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Photo © Al Tuttle

What should I do if I see a young bird fallen out of the nest?

Although this may be difficult to accept, the general rule in such a case is to refrain from doing anything and hope for the best. Most attempts to save the bird (especially a bird that may not need to be saved in the first place) will do more harm than good. Therefore, examine the situation carefully before attempting anything. It is not uncommon that birds will wander a short distance from the nest during the last days before fledging, and if parents are around, they will continue to care for them. Look at the feathers, especially the wing feathers to see if they are well opened. If so, it is best to leave the bird where you find it, unless there is an immediate risk such as a cat nearby, in which case you may try to find a secure place on a higher branch near where you found the bird.

If the bird is younger (e.g., feathers not completely opened and not covering the entire body), you should attempt to place the young back in its nest. If the nest is too high, you can try building a little improvised platform (e.g., a small plastic container lined with small twigs) and placing it on a branch. Then, leave the nest alone and if you want to observe the parents coming back, do so from a distance.

What you should not do:

  • Wait around the nest to see if the parents will come back. If you are visible, they will not come back.
  • Try to feed the bird yourself. A diet that is not perfectly adapted will kill the young. Moreover, young birds need to be fed several times every hour, all day long: you will not be able to keep up.
  • Give water. Young birds do not drink in nature, but receive their water from the food they eat.
  • Remember that the longer you stay with the young, the less likely it is to survive.
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Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Cornell Lab of Ornithology