I Found a Baby Bird in New York City (Now what?)

Every spring, East Side Animal Hospital receives phone calls from New Yorkers who have found a baby bird and want to know what they should do.  Here’s what we tell them.


Determine if the Baby Bird is a Nestling or Fledgling.


Is the young bird covered with down or feathers?  Does it look like it has quills (called pin feathers or growing, new feathers)? Young birds leave the nest at around 12-13 weeks of age, but still look rather vulnerable.  At this fledgling stage, the young birds are small, chubby, adorable-looking, and covered with small feathers, not hairy down.  Fledgling birds will be able to hop on their own and grip your finger tightly when they perch (unless they are injured or sick). If you find a fledgling bird, it is best to remove him or her from sources of danger (pedestrian or car traffic and animals) and place it in a safe area like the branches of a thick shrub. The mother is likely nearby and is watching the young bird.  She will return soon to care for him or her.  Resist saving the young bird from the perils of New York City.  Whatever species it is; it has likely been nesting here longer than most of us and knows how to survive.  Fledgling birds are difficult to manage after being cared for by their parents in the wild for 13 weeks, so resist the urge to take this foundling under your wing.


Hatchling or Nestling


Birds younger than 13 weeks are referred to as either hatchlings or nestlings.  Hatchlings are typically covered with only a small amount of hair or down and still have their eyes closed.  Nestlings are covered with a mixture of hairy down, emerging secondary feathers (pin feathers), and young adult primary feathers found along the edge of their wings.  If you find a bird at this stage, it has been somehow dislodged from its nest and should be put back if possible.  Look around the area that you found the bird.   The nest is most certainly nearby.   If you find the nest, replace the bird.  The mother will not be put off by your scent.  Most birds are strongly protective of their young and will return to the aid them just as soon as they feel they can do so safely.


What if the Young Bird Is Injured or Seems Sick?


All infant young animals need heat, hydration and nutrition.  If you find a hatchling or nestling bird, keep it warm.  You can wrap the young bird in a small piece of fabric and hold it in your hand to warm him or her up.  If the young bird responds to warmth, return it to its nest if you can find it.  If not, call the rehabilitator

If the bird is obviously injured, keep him or her warm until you can reach the rehabilitator.  Do not attempt to feed.  Juvenile birds must be fed directly into their crop, a space located several centimeters down the bird’s throat. If you simply try to drop water or food into its bill, it will likely choke to death or die of an aspiration-related issue.


Should I Bring The Bird I Found To East Side Animal Hospital?


As much as we would like to help you, your rescued bird is best cared for in the hands of an experienced wildlife rehabilitator.  Use the number listed below to get the help you need.

NYC Bird Rehabilitor:


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