Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Baby Birds Abound This Time of Year
June 25, 2021
by Steve Grinley
The phone calls, and store visits, have already started from folks who find an “abandoned” bird. Some seem to be doing the right things, perhaps after reading my previous columns on the subject or by looking up information on the Internet. Others don’t have a clue what to do. So I find it necessary to once again repeat my suggestions for such situations:
This is peak nesting season for many species of birds in our area. You may encounter a fledgling on the ground, hopping about, waiting to still be fed by the parents. Young robins with speckled breasts, little gray catbirds with short tails and fluffy little chickadees fluttering their wings to be fed, are some of the young birds you may see. All of these birds likely have had their parents nearby though at first glance one may think they are on their own. It is best to leave them alone.
First, all birds are protected by state and federal laws, and it is illegal to possess or relocate birds, unless you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. The only exceptions are nonnative species: house sparrows, starlings and pigeons.
That being said, it is human instinct to want to protect the bird. If the bird is a hatchling, that is, it does not have feathers or looks totally helpless, you can look for the nest from whence it came and return it to the nest. The next best thing is to secure a basket in a bush or tree and place the bird in the basket with the hope, albeit slim, that the parent will find it and care for it. Most birds do not have a keen sense of smell, so handling a baby bird will in no way deter a parent from caring for it.
If you don’t know where the nest is, keep the bird warm and safe until you make arrangements with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for its continued care. Do not attempt to feed it or give it water unless instructed to do so by a rehabilitator. Any injured bird would also require the help of a trained rehabilitator. A list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators can be obtained from Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Web site at www.masswildlife.org.
If the bird is a fledgling, that is, it has feathers and is just flightless, and it is not visibly injured, it is best to leave it alone. Young birds often leave the nest before they can fly or fend for themselves. This is part of the “training” process for surviving on their own. The parent birds are almost always in the area, watching after and defending their young, as well as feeding the fledglings until they learn to feed themselves. If there is imminent danger, such as a cat, try to remove the danger, not the bird. Put the cat inside where it belongs or if it belongs to a neighbor, ask the neighbor to remove the cat.
So if you find a “helpless” bird, the best advice I can give is to, in most cases, leave the bird alone. The sad statistics are that less than 30 percent of all hatched birds survive their first year. Cats are a major danger and should be kept indoors at all times. Crows, grackles and jays are notorious for raiding nests. It is nature’s way of controlling the populations to levels the environment can sustain.
We do what we can. And sometimes we have to let nature take its course.