What to do if you find a baby bird

Young birds often do not need the
Young birds often do not need the 'rescuing' humans think they do, but occasionally they do.
— image credit: Photo submitted

"I found a baby bird, now what?"

Each year M.A.R.S. rescues or receives numerous baby wildlife species, some are mammals but the vast majority are birds. Every year we send out the same message, "A baby's best chance of survival is its mother."

Sadly many people still do not get the message and actually kidnap healthy babies that have been left hidden whilst the mother forages or hunts for food. Here are some guidelines to follow should you come across baby wildlife and especially baby birds.

Is the bird hurt or does appear sick? Symptoms could include inability to use its wings, or does it seem weak or is it shivering? If the answer is yes call M.A.R.S. at 1-800-304-9968 for information on how to proceed. Check to make sure there are no cats or dogs nearby and keep people away.

Does the bird appear healthy and have feathers but is running on the ground unable to fly? This is a fledgling bird and must spend a few days on the ground as it learns to fly, this is normal behaviour. If the bird is mainly covered in fluffy down with a gaping mouth, it is a nestling and needs to be back in the nest; it has either fallen or has been pushed out but will not survive on the ground.

Nestlings can be put back into their nest if it can be located, or they can be placed in a small basket or plastic tub lined with a soft cloth or paper towel, no wet grass. The basket or tub can be placed back in a tree, when the mother hears the chick peeping she will come back and feed the baby. Check back from a distance to see if the adult has returned.

If your rescue attempts fail after a few hours then we ask you, if possible, to take the following steps: Make sure you have gloves to protect against sharp claws and beaks; prepare a carrier, box or even a paper bag, with small air holes, depending on the size of the bird; gently lift and put the bird into the container and cover it right away, avoid unnecessary handling.

DO NOT GIVE FOOD OR WATER. Cover the container with a towel and put it in a warm, dark, quiet place. Do not open or disturb the bird. Make sure you wash your hands and any items such as towels, jackets etc. that may have touched the bird as they do have parasites and can carry diseases.

Please note the exact location of the rescue so that we know where to relocate the bird if it is successfully rehabilitated. Please do not attempt to raise a baby yourself, it is against the wildlife act and they need professional help if they are to survive.

M.A.R.S. offers advice on a number of mammals including baby racoons, newborn fawns, seal pups and otters. However, we do not have the facilities or permits to rehabilitate these species and only stabilize them before relocating them to another wildlife centre on the Island.

It is important to remember to call us first before attempting a rescue as these types of species can be dangerous. Each year we also receive a number of large raptors, eagles, owls, hawks and great blue herons. All of these species require expert knowledge and handling; again, we ask you to call for advice before attempting any kind of rescue.

Injured wildlife can be very unpredictable, finding hidden strength to fight back even when they appear to be dead. Please watch for deer and fawns on the roads and help keep the seal pups and sea birds safe by not letting dogs chase them along the shoreline.

We would like to invite the public to our open house on April 6 at 6817 Headquarters Road in Merville; we offer tours of our facility and a chance to meet our three ambassador birds. To call for advice or other information please call 250-337-2021 or visit our web site at for more details on our open house.

Sandy Fairfield is the educational co-ordinator for the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS). The MARS column appears every second Thursday.

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