Help! I've found a bird and I don't know what to do!
The first thing you have to remember is that most birds (song birds and birds of prey) are illegal to keep in captivity. It may be tempting to keep an injured bird and try to nurse it back to health but it is against the law. Here is a list of ideas and suggestions to follow instead:
- if you find a baby bird, try to resist the urge to pick it up immediately. Most likely, its parents are not too far away, they will hear their baby chirping and will continue to feed it. Most baby birds are fledglings which means they have left the nest to learn how to fly but need some practice. Give the bird some space, keep pets and children away and come back to check on the baby bird in a while.
- if the parents don't come back OR if you find a baby bird that is obviously injured, get a small cardboard box and line it up with something soft like facial tissue or paper towel. Make sure you do not use cedar wood shavings. Pick up the bird very carefully. It is okay for you to wear latex gloves if the bird is bleeding. Proceed slowly and carefully as you don't want to make matters worse for the injured bird. Place the bird in the cardboard box and keep the box in a dark and quiet room. Call a wildlife rehabilitator immediately. If you don't know any wildife rehabilitator, you can call your local falconer, your local zoo or even your local pet store. They may not be able to take the bird in but they may be able to help you locate a wildlife rehabilitator. Finally, you can always call Wildlife & Fisheries and they will be able to help you.
- do not try to feed the bird.
- do not give anything to drink.
- do not pet or touch the bird.
- remember that it is illegal to keep most birds so try to act as fast as you can.
- if you find an injured hawk, owl, falcon or vulture, you have to proceed with extreme caution as an injured bird of prey can definitely harm you. Use a big towel that you will wrap around the bird's wings. Don't wrap it too loose as the bird will manage to free itself and don't wrap it too tight as the bird will overheat very rapidly.It is a good idea to have somebody help you pick up the bird and place it in a cardboard box. It is okay to close the lid of the box (or to improvise one) as long as you make enough holes in it for the bird to get some fresh air. Do not punch holes in the box while the bird is in it or you could accidentally stab the bird. Watch out for the talons as they are the bird's primary weapon. A bird of prey that sinks its talons into your hand is defending itself because it thinks you are going to kill it. It is an extremely painful experience that you will remember for a very long time. If you try to pick up a vulture, don't be surprised if it starts throwing up; this is the bird's natural defense mechanism.
- Do not try to feed a bird of prey. We have heard stories of people force feeding birds of prey bird seeds, bread and vegetables. Raptors do not eat bird seeds, bread or vegetables. Don't try to give any type of food or fluid to an injured bird of prey. Instead, call Wildlife & Fisheries immediately.
- it is totally illegal to keep a bird of prey in captivity, even one that you are trying to rescue. By law, you cannot even keep one of its feathers. The best thing to do for the bird and for yourself is to call Wildlife & Fisheries immediately. They will send someone to pick up the bird or advise you of a local rehabilitator to call.
- if you find an injured eagle, call Wildlife & Fisheries immediately. Do not try anything foolish. An eagle has enough power to hurt you pretty badly if it decides to attack. Just keep everyone away and call Wildlife & Fisheries immediately. They will send someone.
All around the world, the bird populations have started to decrease dramatically over the past few decades. This is true not only for birds of prey but for all birds in general (songbirds, waterfowl, etc.). The reasons are many: loss of habitat, pollution, climate change, wind turbines, electrocution and direct or indirect poisoning to name just a few. While it may look as if we don't have the power to make a difference, there are actually a few things that we can do to help our local bird populations and we can start right at home:
- PROTECT LOCAL SPECIES and fight invasive, non-native ones. Protect our wetlands and our forests.
- PROVIDE SHELTER for our birds that are impacted by the loss of their native habitat: nest boxes can easily be purchased online or made from scratch for a fun family afternoon, church community activity or classroom project. Barn Owls and American Kestrels will use that type of nest box very easily, as well as a lot of other species.
- PROVIDE FOOD AND WATER for our birds, not only during the coldest months of the year but all year round. Birds always need some extra food to replenish the nutrients that they lose while hatching their eggs and feeding their young.
- SUPPORT ORGANIC AGRICULTURE: The endless list of pesticides and herbicides that we spray on our crops and our gardens at home has a direct impact on bird populations: as the crops get sprayed, the insects and rodents that live in the fields get sprayed too (rats, mice, voles, grasshoppers, crickets, etc.). The hawk, owl and song bird that feed on poisoned rodents and insects will certainly die from indirect poisoning.
- KEEP YOUR CAT INDOORS: Every year in America, outside cats (domestic and feral cats) kill an estimated 4 billion birds and 12 billion small mammals. In other words, more than 100,000 birds will die today because of cats that are allowed outside. Cats are a non-native, introduced species of predator on this continent and they are started to be seen as a major ecological disaster all around the world. You can make a difference by supporting a program called Cats Indoors. Other solutions include the "Purrfect Fence" and the outside enclosure called a "Catio". Check our LINKS section.
- CHOOSE NON-LEAD AMMUNITION: Many birds, including our national Bald Eagle and the endangared California Condor, feed on the gutpiles and carcasses that they find during and after hunting season. As they do so, they accidentally eat lead when the carcasses have been shot with lead bullets. Lead is extremely toxic to wildlife. It affects many organs in the body. Lead poisoning can cause nerve damage, blindness, inability to fly and even death. A variety of alternatives to lead are available for use in hunting, shooting sports and fishing activities.
- LET THE BIRDS DO THEIR JOB: Hawks and owls are extremely good at catching rodents like mice and rats. They have evolved over millions of years just for that purpose. Using rat poison such as D-Con and other similar products will surely kill the bird that feeds on a poisoned rodent. All anticoagulant rat poisons are extremely lethal to wildlife (and humans). However, pest control companies are allowed to use them. Remove all D-Con products from your house and give our raptors a chance to do what they do best.
- KEEP THE TRASH FOR THE GARBAGE: Who has never tossed an apple core out of the car window? A pizza crust? A taco, some pop corn or a few French fries? The food that we throw out of the window ends up on the side of the road. That food attracts all kinds of rodents and insects and they, in turn, attract the birds that eat them. Thousands of raptors and songbirds die every year because of car collisions. We can help keep this number down by simply throwing the food in the trash can instead of outside.
- VOICE YOUR OPINION by supporting the scientific bird community that is trying to pressure our government from building wind turbines in poorly situated areas. Every year, more than 40,000 birds are killed by wind turbines. That number can be lowered if our government accepts to revise and re-think the future wind turbine projects that will clearly have a very negative impact on the bird populations. Many petitions are available online for you to sign and express your opinion.
- EDUCATE YOURSELF: Vultures are not nasty and dirty creatures. Owls are not a sign of a bad omen. Hawks do not attack people in the face. Being educated and getting to know birds of prey and songbirds is one of the best ways to protect them and to ensure their survival for future generations.