How-to: Keep Baby Birds (and Small Mammals) With Their Parents

Posted May 1, 2017 by sam

As this blog is being written, spring seems as though it’s finally sprung. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and the Wildlife Rescue hospital is preparing for an influx of baby animals over the next few months.

We all welcome the chance to spend more time outdoors and Wildlife Rescue wants to help you co-exist with nature a bit better. Since it’s also the start of baby bird season, we’d like to offer you an easy list to follow to ensure baby birds (and mammals!) are not separated from their parents.

We offer this since each year we see roughly 300 baby birds who have been, for one reason or another, orphaned – often by human interference.

So What Can You Do?

Before the babies are even born, there are things you can do in your own backyard to encourage “safe nesting”.

Be an early bird and inspect your house now!

  • Check all side vents including gable and attic vents.

Track down active nests by:

  • Checking locations where nests have been before.
  • Listening for chirping, rustling, and fluttering sounds coming from vents.
  • Checking for bird droppings below the vent or nesting material sticking out of them.

Protect your house before birds start nesting

Protective vent products you can use:

  • Hardware cloth—galvanized wire mesh 1/2 in x 1/2 in square openings.
  • Commercial vent covers—dryer-vent specific and general use models.
  • Both are available at your local hardware or big box building supply store.

Provide nest boxes and nesting materials

  • It may seem obvious, but a well-placed nest box can mean the difference between nesting success and failure for a cavity-nesting bird.
  • To best protect their eggs, parent birds select nesting material carefully, and many birds use several types of material to construct a single nest:
    • hair (human, cat, dog, etc.), cotton, wool, dried grass, feathers, bulrush down, bits of fabric, twigs, loose bits of thread, string, and yarn (not too long, so the birds don’t get tangled up).
    • Hang the bag from a clothesline or tree branch in your backyard or drape material over trees or shrubs near birdfeeders or sheltered spots where birds may build nests.

Bird in Distress? How to Assess!

The very first thing to do whether you’ve encountered what appears to be an orphaned baby bird, duckling, or mammal, is to first observe the situation.

Observe the Situation

If you think you have found an injured or orphaned bird, stop, observe, and ask yourself the following questions…

  • Is the bird obviously injured? Can you see exposed bone or blood? (*)
  • Is the bird on the ground?
  • Is the bird fully feathered?
  • Is it naked? (*)
  • Is the bird able to walk or run?
  • Is the bird vocalizing?
  • Is the bird gaping? (opening mouth for food)
  • Do you see predators or have you witnessed a predator attack? (*)
  • Is it covered in bugs or insects? (*)
  • Does the bird look sleepy? (*)

Call for help if needed

If you have answered yes to any of the above questions indicated by a star (*) human intervention is required. Get in touch with Wildlife Rescue’s information and helpline immediately at 604-526-7275.

If not, hang back and watch

If help is not needed, but you’re still concerned, it’s best to hang back and watch. It’s possible your presence merely scared the parent away and within an hour or two it’s possible the parent will come back.

Both baby bird and baby mammals outgrow their nests and will spend some time on the ground, testing their abilities and exploring.

Want to Do More?

Once again, waiting the situation out can be best, but if you’re concerned then here are a couple of things you can do:

Play a distress call – If you know what species the animal is, take out your phone, open the YouTube app and see if there is a distress call that you can play.

This can cue the parent to come and pick up their baby.

It’s true! In April, 2017 Wildlife Rescue was able to reunite an orphaned squirrel by doing this. It can take quite a bit of time, but the payoff is well worth it.

Find / make a nest – If you’ve found a baby bird, particularly if it’s pink and naked, look in your immediate area for signs of a nest.

If you can’t find one the best thing to do is to make a nest yourself. You can do this with a container, such as an empty sour cream container.

Be sure to puncture a few holes in the bottom for drainage, and have some towels put in place as bedding.

Contact Us!

If in any of these cases, whether you think it’s an emergency or simply want some information, please contact us at our helpline at 604-526-7275.

You can also take a picture and tweet us @WRAofBC. Be sure to include the exact location and the date/time.

We’re always happy to help!

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