Does that Baby Bird Really Need Help?

babybirdArea animal agencies are cautioning that not every wild baby bird who looks as if it could use help actually needs it.

Too many fledgling songbirds, animal experts say, are forcibly separated from their parents by well-meaning people unfamiliar with normal bird development. At issue is the fact that the fledglings of many common songbirds — robins, cardinals, blue jays,and others — leave the nest before they are capable of flying. They may spend as many as two weeks hopping around in bushes and on lawns as they learn to fly.

Although they may seem to be absent, the parents continue to bring the fledglings food and protect them from predators, experts say.

People who come across baby birds in this somewhat awkward stage of development can mistakenly conclude that there is something wrong with the bird — either that the bird broke awing or fell out of the nest prematurely. In trying to help, they may even unwittingly make an orphan of a bird who has perfectly capable parents.

“The sad part is that the birds’ parents are much better at raising their young than even the very best of wildlife rehabilitators,” according to Jim Monsma, center director of Second ChanceWildlife Center in Gaithersburg. “Many of the young songbirds brought to us really should have been left where they were. It would have been much better for them in the long run.”

Wildlife experts offer the following advice for determining whether a baby bird needs assistance:

•Rescue any obviously injured birds, ones that have flies or ants on them, or birds with few or no feathers. Uninjured birds without feathers can be placed back in their nest, if it can be found and reached.
•Alert and healthy birds with feathers should be left where they are, where their parents can find them. Birds in very precarious situations can be moved to nearby bushes (no more than feet) for their own safety. Contrary to a wide-spread and persistent myth, the parents will not reject the baby due to human scent.
When in doubt, people with questions about wild animals can call Second Chance WildlifeCenter at 301.926.9453 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. everyday.


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