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What to do when you find a chick - fledgling

Spring and summer are nesting seasons for most birds, and concerned birders regularly find young birds out of the nest and seemingly on their own prematurely. When you find a baby bird, understanding what to do can help you ensure it has the proper care and best chances of

If you find a young bird alone on the ground or otherwise away from its nest, you must first determine if it is, in fact, a baby in need of assistance. Many songbird fledglings leave the nest several days before they can fly easily, and the parent birds are still caring for them and watching for their safety. A fledgling will have almost fully formed feathers though the wings and tail may be short, and it will be able to fly short distances. With these traits, fledglings do not typically require more than minor intervention from concerned birders. A hatchling, on the other hand, is much younger and needs assistance. Hatchlings may appear bald or only have tufts of feathers, they are much smaller and do not have nearly as much energy as fledglings.Observe the bird. Before touching the bird or stressing it in any way, watch to see if it can care for itself or if the parent birds are tending to it. Many times when a human spots a baby bird, they fail to see the nearby parents that are ready and willing to feed and protect their offspring. It may take a half hour or longer for parent birds to return to their baby, however, so patience is essential.

Intervene as little as possible. In the case of fledglings, simply moving the bird to a sheltered nearby location where it is out of direct sun and in a protected spot is the best choice to give it a helping hand. Younger birds may require more help, but it is always best to interfere with the birds in only minimal ways.

Return the bird to the nest. The best place for a baby bird to be is its own nest. If the hatchling is too young to be out of the nest, gently pick it up and place it back in its nest if you can find it. If you are unable to find the nest or it is unreachable or destroyed, line a small basket such as a pint fruit basket with tissue or grass clippings and place it in the tree as close to the nest site as possible. Be sure the basket is secure (nail it to the tree if necessary) so the baby bird will not tumble out. The parent birds will hear their baby and find it easily, and since most birds have a poor sense of smell, they will not abandon it because it has been handled by humans.

Keep the bird safe. If the bird is in imminent danger from a damaged nest, predators or other unsafe conditions, or if it is visibly injured or ill, place it in a small box lined with tissues, paper towels or similar material and cover the top of the box loosely with newspaper or a towel. If necessary, keep the bird indoors in a quiet, safe location until outdoor conditions improve or until a wildlife rehabilitator can take the bird for proper care.