What to Do with a Baby Bird

I’ve occasionally gotten questions as to what to do with a baby bird found outside. It turns out that the University of Minnesota has an excellent guide on what to do with a baby bird. The answer people don’t like to hear is, “Nothing.”

Most birds will be fine, even if they’re temporarily away from their parents. Some will be eaten by predators. It’s sad and no fun to watch (especially if you’re a pet bird owner like me), but it is how the predators stay alive and bird populations are kept to healthy levels. Most of the time the bird will be fine on its own.

The biggest myth is that if you handle it, the parents will smell you on them and reject it. Most birds have terrible senses of smell and will happily accept any baby you return to them–once you go away and leave them alone.

These are wild animals and do best when they keep their distance from large predators–and you count as the largest predator they’ll see. So imagine you fall down and a giant lion came by and started sniffing around you. You’d be scared to death, right? Same for a bird, only it would be like Godzilla instead of a lion, given the size difference.

So if you see a baby bird and there’s an obvious nest, pick it up and put it back. If there isn’t one and it has feathers, let it alone. Above all, don’t mess with it unless you’ve been trained, because as the link above points out, lots of things well-intentioned people do actually kill or seriously injure the bird they’re trying to help.

Wild animals are wild–if you want to help, give to an organization that works to rescue or preserve habitats for endangered wildlife. That will do more than anything else you could do.

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