Each spring the internet is buzzing with questions about “abandoned” baby animals, especially baby birds outside of the nest. This appears most common after Las Vegas has experienced high winds. So what is the appropriate thing do when a baby bird ends up in your yard?
Local mom, and zoologist at the Springs Preserve, Rachel VanHorn breaks down wild baby birds for us.
When determining what you have found, the first thing to know is there are three baby bird stages.
Hatching (0-3 days old) A bird at this stage is mostly naked, with no feathers. It’s eyes are closed and generally it cannot move on its own. If you find one alive on the ground, it needs to go back to the nest. A hatching at this stage will not survive on the ground.
Nestling (3-12 days old) A nestling will have open eyes and pin-like feathers sticking out over most of its body. A baby bird at this stage will have a small amount of head and neck control. If found on the ground, a nestling should be returned to the nest.
Fledgling (13 days plus) A fledging has most of its feathers, though it may still look a little motley. This young baby can perch, hop, and may be able to take short flights. The fledgling’s parents will feed it on the ground, as it is ready to leave the nest and doesn’t need your help, unless it is in an unsafe area. If the bird is in an unsafe area, gently pick up and move nearby, but in a covered and safe area.
In all cases, it is a MYTH that mother birds will smell you and abandon their baby. If you are unable to return a hatching or nestling to its original nest, hang a small box or basket on the tree where the nest is located so the bird can still be cared for by its parents. (see the video below) If you cannot locate the nest, do not attempt to raise the bird on your own, contact a local wildlife rehabilitation specialist or a veterinarian.