It is ILLEGAL to keep a native wild bird or destroy a nest that contains eggs or nestlings. To possess a bird for a period longer than the duration of transportation requires both a State and Federal Permit. It is also extremely difficult to successfully raise a wild bird with out the proper training and experience.
Also, NEVER feed any bird, especially a baby, despite what you have read on other websites! It is very easy for wild birds to aspirate (food/ liquid enters lungs instead of stomach), even if you have had practice with domestic species. Aspiration can cause severe pneumonia! North American wild birds also require a special diet which differs significantly from your pet bird at home and cannot be purchased at the pet store (this includes Exact baby bird formula). The wrong diet can cause diarrhea, dehydration and can ultimately lead to metabolic bone disease if fed for too long which often goes unnoticed until early adulthood. In addition, wild birds must be raised with others of their own species or will attack those that are once they are released.
Please keep in mind that wild birds belong outside, it is unfair to bring a healthy wild animal inside among people (which are scary large predators to them) to allow domestic animals to play outside. What may be a temporary inconvenience to you or your pet is saving a wild animal from being taken away from its parents and raised in captivity.
To determine if the bird needs to be rehabilitated, please follow this flow chart.
If a bird is obviously injured and needs attention, please follow the
Place the bird in a covered box, making sure there are ventilation holes or a towel as the cover. If it is a young bird, you may make a make-shift nest out of crumpled tissue or a rolled small towel inside the box.
If possible, place a heating pad under half of the box and place the heating pad on LOW. This will allow the bird to escape the heat, if it needs to. If you do not have a heating pad, you can use a water bottle filled with warm (not hot) water. Place a thin towel around the water bottle and place it next to the bird.
Place the box in a quiet, safe, dark location in your home. This will help minimize stress to the bird. Minimize contact with the animal as these birds are wild and will become easily stressed, they can also acclimate very quickly to people and may become non-releasable.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FEED any wild animal! (See the exception for hummingbirds below). Baby birds can easily aspirate (food or liquid enters lungs instead of the stomach) and they also need special diets that differ significantly from what you may feed your pet birds.
Call WildNet (919)572-9453 or a local wildlife rehabilitator for further instructions. Keep the baby warm and quiet and still do NOT feed or offer it any water even if you keep it overnight.
Click on the type of bird you have found to jump to that section of text:
- First determine whether or not the baby is a nestling or a fledgling and then read below for information.
- Nestlings are mostly pink; they may have down, quills or feathers but are unable to stand on their own yet.
- Fledgling birds may look like an adult but with a short tail (1-2 inches or less). These birds are able to stand, hop and perch. At this stage the birds are often too large and active to stay in the nest and are found hopping around on the ground. This is perfectly NORMAL; they are essentially teenagers and have yet to grow their flight feathers and develop muscles for flight. Both parents are still in the area and will continue coming to the young bird to feed it frequently as well as teach it where to find and catch food, how to avoid predators (dogs, cats, humans, cars, other birds, etc.) and appropriate foraging behavior for that species. You can expect to see the fledgling hopping around and attempting to fly for 5-7 days.The most help you can give it at this stage is to keep your pets and children away from the young bird, so the parents are not prevented from feeding and providing care. Please keep in mind that wild birds belong outside, it is unfair to bring a healthy wild animal inside among people (which are scary large predators to them) to allow domestic animals to play outside. What may be a temporary inconvenience to you or your pet is saving a wild animal from being taken away from its parents and raised in captivity. If you suspect that the fledgling is injured or came in contact with a pet please read below.
- I found a nestling.
- If the nestling is on the ground, it is quite possible it has received some type of injury. Please call WildNet at (919) 572-9453 so that you may speak to experienced personnel who may direct you to either re-nest the bird or bring it to a wildlife rehabilitator.
- If the bird has obvious injuries, it needs a wildlife rehabilitator. Call (919) 572-9453 or search through our wildlife rehabilitator contact lists.
- I found a fledgling that appears to be injured; my dog/cat came in contact with the bird.
- Domestic pets rarely intend to cause harm to another animal and are simply following instinct. However, anytime a domestic animal comes in contact with a bird it needs to be examined. Cats carry natural bacteria in their mouth that causes severe illness in native birds and may put the bird in need of immediate antibiotic treatment to prevent death. Cat punctures can be invisible under the feathers and close quickly, trapping harmful bacteria, so you may not see blood even though the cat has touched the bird. Dogs have strong jaws and large teeth that are no match for frail bird bones. Again, the bird may appear fine, but usually has sustained internal injuries that require medical help.
- Follow the temporary housing protocol
- I found a nest with nestlings/ eggs inside.
- I found a nest destroyed on the ground.
- If there is a damaged nest on the ground with nestlings still inside please call WildNet (919)572-9453 or contact a local wildlife rehabilitator. If you cannot get in touch with anyone or it is after normal business hours, you can follow the temporary housing protocol.
- Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done for unhatched eggs as they need for constant incubation from the parents. Usually by the time eggs are discovered they have become too cold and have perished.
- I found a nest destroyed on the ground.
- If you believe a nest with nestlings in it has been abandoned:
- Watch it closely for at least 1 hour without break from a distance (inside would be preferable). Parents are less likely to return to a nest in when a predator is near (humans are predators). Once the eggs hatch, both parents must perform the important task of feeding.
- Young nestlings must be fed several times an hour which requires constant foraging from the parents. However, parents may only be at the nest for a minute or less before they go search for more food so it is imperative a constant eye is kept.
- As nestlings grow more feathers, they are able to keep warm on their own and do not need to eat as frequently. Both parents may then only be observed visiting the nest once or twice an hour, again for brief periods of time. If you have watched the nest for a full hour without pause and have not seen either parent visit the nest within that time then please call WildNet (919)572-9453 for further instructions.
- If you think a nest with eggs has been abandoned, please do not remove the eggs. Eggs are VERY hard to hatch without the parent birds. Unfortunately there is very little we can do to save these eggs, because by the time they are discovered and brought to a hospital they are no longer viable. The best thing is to leave the eggs in the nest and observe the nest for the parents’ return. The parents or new birds will be able to recognize and remove any dead eggs themselves if they want to use the nest.
- There is a nest in the wreath on my front door.
- If possible, please avoid using that specific entrance until the babies have fledged (approximately two weeks after hatching). Otherwise, move the entire wreath, nest and all, onto the side of the house adjacent to the door making sure the door does not hit the nest when opened. Secure both the top and the bottom portions of the wreath. If it is a busy entrance way, you may move the nest one to two feet away from the door. Please keep in mind that the doorway was quiet enough for the parents to take the time to build the nest and therefore they should still take care of their young. The purpose for moving the wreath is to prevent the nestlings from being knocked out of the nest and to prevent any other injuries.
- I found a sick or injured songbird.
- If the bird is obviously injured, contact WildNet or a local rehabilitator. Follow the protocols for temporarily housing a wild bird.
- A bird flew into my window.
- Often birds are just stunned. Gently pick the bird up and place it in a box with a non-fraying towel. Make sure a lid is secure on the box and place in a safe indoor area. Leave the bird alone for 1 hour (unless it is anxious to fly away sooner) to give it time to recuperate. After 1 hour, with the lid on the box, place the box outside on the ground facing away from windows or glass doors. Remove the lid to allow the bird to fly out. As not to scare or stress the bird further, you may need to step back or go inside for a few minutes and watch through a window. As you monitor the bird look for these signs: remains in box, struggles to fly, blood, or bird is acting strangely (spinning in circles or on its back). If any of these are observed then replace the lid. Take the bird back to a safe, quiet location and contact WildNet or a local wildlife rehabilitator.
- My dog/cat found a bird, but it appears to be fine.
- Domestic pets rarely intend to cause harm to another animal and are simply following instinct. However, anytime a domestic animal comes in contact with a bird it needs to be examined by a veterinarian. Cats carry natural bacteria in their mouth that causes severe illness in native birds and need immediate antibiotic treatment to prevent death. Cat punctures can be invisible under the feathers and close quickly, trapping harmful bacteria, so you may not see blood even though the cat has touched the bird. Dogs have strong jaws and large teeth that are no match for frail bird bones. Again, the bird may appear fine, but usually has sustained internal injuries that require medical help. Follow the temporary housing protocol and contact WildNet or a local wildlife rehabilitator.
- I found a sick or injured hummingbird.
Because of the extremely high metabolic rate of hummingbirds they will constantly eat throughout daylight hours and then must go into a hibernation-like state (torpor) to make it through each night. Therefore, if you have a bird that is sick or injured and cannot be immediately transported to a rehabilitator, food must be provided.
On a short-term basis only, you can offer 1 part sugar to 4 parts water (sugar will dissolve better in warm, not hot, water). Anything higher than a 1:4 ratio may cause dehydration and kill the bird. Using the solution long-term will also slowly kill the bird as it lacks protein, vitamins, minerals and nutritional balance.
Feeding after dark may be needed if the bird is lethargic since last food intake is unknown or if it has been longer than one half hour since it last ate.
- If obviously sick or injured, call WildNet or a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
- If it has flown into the window follow the advice for birds that are stunned first to allow it time to fly away. If it is dark outside, do not give the bird the chance to fly away until morning.
- If the bird is alert, place it in a box covered with a thin material that allows light in.
- Place the sugar water solution (see below) in a standard hummingbird feeder (can be purchased cheaply most places as they will not drink from a bowl) and place the feeder in the box to allow the bird to self-feed. If it does not initially eat voluntarily than you may gently place the bird on the feeder (don’t grab bird until wings are still by its side) and then very gently take a finger and lower the head so the beak goes into one of the ports and comes in contact with the sugar water. This may need to be done several times every 10-15 minutes until bird “catches on” and starts to self-feed. Keep the lights on for 2 hours after dark so bird can get sufficient food to make it through the night.
- Once lights are turned off the bird should NOT be disturbed until morning.
- If bird is lethargic or debilitated, call WildNet or a local rehabilitator as soon as possible.
- Follow the temporary housing protocol. You may carefully pick up the bird (wait until wings are still at its side) and elevate the beak gently with one finger. Place a tissue under the bird’s beak on the upper breast area to prevent feathers from being soiled with food. Using the sugar water solution, dip the tip of your finger into the solution and place your finger along the side of the beak near the tip. The drop will roll down the beak and will flow into the bird’s mouth and allow it a chance to swallow naturally. NEVER attempt to open a hummingbird’s beak; it is extremely easy to break! Once it is alert, place it in a box with a feeder and follow the steps in the above paragraph.
Ducks, geese and other waterfowl and wading birds such as killdeer are precocial. This means that as soon as they hatch they can walk and eat on their own just like their parents.
Before you take any action, please call WildNet and describe the situation. The experienced staff will recognize conditions in which families will need to be removed or simply left alone. As humans develop more and more land, geese and ducks have luckily learned to adapt as they will return to the same area year after year. This may mean you will find waterfowl families in urban areas simply because that has been their home for generations. Please also keep in mind that Snapping Turtles and other large aquatic turtles are a natural predator species of waterfowl, especially babies, and are found in virtually every pond or lake in the South. Although your heart may be in the right place, it is part of the check and balance system of predator and prey relationships. The entire family should be given a chance to live their life in their own territory.
- I found a misplaced bird.
- As long as the gosling has not come in contact with a pet or shows signs of an obvious injury, first try and locate the family (should be other siblings the same size and coloration) as the baby may have accidentally been separated from its parents. They will still accept the baby back even if you have touched it, because birds have a poor sense of smell. If no parents are found anywhere, or it is injured, follow the temporary housing protocol and call WildNet or contact a local wildlife rehabilitator.
- First of all, NEVER separate babies from their parents! Most parents, in fact, will try to attack anyone who will. Even if the babies are secured, it makes it much more difficult to reunite them with their parents if they are separated for any duration of time and then the babies will be have to be raised artificially by humans. This is never the first option as we cannot fully recreate or replace waterfowl parenting.
- If obviously injured, follow the temporary housing protocol.
- Young downy waterfowl have yet to develop enough waterproofing to sit in water very long. NEVER place a duckling or gosling in a bathtub with water as they can get waterlogged and drown. If the baby is able to stand and walk around without stumbling or falling over you may place a SHALLOW dish of water only in the box with it during the daytime, remove at night. If the duckling or gosling is persistently calling, you may put a small mirror in the box with it as to provide it “company”. Call WildNet or contact a local rehabilitator.
- I found a nest with unhatched eggs.
- Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done for unhatched eggs, especially if it was found by itself or away from the nest. The majority of the time, the parents were the ones to kick the egg out of the nest often because they have sensed something is wrong with it. Also, eggs need constant incubation from the parents. Usually by the time eggs are discovered they have become too cold and have perished. Artificially incubating eggs is also VERY difficult as they need the right temperature and humidity. If you have found an egg, the best chance you can give it is to put it back in the closest nest.
- I found a sick/injured adult duck or goose.
- To catch any waterfowl often requires more than one person so that you may block off any source to water while attempting to approach the animal. Once the bird is in the water it is nearly impossible to catch. Slowly approach the bird then throw a fine mesh net or towel on top of it, pin the wings to the body and pick it up, supporting the feet. Hold the goose as you would a large football with one arm while careully holding the head with the other hand. Be very careful of the head, geese have long necks that can easily reach up and bite the face! If you are uncomfortable handling these animals please call PWC for further instructions. Place the animal is a box or dog crate, not a wire cage, lined with a non-frayed cloth or towel. Call the Triangle Wildlife Rehabilitation (919) 544-3330 for further instructions.
- I found a sick/injured, heron, egret or other wading bird with a long sharp beak.
- If you feel comfortable enough to try and catch this animal please make sure you are wearing protective eye-wear as these animals naturally defend themselves by stabbing the eyes of the predator. You may also want to wear leather gloves as a precaution. If you are uncomfortable handling these animals please call WildNet for further instructions. Catching waterfowl often requires more than one person. Make sure you have a secure box available to place the bird in. Approach the animal slowly from behind and throw a large towel over the animal. Keeping the eyes covered often helps reduce the stress of the animal. Then, grab the beak securely in your protected hand (gloved or with a small cloth) and pin the wings against its body. NEVER let go of the beak until you are about to close the box. While supporting the feet, grab the body like a football with your free arm and then place the animal in a box or dog crate, not a wire cage, lined with a non-fraying cloth or towel. Call WildNet. Do NOT peak in at the animal as its long beak can likely pierce through any openings.
- Killdeer are often found in fields and other areas as their parents try to nest in places lined with gravel. Young killdeer are often left alone, hiding in tall grass while their parents go off to forage. If you have found a young killdeer that is alone, but appears uninjured, the best thing to do is to leave it alone, because it is simply waiting for its parents to return. Also note that adult killdeer often pretend to have injuries as to distract you from its young. If you see an adult killdeer showing you an “injured wing act” please leave the area, because it is likely fine and has a baby nearby.
*Raptors should be approached with caution as they are carnivorous animals and have sharp, hooked beaks and sharp talons. If it is necessary to handle a raptor please use all precautions such has thick leather gloves and towels. If you are uncomfortable handling these animals please call PWC for further instructions during open business hours.
Wake County: American Wildlife Refuge, phone: 919-229-8449
Durham/Orange, other surrounding counties: CLAWS, phone: 919-619-0776
- I found a baby raptor on the ground.
- Raptors are very good parents and even when their young have fallen to the ground, they will still come down and take care of it. If you venture too close to the baby, the parents may even try to defend it and swoop down on you.
- Only rarely, will a nestling raptor end up on the ground and require intervention, these cases often precede storms.
- As with song birds, the young raptors will eventually become fledglings. At this stage they are too big and active for the nest and may be spotted hopping around on the ground, perching on low branches and attempting to make short flights for one week while they are growing in their flight feathers and developing their muscles. It is a normal progression of life and unless an obvious injury is noticed, should be left alone.
- The most help you can give it is to keep your pets and children away from the young bird, especially since there are likely to be protective parents nearby.
- If injury is apparent or it came in contact with a pet, you may try to catch the bird with a thick towel and leather gloves. You can throw towel over the bird and approach it from behind. Pin the wings against its body and carefully place it in a box or dog crate (not a wire cage) lined with a non-fraying towel or cloth. Keeping the head covered will help reduce the bird’s stress and make it easier to handle. You will also want to have an umbrella to protect yourself should the parents try to defend their baby. Follow the temporary housing protocol and call WildNet or a local rehabilitator.
(Note: even young raptors still have sharp beaks and talons and precautions should be taken.)
- I found an injured/sick adult raptor.
- If you have found a sick or injured raptor you may try to catch the bird with a towel and leather glvoes. Follow the procedures noted above. Follow the temporary housing protocol and call WildNet or a local rehabilitator. Remember, they have very sharp talons and beaks and will use them to defend themselves.
If you have found a domestic species, which includes feral cats; please use the links below to find an appropriate contact. Piedmont Wildlife Center cannot refer the public to rehabilitators for domestic animals. These animals should be examined by a veterinarian or taken to a local animal shelter, if no owner is found.
Domestic animals are any animal that depends on humans for food, water, shelter and space, such as: dogs, cats, parakeets, hamsters, iguanas, chickens, etc. If you find an injured stray animal, you must take it to a veterinary clinic for domestic or exotic species.
- Exotic Vets in the Triangle Area:
- If you have found a banded pigeon please contact the American Racing Pigeon Union (404) 848-5801
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology on how to ID birds: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/birding123/identify/