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How to help a baby bird that fell out of its nest

By Contributor | Updated September 26, 2017

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Sometimes you come across a baby bird or nestling that is hopping or stumbling around your yard. There is an old wives tale that if you touch the bird, you would leave your scent and the mother would abandon it. This is not true. You can assist the bird if you think it has fallen from the nest, but be sure it is not a fledgling first.

Observe the mother and the other baby birds to figure out if the baby actually fell out of the nest or if the bird is a fledgling, that is, learning to fly. Most of the time the bird's mother is out getting food or keeping an eye on the bird from afar. So, the more you interfere, the longer the mother bird might stay away. However, some intervening might be necessary. You may put the bird back into its nest if it is within reach. You could also make a temporary nest out of a plastic bowl and some paper towels. Create drainage holes in the bottom of the container and secure it in a bush or tree with a nail. Then place the baby bird inside.

Stay a safe distance away so you can watch the baby bird and intervene if necessary because of a predator. Baby birds who are not fully fledged are very vulnerable to all kinds of predators such as snakes, cats, dogs and predatory birds. Don't stand too close, or you will keep the parents away, don't stand too far to render help if needed. Stand back and watch nature unfold.

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Pick up the bird gently with both hands if you cannot find a nest and you don't have anything to make a temporary nest. You will need to move the bird to a safe location close to the original nest. For example, if the bird is near the sidewalk or road, then move it to keep it safe from cars, people and neighborhood dogs. Placing the baby bird under thick foliage or up high in a tree will help the parents keep an eye on it. They are most likely watching you and will find the baby with ease. As the baby bird begins to chirp and make noise, the parents will respond with food and attention.

Contact your local wildlife rehabilitation organization if you think the bird is injured and needs assistance. Do not attempt to care for the bird on your own. Baby birds need to be fed every 20 minutes and have complicated dietary requirements.

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