What’s the best approach when you find seemingly injured baby birds? Leave it alone

Categories: President's Blog

hawkIt’s because love is in the air….

It was as if a switch had been turned on and all of the orphaned babies were brought to the Pasadena Humane Society on the same day. Dozens of young animals were turned in over the counter at the shelter by well-meaning people who swooped in like superheroes to save the day. One by one, the heroes came to the front office with something in a box, a bag or even a rolled up newspaper, nervously stating, “I found this bird and I didn’t know what to do, so I brought him here.” And, it was just a Tuesday in March.

The rest of the week was similar. A nest of chirping hairless babies with their gaping mouths looking for food were found in a nest on a tree branch. A partly-feathered, singleton house finch hopping around outside a family’s front door seemingly in need of help. The injured Cooper’s hawk that got caught in the telephone pole wire was next with a wing that was clearly broken. The mockingbird with a puncture wound that was rescued by a young boy from the mouth of an outdoor cat followed. One by one, the birds needing triage, care and support, were admitted into the shelter. In 2016, almost 5,000 wild animals–birds, mammals, and reptiles–were cared for by the Pasadena Humane Society, and 2017 is already proving to match the previous year.

Why are so many wild birds finding themselves displaced and needing help? It’s because love is in the air. Spring/summer is mating season, which is then followed by baby season for wildlife. Moms and dads make nests everywhere and anywhere they can to raise their young. In more urban communities, this means backyard trees, bushes, even air conditioner overhangs. They often build homes in places that are unprotected from human invasion. When a person comes across a bird’s nest, they often think the babies are abandoned. However, in most cases, the parents are simply out looking for food to feed their young. Juvenile birds called fledglings are those that are on the ground. People unnecessarily “rescue” them, thinking they are injured when actually birds learn to fly by spending time on the ground and flying up while mom is watching and teaching from a distance. While birds can get injured in many ways, we most commonly see healthy baby birds that have been separated from their parents by a well-meaning person.

IMG_1246The Pasadena Humane Society is the only shelter in Southern California that has a wildlife rehabilitation license and provides direct care to all wild birds. With the support of partnerships with Western University, volunteer wildlife veterinarian Dr. Curtis Eng, and fellow licensed wildlife rehabilitators throughout the region, thousands of animals are triaged, provided with medical care, and released back into the wild. This year, however, the Pasadena Humane Society is trying a different approach of prevention and education aimed at keeping birds in the community rather than the shelter. Consider the following tips when you see a baby bird in possible distress:

  • Observe from a distance before removing a nest or a bird from the area to give the parents the opportunity to return.
  • Check nearby for a nest and return the baby if possible. Yes, a momma bird will care for their baby even after a human touches an animal. However, it’s always best to wear gloves.
  • Make a substitute nest if needed. Poke a few holes in the bottom of a plastic tub, line it with grass or pine needles, and hang from a tree or bush making sure it’s safe from people or other animals.
  • Ensure cats are kept indoors and children are kept at a distance in order to give a fledgling the time he needs to learn to fly. It can be a great family experience to watch and take pictures from a distance.
  • If a bird is truly abandoned or injured, bring it to the Pasadena Humane Society at 361 S. Raymond Ave or call 626.792.7151 for an officer to pick it up.

Find more tips on living with wildlife, volunteer opportunities with the wildlife department, or make a donation to support our wildlife efforts.

About Julie Bank

Julie Bank is President/CEO of the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA. Her animal welfare career spans almost thirty years working in leadership roles in local and national nonprofit and governmental animal control organizations in New York, Arizona, Oklahoma City and California. She is a nationally recognized speaker and writer on animal issues, and has traveled extensively educating and supporting organizations and communities with their animal welfare efforts. Each blog post originally appeared as part of Julie's weekly column for the Pasadena Star News and San Gabriel Valley Tribune.