June 15, 2011
Babies, babies, babies!
By Program Intern Dani Diermeier
It is baby season here at the Science Center! We have been receiving lots of calls about baby wildlife being found, with the most calls coming in about what to do with baby birds. Since there are many misconceptions out there about what to do when you come across a baby bird, I thought I would let you all know just what you should be doing in such a situation. I did some research on the subject and came up with some guidelines to follow.
One thing needs to be said about nature, we don’t always understand why things happen the way they do but we have to trust that nature is doing what is best. When we see a baby bird in the road or our front lawns our first instinct is to pick it up and give it some TLC, but is this really what is best for the individual or the species? Not necessarily, it may actually do more harm than good. When you find a baby bird in such a situation the first thing to do is leave it alone, bring in your pets, and observe its behavior from a distance for about an hour. Chances are that the parents will return for it and are just waiting for all the commotion to stop. Most people may think that the baby bird needs to be returned to the nest or it will die but a lot of parent birds will have the babies on the ground for some of their education. You can tell if the baby bird is in this education process if it is a “fledgling,” which means it is feathered, capable of hopping, and is generally adorable looking. If the baby bird is sparsely feathered and not capable of hopping or walking, then it is considered a “nestling.”
If the bird you are observing is a nestling and hasn’t had any parents return for an hour, then you can place this bird back in its nest if you can see it. And no, birds cannot smell human scent on their young so the parents would not abandon it for that reason. But remember, chances are the bird does not need our help at all! We need to trust nature and what the parents have decided for their young. Now if you feel like this bird is truly orphaned (i.e. you saw the parents die or the bird has been there for a very long time) then you should contact your local wildlife rehabilitator for further instruction. If you decide on this route, do not touch or feed the baby until you have talked with the rehabilitator and they have given you the proper guidelines. The wrong amount or type of food given to an under-developed bird can be very dangerous, causing sickness or even death. Even though these baby birds probably do not need our help, it is great to know there are so many caring people out there that just want to see nature working perfectly. That is a nice thing to think about, knowing that the world is full of wonderful people like you!