Helping Birds: I Found a Baby Bird on the Ground!

Every year as hatching and fledging season gears up, we find baby birds in spots they don’t seem to belong, i.e. out of their nest. And they seem to look either helpless or lost – what can we do?

Rescued House Finch Nestling
Photo Credit:  Deborah Rivel
The answer to this question is based on determining a few things:
1 – Is the bird injured?
2 – How old is the bird? 
3 – Where are the parents?


Any injured bird (or any wildlife) should be taken to a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator – whether you have found a baby or an adult. Many licensed rehabbers specialize in the types of critters they care for.  To find one near you, check out this website or call your local Audubon chapter – some of which may even have a rescue operation.  You can also search online for “bird rehabilitator near me” and you may get additional choices.


If the bird is not injured, but is out of the nest, first assess the age. If the bird has no feathers, and is helpless, this is a nestling and still needs to be in his nest and with his parents.


If the bird has feathers and is hopping around on the ground alone, this is a fledgling. Since many birds fly out of the nest (or fledge) but aren’t strong enough to fly back in or even onto a branch, often the parents will feed and try to hide the juvenile bird until he is able to lift himself off the ground, which may take a week.  This is an extremely dangerous time for young birds.  The parents are nearby, but the young ones are very vulnerable to predation from cats or wild animals, harm from dogs or even well meaning children. So, please keep all of the above you have control over out of the area and in the house.  Look from a distance preferably inside where you cannot be seen by the parents, and if you do not see the adult birds come to get or feed the bird after 30 minutes or so,  it’s possible something may have happened to them.


What to do?  Keep in mind that letting the parents take care of their young is always the preferred choice if the parents are still alive and see their baby. Please read what the expert bird rehabilitators advise us to do at The Wild Bird Fund and at Mass Audubon.  Then you will be able to make an informed decision and do the right thing to help the baby bird. Both of these organizations have excellent information about the most helpful steps to take for the baby bird.


And one more note…if you do take any animal or bird to a rehabilitation center, bear in mind that most of these places are funded solely by donations.  If you are able to provide even a small donation towards the care of the baby bird you bring in, it will always be greatly appreciated. And it helps keep these places open so they can continue to help birds in need.