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The Binocular Advisor


Helping Orphaned Baby Birds

Eastern Phoebes

Under the wide eaves, out the kitchen window, four eastern phoebes are getting ready to fledge. Even after they leave, their parents will care of them for another week or two. As is normal for songbirds.

Sometimes people see recently baby birds on the ground and think they're orphans.

They're not orphans.

Most baby birds leave the nest before they can fly well, because it's too dangerous to stay there any longer. As the babies get older, their begging calls get louder. They get conspicuous, until they're just one big, tempting mouthful for a squirrel, hawk, or cat.

The day comes when the baby birds flutter out of the nest. They may land on your lawn, looking lost and abandoned.

Baby RobinFrom then on they're fledglings. They've left the nest, but the parents' job is not done.

The parents will coax the youngsters into a tree or somewhere out of sight. In a few days the adult birds may show the youngsters around your yard, maybe even introduce them to the birdbath.

Not up for adoption!

Some time your kids might find a baby bird and bring it home and ask, "Can I keep it?"

That would be kidnaping. Or at least birdnaping. The baby bird's best chance at survival is in its own parents' care. Besides, it's against state and federal laws to keep native birds in captivity. Even if they look like they need help.

So resist the temptation. It's not an orphan. Don't adopt it.

Your helping hand

Bird in handsYou can help, though. A baby bird out in the open might caught before the parents can get it hidden, especially if there are many outdoor cats. You can helpt to get it into a safer place.

Pick up the fledgeling in your hands or a light towel. Hold it firmly enough that it can't injure itself by struggling. Put it a thick bush or tree, where it can scramble into the safety of foliage.

The parents will hear its chirps and bring it food.

Don't be too concerned exactly where the nest was. Even if you must go next door or across the street to find a suitable place, the parents will easily locate the baby. In fact, they probably watched you put it there.


If your child has brought the bird to you, you can still put it back, near where it was found. The sooner the better, but even after several hours, or the next day, the parents will find it.

They will not abandon it just because it's been touched by a human. Songbirds have less sense of smell than we humans do, so they won't notice your scent. Besides, they want their baby back. They'll get right back to work feeding it.

You can watch from a distance or through a window from inside a house. Within an hour, you should see a parent bird enter the bush where you put their baby.

It's good to give a helping hand, and then let nature be.

© 2012 Diane Porter



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