All babies have a better chance of survival if the parents give the care.
It’s common to encounter baby birds in all stages of development in the spring and summer. The first rule is to leave a baby bird alone until it is determined that it needs assistance. Here is a basic guide to help you make this decision. You can always call us at 919-428-0896 for advice.
First: Is the bird fully feathered?
If YES, it is most likely a fledgling bird. Fully feathered baby birds are frequently found on the ground and are still being watched over and fed by one or both parents while it learns to fly and feed itself. As long as it appears to be uninjured, leave the area and keep pets and children away from the bird. The bird's parent(s) will not return to the fledgling while people are nearby, but will return to give care when they feel safe. You will likely not see the parents if you are close by.
If NO, an uninjured bird found on the ground with few or no feathers needs to be returned to the nest. Look around in trees and bushes to see if you can locate the nest. Before replacing the bird make sure it is warm. It is okay to touch a baby bird gently with your hands. The mother will not reject it if it has a human's scent on it; however, a mother will not take back a cold baby.
Cold = death to most animals.
Warming or keeping a baby animal warm is very important - follow this link for How to Warm a Baby Animal.
Second: Does the bird appear injured?
If you encounter a fledgling (feathered) baby bird alone on the ground, try to observe if it has any of these conditions: is it bleeding, unable to stand, missing feathers, unresponsive, or it is in immediate danger of being killed by a cat, dog, traffic, or another predator? If any of these conditions apply then the bird does need help and you should contact a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.
Please help give baby birds the best possible chance for survival and leave them in the wild where they belong whenever possible. Additionally, in the United States, attempting to raise, rehabilitate, or keep a wild bird in captivity is a federal offense unless you have been federally licensed to do so.
IMPORTANT: Each animal’s nutritional, housing, and handling requirements are very specific and must be met if the animal has any chance of survival. Cow’s milk and human milk replacements can cause the death of baby wild animals. Canned cat and dog food are not appropriate and often do more harm than good. Please do not ever feed a baby bird anything without first consulting a licensed bird rehabilitator.