By Rich Crete
Hey Bird Guy! I found a baby bird. What should I do?
-M.W. of Bloomingdale West
I’m asked this frequently every spring. The best chance baby birds have to survive is with its parents, not with human care. If the baby has no feathers, it may have fallen out of the nest. Look around and if you find the nest, you certainly can place the baby gently back in the nest. There is zero truth to the old wives tale that the parent bird will smell human on the chick and abandon it. If the baby you find has feathers, the best thing you can do is leave it alone. I know that sounds harsh but it is the best thing you can do. Odds are very good the parents are nearby and will coax the youngster into cover and teach it to feed. Just because you don’t see the parent doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t in the area. Many birds spend the first two to three days of their lives on the ground.
It is in our nature to want to help a baby we perceive to be in danger. Here are a few of the problems in us trying. We don’t know what the baby’s diet requirements are. We don’t know how often it should be fed. We don’t know if the baby should have food placed in front of it or pre-chewed and forced down their throats like so many of them need. If a well meaning human tries to force feed a baby bird with an eyedropper, it is way too easy to feed it the wrong food or force too much in too deeply. Even if you guess right, how will you teach the bird to forage and feed itself?
It is my belief that the worst thing you can do, especially if you have children and are trying to set a good example, is to try and be a nurse to a baby bird. If we accept that the best chance they have to survive is in the care of the parent birds, even if you don’t see the parents for quite a while, you give them the best chance by leaving them alone. Some people want to take babies into a vet or animal rehab facility. While that may seem noble, you can’t know for sure the parents are not still in the picture and by removing the baby bird you are greatly reducing its chances for surviving.
Sometimes the best lessons we can teach our children are the tough ones. Explain to them that each parent has to have 10-15 chicks per year just to get two-four of them to survive and continue the species. When the chicks do make it, that is a success and when they don’t the parents will simply try again. It’s nature’s way.