make a shallow hollow to place the nest in and hang it in approximately the same place as the original nest.
  • Make sure the adults are returning to the nest.

If you find a fully-feathered baby bird out of its nest:

  • Patiently observe the young animal in its surroundings to decide if the baby actually needs help.
  • If it is hopping around and is very alert and responsive, it has probably reached the fledgling age when it is practicing its flying and foraging skills.
  • Confine any cats, dogs, and children, and place the baby bird in a safer area if necessary (up on some branches in shrubs or trees).
  • Make sure the adults are returning to the fledgling.

If you find a truly orphaned or injured bird:

  • Gently pick it up with a cloth or towel.
  • Place it in a box with a lid to keep it dark.
  • Keep it in a very warm and quiet place (the body should be very warm to the touch). You may have to supply supplemental heat by using a hot water bottle or heating pad (on “low”).
  • Do not attempt to give it food or water (by hand or leaving it in the box).
  • Call the Florida Wildlife Care hotline at (352) 371-4400 for further instructions and care.

For further information on baby birds or injured birds see the Florida Wildlife Care web site or Peggi Rodgers’s baby bird page on the Wildlife Rehabilitation Information Directory.

Always keep in mind that it is illegal to harass, harm or possess Florida’s wildlife. Enjoy observing wild animals in their natural surroundings from a safe distance, for their sake and for yours.