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

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!

How to Help Backyard Birds Survive Freezing and Snowy Weather

Animals and humans both need to manage through winter’s adverse conditions of freezing weather and snowstorms. When we’re all tucked up in our warm homes, it’s easy to overlook what we can do to make winter survival easier for wildlife in our backyards.

Photo: © Mike Hamilton

Many people care about and enjoy the birds visiting their backyards and want to provide them with nourishment during the winter. Bird feeders filled with seeds or hummingbird feeders are popular amongst people as well as birds. Please keep the following steps in mind to help prevent issues and illness of the backyard wildlife:

Hummingbird Feeders

  • Use the following recipe for sugar water. Mix 4 parts of boiled water with 1 part of white sugar. Stir, cool and fill up the feeder. No need to use food colouring, honey or other products. This will prevent bacteria and fungal growth in the feeder.
  • Use a feeder warmer or rotate feeders during freezing weather. Remember that hummingbirds have very high metabolism and feed constantly from dawn to just after dusk. Frozen nectar in feeders can literally starve hummingbirds, causing them to suffer very low levels of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), their body’s main energy source.
  • Although hummingbirds also feed on insects they can find in tree bark, hummingbirds are very dependent on backyard feeders to survive in freezing and snowy weather. To avoid freezing, alternate two feeders when temperatures drop towards zero and replace the one that froze overnight with one that is warm and fluid in the morning before you head to work. Another option is to purchase a feeder warmer that keeps the nectar from freezing.
  • Clean feeders regularly to prevent disease spread. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned once a week at a minimum during winter and more often during the summer. The feeder should be emptied, the sugar water in the feeder disposed of, and the feeder and its ports cleaned using a bottle brush with a mild solution of dish soap and bleach.

Seed Feeders

Bird feeders can provide songbirds with extra nutrition during the winter, but can pose some risks as well. The birds species found in our area are adapted to survive the winter and natural food sources are available to them.

Bird feeders make wildlife susceptible to cat and predator attacks, disease spread, bacterial infection, and territorial aggression. To prevent these common dangers, here are some tips that are helpful year-round:

  • Clean the seed feeders every few weeks and wait to re-hang the feeder for a week. This will disperse the population and lessen the chance of spreading disease or causing birds to get aggressive due to crowding. Disease spread is not uncommon and can include viral or bacterial infections in their eyes (conjunctivitis), or scaly leg mites (microscopic insects that live underneath the scales on the bird’s lower legs and feet), an uncomfortable and often fatal condition.
  • Replace bird seed regularly and thoroughly wash the feeder. If left too long, bacteria and fungus will grow and either kill or weaken the birds so they don’t have a fighting chance for winter. Use small amounts of seeds and wash the feeder regularly with a 10% bleach solution. Clean underneath the feeder regularly as some birds forage on the ground.
Photo: Paul Steeves
  • Keep cats indoors. Birds at feeders can be easy pray for cats that don’t need to feed on wildlife to survive. Protect both your cat and birds by keeping them indoors or provide them with a catio.

In summary, while the extra boost of calories and nutrition from bird feeders can help birds gain strength needed to survive the inclement winter months, some simple steps will ensure good intentions don’t become bad.

Gosling Rescue Caught On Camera!

Witness the extraordinary rooftop rescue of trapped goslings by Wildlife Rescue volunteers Liz and Cathy!

How To: Reunite Nestlings

Wildlife Technicians have assessed the nestling or fledgling bird and have determined it’s healthy enough to return to the wild. Here’s how to reunite the animal safely.

Kieran Bridge – A Friend Remembered

In January of this year, Wildlife Rescue lost one of its own. Kieran Bridge was Wildlife Rescue’s lawyer for decades. He will not be forgotten.

Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Release: Canada Goose

A young goose arrived at Wildlife Rescue with a stick stabbed through its leg in what looked like an intentional attack by a person. Click here to read about its emergency surgery, the care required to heal it, and its reunion with its family.

Wildlife Rescue Benefit Concert

YVR POP CHOIR will be putting on a benefit concert for Wildlife Rescue on Saturday, December 2 at Woodward’s in downtown Vancouver!

Bullock’s Oriole: From Nearly Frozen to Death to Living a New Life in the West

Nearly frozen to death in Ontario in 2015, this Bullock’s oriole’s journey to recovery and freedom is simply remarkable.

Thank You For Caring

Hello, Wildlife Champion!

If you’re reading this it means you’ve once taken the first step towards helping injured, orphaned and pollution-damaged wildlife in B.C.

It’s because of you wildlife in Metro Vancouver are able to get a second chance at all, so thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your care and passion!

As a sign of gratitude for your helping we here at Wildlife Rescue wanted to send our heartfelt regards to you for your amazing help that day you brought in your injured animal.

Because of people like you more than 5,000 injured animals are taken in annually at Wildlife Rescue. While we handle the care and rehabilitation from that point forward, it’s truly you who makes the first step towards its recovery.

Please enjoy this video we made for you!

Thank you again and have a lovely day!


The Wildlife Rescue Staff

How-to: Prevent Cat Attacks on Wildlife

Outdoor cats are the number one killer of wild birds in Canada. How can you help prevent cats from injuring innocent wildlife?

Give to Wildlife