Occasionally, you may stumble across an injured baby bird, whether it be one that has been caught by a predator or one that has fallen from a height, and you may wonder what you should do about it. This is most likely to occur in spring where there is an abundance of baby birds. The usual advice with any baby bird is that unless the bird is in danger, one should leave it alone as the parents are likely to be near.
However, injured baby birds should be the exemption.
My cat occasionally brought injured baby birds home, and this sometimes happened more than twice a week! For some odd reason, if it was a baby moorhen, they tended to be uninjured but any garden bird would have suffered some kind of injury.
What to do when you find a baby bird?
Step 1) If you do see a baby bird, the first step is to assess whether there is an injury present. Wear gloves to protect yourself as any wildlife can pose a risk when handled. You can pick up the bird to examine it. Contrary to popular belief, baby birds that have been handled do not risk rejection from parents as birds do not have a great sense of smell and rely on vocalization to recognise their babies.
Step 2) Look for any wounds or obvious bleeding. Is the baby bird holding up a leg or is a wing is at an awkward angle? Does it seem unable to stand? If any of these are a yes, then the baby bird will likely need attention.
The number one killer of injured birds is shock and if a predator is responsible, the second killer is infection.
The information provided here should not be used to replace veterinary advice. You should seek veterinary attention as soon as you can.
Step 3) If there are wounds present, use a cloth with warm water to just quickly clean the wounds to prevent more bacteria or foreign bodies from getting into it. Refrain from soaking the bird too much or spending too long as birds are wild animals that should not be handled for long amounts of time and the next thing that needs to be looked at is shock.
Step 4) Place the bird in a box ( I had a hamster carry case but any box with a lid that has breathing holes will do) with a towel. Fill a hot water bottle with hot but not boiling water. Wrap this in a towel or a case and place under one half of the box. Shock will cause the bird’s temperature to plummet so it is important to keep it warm. By only placing half the box on the bottle, the bird has the option to move away if it feels too hot.
Step 5) Keep the bird in a quiet place.
For an injured baby bird, there is little else you can do at this stage as you now need to seek veterinary attention. A baby bird that has been bitten will require antibiotics that a veterinary practice will have and will also require a rehabilitator to look after it and give it the best chance to return to the wild. Bear in mind not all injuries will be treatable and in some cases euthanasia may be necessary to prevent unnecessary suffering. Seek help from your local vet or wildlife rehabilitator. Always, where you can, give your vet a call before dropping the baby bird off with them as they might not always have the facilities to take in injured baby birds. If you are unable to take the bird to someone with the appropriate knowledge to help it, you can try the RSPCA helpline. They may be able to send an animal collection officer to take the bird to a vet.
RSPCA helpline: 0300 1234 999
Find a wildlife rehabilitator: http://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/wildlife/findarehabilitator/-/articleName/WLD_FindWildlifeRehabilitator
RSPCA injured wildlife information: http://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/wildlife/injuredanimals