Baby Bird Season

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

For most songbirds in Florida, which can include Common Grackles, Fish Crows, American Crows, Loggerhead Shrikes, Northern Mockingbirds, Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, and Mourning Doves, and more, baby season starts in the spring. This means for animal rehabilitation facilities such as CROW, staff could receive an influx of baby bird species. These patients are admitted for a myriad of reasons, including falling from nests, being orphaned or abducted, or systemic diseases.

Habitat destruction can lead many babies to fall from their nest and be found on the ground. When trees get cut down, baby birds can become orphaned or abandoned if the mother either can no longer find the nest or is scared away by the destruction. In cases such as these, CROW will attempt to renest the babies at a location nearby in hopes that the mother will return. Most species of songbirds have excellent parental care, and, once renested, the parents will return to their young for continued care. Abduction occurs when well-meaning humans take baby birds away from their nests, especially when they are found on the ground nearby. In most cases, the babies are in good health. It is important to note the age of babies to know what to do in a situation when a baby bird is found.

When finding a baby bird out of the nest, it is important to assess the situation and call your nearest wildlife center before immediately bringing the baby in. If the bird appears to have injuries, call the nearest rehab facility to get further instructions on how to transport the baby. If the bird appears uninjured, it is then important to determine what stage of development the bird is in. If the baby has no feathers, it is most likely a hatchling or a nestling. Hatchlings have just recently emerged from the egg and appear naked or only have patches of a feathers or fluff. A nestling is covered with down feathers, much like fluff, and are unable to perch. Both hatchlings and nestlings still belong in the nest, and not on the ground. If found on the ground, these babies should be placed back in the nest as soon as possible. If the nest is destroyed or the tree is cut down, an artificial nest can be made. Oftentimes a basket, a milk crate, or another container with holes for drainage can be bungee-chorded, drilled, or hammered to a nearby tree to replace the destroyed original. The nest should be off the ground (usually 10-15 feet up) and shielded from the sun and the rain. To replace the nesting material, use dried grasses, unsticky pine needles, dog fur, and dried leaves. Please never place fabric, human hair, or any absorbent materials in the nest as they can hold water causing babies to become cold and wet. Oftentimes the parents will return within a few hours of renesting; if that does not occur, contact your local wildlife rehab facility.

The next stage of development after the nestling stage is the fledging stage, a baby with feathers allowing them to practice flight, which they usually do through hopping from branch to branch. As a result, these babies will often fall from the trees. When this occurs, the baby needs to be left alone. The fledgling’s parents will feed it from the ground as they learn how to fly; this allows them to learn vital skills from their parents. Abducting the bird can be harmful for its development. If the bird does appear to be in a dangerous situation or injured, such as near a road or predator, move the bird to a bush or a safer area closer to the nest. The common idea that touching baby wild animals will cause their parents to reject them is a myth; most wildlife parents provide excellent parental care, even after being handled by a human, but please do not touch them unless the situation calls for such intervention.

At CROW, we have a dedicated baby room with cages and incubators providing all the necessary care they may need to grow if the situation requires staff to raise them until they are ready to be released. Songbirds admitted to the hospital as of April include Common Grackle nestlings and fledglings, Loggerhead Strike nestlings, and Northern Mockingbird nestlings and fledglings. Patients are put on strict feeding schedules, oftentimes with feedings every forty-five minutes or every hour. Before you attempt to relocate, renest, or bring in a baby bird to a wildlife facility, call a wildlife rehab facility to ensure you’re taking the proper steps based on their situation.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (4/10-4/14):
There were over 30 new patients admitted to CROW this week, including a Boat-tailed Grackle, a Brown Pelican, a Cedar Waxwing, Common Grackles, Eastern Cottontails, an Eastern Gray Squirrel, Eastern Screech Owls, Gopher Tortoises, Mourning Doves, Northern Raccoons, an Osprey, two Red-shouldered Hawks, a Sandhill Crane, and Virginia Opossums. Recent releases include four Eastern Screech Owls and a Brown Pelican! Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases.

Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year!

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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