Backyard Chirper

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What To Do If You Find a Fallen Baby Bird

With the onset of spring and beautiful weather, more and more birds will begin building nests and raising babies over the next few months.

If your backyard has the three ideal amenities for birds (bird feeders, bird baths and birdhouses), there’s a possibility birds will be nesting near or even in your backyard. Since baby birds sometimes accidentally fall out of their nest, there’s a chance you might find one of these delicate chicks on the ground.

If this is the case, here are some things you should remember to do.

1. Determine whether it’s a nestling or fledgling

If you’re walking around outside and you see a small bird on the ground that doesn’t seem like it can fly yet, you should first determine whether it’s a nestling (newborn) or a fledgling (adolescent). Observe the bird or stick your finger out next to it. If it’s able to hop around or perch on your finger, it’s most likely a fledgling that attempted to fly out of its nest. Leave it there because it will learn to fly and its mother will come to feed it. Just make sure it’s guarded and not in any immediate danger of cats or predators.

2. Put the nestling back in its nest

If it can’t really move and seems underdeveloped still, it’s probably a nestling. Chances are that the bird simply fell out of its nest, so look directly above the fallen bird for a tree and ideally a nesting area. Gently cup the birds in your hand to warm it up and place the bird back in its nest if it’s in reach and you’re sure it’s the right one. If you don’t see any nest around or you’re not sure which one it is, move onto the nest step.

3. Construct your own nest

Sometimes bird nests get completely blown over, you can’t reach it or you simply can’t find it. If this is the case, you will need to construct your own nest for the bird. Get a small wicker basket or a cottage cheese tub with holes punches into the bottom for drainage. Line it with tissue, straw and dried sticks.

4. Secure the nest to the tree

After you’ve constructed the makeshift nest, tie it very securely to the nearby tree or just below the other nest. Make sure it will not fall down from heavy wind. Warm the nestling in your cupped hands briefly and place it into the new nest. Once the parents see that the bird is missing, they will search the immediate area. If they find the new nest, they will adopt the new one as their own and continue to feed and care for the nestling.

5. Call a wildlife specialist if the parents don’t return

Unfortunately, the parents may not always be able to find the nestling, so call a local wildlife specialist or veterinarian if the parents do not return within a few hours.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.

58 Comments

  1. Was cleaning out a lg pot on the deck and accidently uncovered and removed a bird nest before I realizaed what it was. It was fairly large — 4 – 5 inches around shaped like a lg easter egg. It was totally enclosed with straw, mud, leaves, feathers and mybe some fur. I didn’t recognize it as a nest until I opened the top and saw 5 very small, blueish tiny baby birds. They weren’t beeping but were alive and moving. I quickly repatched the nest together and placed it back in the large pot and put the pot back on a rack on the deck just like before. Right away the mother and maybe father birds came and flew around it and acted like they were going inside. However, they didn’t stay very long. One bird, probably the mother – kept coming back but I could not tell if she actually stayed. It is now dark. Does anyone know if the mother will likely try to feed and take care of the birds again???? The mother bird is a small bird 2 to 3 inches, light grey or beige. Not sure what kind. Thx for any help.

  2. The fact that the mother keeps coming back to the nest is a very good sign. She might just be cautious at first because the nest was slightly disturbed, but birds will not usually outright abandon the nest. Birds are not always at the nest because they go out searching for food, so you shouldn’t worry if the mother leaves and comes back. Wait until the morning to see if the mother has come back. If you don’t see any sign of the mother over a span of three or four hours, you should call a local wildlife rehabilitation center.

  3. We have two carports at our apartment. There are two nest, one in each of our spaces. One of the nest hatch birds already and now we are not seeing the mother. Do you think she has abandon them? THe other bird is still sitting on her eggs. THey are the little brown birds, not very big here in Houston, Texas. We have not touched them or messed with them. We get in our car and move as easy as we can. We do not even hit the car alarms? Is it common for the mothers to leave these birds??? Is the mother busy getting food for them and we just don’t cross paths now? THanks

  4. From the way you describe it, the birds don’t seem to have been bothered by your presence very much, so the chances that the mother fully abandoned the nestlings are slim. It’s common for the mother to leave the nest to locate food but she will always come back unless something happened to her. The mother will not leave the nestlings for longer than four or five hours at a time so if you keep an eye out and she doesn’t return in that span, you should call a local wildlife rehabilitation center for advice.

  5. I found a baby bird last night. I then got a wicker basket put the bird in and put it back into the tree. This morning I checked and the bird is still alive….does this mean the mother is feeding it? The basked had some bird fecal in it…please let me know…if all fails I will raise it I just dont wanna take ut outta the tree if the mom is feeding it. Thanks

  6. The fact that the bird is still alive is a good sign. From the way you describe it, I’m guessing the bird is a nestling and not a fledgling that independently left the nest. It’s hard to say exactly if the mother is feeding it, but if you have time, you should definitely try to keep an eye out to see if the mother is going to the nest at all. The mother will usually not leave the nest for longer than 5 hours at a time, so if it’s longer than that and you don’t see any sign of the mother, there’s a good chance she might not find the bird.

  7. There is a baby mockingbird that fell out of its nest last night sometime I believe. Its already hopping around, but we have 2 dogs. We made a makeshift nest with paper towels and a small crate but it jumped out, now its just bundled up looking upwards. I don’t know what should do, we think it fell out over night so its already been wondering around for nearly 24 hrs and we haven’t seen any birds looking for it.

  8. If it’s a nestling, which means it looks newborn and probably doesn’t have any feathers, it could be an issue. However, it sounds like it could be a fledgling, so it’s simply trying to spread its wings and take its maiden voyage, which is natural. Unless it’s a nestling, don’t worry about picking it up. Just make sure it’s safe from your dogs and periodically check to see if one of its parents is coming around to keep feeding it until it flies.

  9. A robin’s nest in our magnolia bush had 3 baby robins in it. I’d been periodically checking on them because it’s been hot & when I went out to check, the nest was gone. I heard the parents calling in distress & we found the nest about 50 feet away; 1 baby gone, 1 dead and 1 still alive (they are pretty large & have feathers.) We put the nest right back where it had been & put the baby that was still alive in it. I don’t know how injured the baby is or if the parents will come back. How do I know if I should try to help the baby & what kind of predator would take the whole nest with 3 large babies out of the tree, then drop it?

  10. My cat brought a baby bird to the porch. It was alive, so I picked it up with a paper towel and moved it
    to a mt. laurel bush (the bird on top of the paper towel inside an old nest I had )
    The bird survived during the night. When I went back the next day to look the bird was gone. It was newly
    born and not a fledgling yet. Anyway can a mother bird pick up her baby and move it. I looked and it
    had not fallen out of the makeshift nest. So don’t know how it got moved??????????????
    It was still a newly hatched baby bird.

  11. Unfortunately, a mother bird will never pick up her baby to move it. My only guess is that since the nest was unguarded, another bird or predator took the nestling. It’s also possible, as brutal as it may sound, that your cat went back to finish the job. Bear in mind that the survival rate of nestlings is fairly low, so nestling deaths are pretty common.

  12. today i found a little fledgling in my furnace closet(it has pipes and such, and goes all the way up to the attic.) my mom put the little bird in a box and put it outside, where she put it has a wooden canopy so it’s not like it was completely unguarded, and later saw a bird come to the box and the baby opened its mouth to be fed. about an hour later i went out to check to see how it was and it was gone. there was no blood or anything. did its mom help it to go hide? 🙁 or did a predator take it?

  13. There are two main possibilities. The first is bad and the second is good. First, it’s possible when you put the bird in an area of your choosing, it made it more susceptible to being picked up by a predator. The other possibility is that since it was a fledgling (which by definition means it was learning to fly), the bird made it’s maiden flight. It seems like it might be that the bird simply flew away because it had managed to get into your furnace closet and the mother was still coming around to help the bird. So, if you’re an optimist, just focus on the second possibility.

  14. Ok, I actually found the baby bird. It was in this little area between my gate and a shed, under some branches. He was there for the past 2 days. I assume his mom came and directed him over there because it’s a very good hiding space with an extra place on the side small enough for only him to get into(no predators/cats to find him!). for the first day or two he was chirping but yesterday was very quiet. I came over to see if he was alright and I moved the bush and he squawked at me so I left him alone. Today I heard no chirping and when I went to inspect I’m pretty sure he was gone. so hopefully he flew away?

  15. Thanks for the update. It sounds like everything worked out fine. It’s hard to say for sure, but hopefully the bird spread its wings and flew away.

  16. I found a baby bird and its nest on the ground. There were 2 babies but one was dead. I fixed the nest the best that I could and put the living baby in the nest in a large bush next to my house. Will the mom start feeding it again? I believe it is a mockingbird. it is very small. It’s eyes are open but it has no feathers so I do not think that it was trying to fly.

  17. Sometimes there is a gust of wind or sudden movement that causes the nest to accidentally fall. You did the correct thing by placing the nest back. If the mother can find the baby, it will definitely keep feeding it. Keep an eye on the bird for a few hours. If the mother doesn’t come back after six hours, there’s a possibility she won’t come back. Call a local wildlife specialist if she doesn’t come back.

  18. Found a fledgling in my garage today that made its own little nest! It was halarious! I heard mom chirping outside and reunited the two! He scurried into the bushes and I’m assuming mom is taking over her natural duty once again! It was a cool experience!

  19. My husband found a fledgling on the ground yesterday. He looked healthy. Had feathers and would chirp when my hubby would get close. We quickly read on the Internet to put it in a nearby bush or tree branch. His nest was too high for us and he was in the grass out in the open. So we put him in a big bush nearby. We didn’t look out the window or watched to see what happened (it was dusk and getting late) but we did hear lots of chirping this am. When we went to check up on Rambo ( that’s what we named him cause he looked tough) he was gone. Do you think he made it?

  20. Hi Melinda. It’s hard to say for sure, but if he was a healthy fledgling with feathers, it’s very likely he took his first flight and safely flew somewhere else.

  21. Hi, we have found in the last 3 days 2 fledging birds (separate days) hopping on the ground. We see a mocking bird close by and have not done anything hoping they were learning to fly. The next morning we start looking for the birds and both times they are dead. What should we do? Thanks.

  22. Hi Darlene. Unfortunately, there’s really nothing you can do. The world and nature can be pretty harsh at times and many birds do not make it for a number of reasons. It’s hard to say how they died, but you did the right thing in leaving them alone. Hopefully, the next brood will find more success and safely learn to fly.

  23. Thanks Timothy. We found another one today. It really is sad..hopefully we won’t find another. Thanks again.

  24. I found a nest in my garage today with nestlings. Earlier today I found a bird trapped in the garage ( not realizing there was a nest) so I opened the door and let her out to close it again. I can keep the garage door open most offtheday but cannot at night. Will they be ok locked in the garage with our without mom? I’m concerned that momms bird will get locked out I’ve night.

  25. so i found a nest in my shed u see i saw 5 eggs i kept them in the nest then i saw 2 of the eggs cracked and 2 babys they r just right next to each other they arent moving i dont no ifthere alive or not

  26. We found 2 baby birds in our yard that are both undeveloped and haven’t even open there eyes yet. One was in a cracked and opened egg while one was just lying on the ground. Both are alive and Breathing. What should I do?

  27. Hey!!! I’m a 13 year old girl in Colorado. Today me and my brother were walking in our fenced in backyard and found a baby bird who had fell out of the nest. We can’t find th nest but we found a dead baby about an hour before around the same spot. The momma bird keeps comming back and feeding the baby but the baby can fly, so he is stuck in our yard…. Help? Plz reply soon!

  28. […] here at Backyard Chirper is what to do when you find a baby bird. We generally refer people to this helpful blog post on finding baby birds, which says to first determine whether the bird is a nestling or a […]

  29. Have a baby bluebird fledgling in our backyard. We found him about a week ago in our front yard and are trying not to interfere but have offered some assistance. I have two dogs and feel like he needs to be out of my backyard. It seems like he is trying to get out and go to where his parents are on the other side of the fence. There has been thunderstorms almost everyday and is supposed to continue. We had to save him once because the morning after a bad storm I found him on the ground caked in mud, shaking, and about to die. Washed him up dried him off and put him back out and now he’s great. I guess I’m wondering how long will it be until he’s able to leave my backyard on his own. Is he learning what he needs to being trapped in my yard? I don’t mind keeping my dogs away for another week.

  30. I know this is a late reply, but hopefully it’ll help someone in the future. This is quite a predicament. The bird needs to be with its nestlings, but you can’t leave the garage open all day and night. There must be a way in and out though, so it’s possible there’s another entrance the bird is coming in from, so you might be OK there.

  31. Again, this is a late reply, but just in case anyone else is wondering the same thing. I’d suggest looking for the nest as thoroughly as possible. If you can’t find the nest, there’s not much you can do. The mother will try to feed the baby for longer, but it’ll become susceptible to predation. You can try calling your local humane society or making a makeshift nest, but sometimes this is just part of nature.

  32. Seems like you’re doing all the right things. When it will finally be able to fly depends on the type of bird, how old it is, etc. However, as long as it’s not in any direct danger, the bird will be perfectly OK and will learn to fly on its own in a few days hopefully.

  33. Michael, You’re Awesome! I Found a feathered fledging about 7:30 am today in the backyard, likely a mockybird, so many around in Texas! My yearling kitty was the discoverer. I quickly snatched the birdie up, no injuries, made a quick nest from a plastic pot (holes in bottom), pines needles/sticks. Mama bird seemed to be watching, but I couldn’t find the nest, so I taped this makeshift nest up in the maple tree about 8-9 feet up, very close to where I found fledging, but mama bird doesn’t seem to be coming back! After 5 hrs. I fed birdie 1 worm in 3 pieces with hemostats, of which he gladly accepted. But, I’m worried the human smell from my hands when I picked him up once, and the kitty smell from the yearling kitty might keep mama bird away?? Any thoughts?

  34. Timothy, I’m a Goober, I called Michael for advice, to no avail, but YOU’RE the AWESOME one! Thanks for your website for these baby birds!!

  35. thanks Timothy. I’m a bit concerned now. Mama bird doesn’t seem to be around, and baby bird out of nest now and nestled in some iron bushes, doesn’t seem injured, still eating and drinking. Don’t know if he feel out, jumped out, or kitties ran him out(I’m trying really hard); kitties inside… So, should I leave baby bird there, or put back in nest? And, are dillie worms, little earth worms enough, or should I be supplementing with something else? Thanks, Tina.

  36. If the bird is a feathered fledgling like you said, it’s possible the bird is in the process of trying to fly, which means it’s intentionally trying to leave the nest. The best thing you can do is give it some space and make sure your kitties can’t get him. He may be at the point where he doesn’t need the mother or the mother is just giving him more and more space as well until he flies.

  37. Hi Timothy, I’m glad that I found your blog while looking for photos of baby birds for our game, “Backyard Bird Relay.” Meadowscaping for Biodiversity is an outdoor environmental education program based in Waltham, MA. We teach students and adults to repurpose turf lawn to build natural habitat. We remove grass and replace with healthy soil and native plants. We never use pesticides of any other toxic substances. Yesterday and today we (and a carpentry educator) showed the students how to build swallow/robin nest boxes and bluebird boxes. We also use games and humor to bring up complicated topics like climate change, invasive species, and lost landscapes due to development. We show participants how to be citizen scientists and stewards of the Earth. You are certainly both of those. Keep up the wonderful work

  38. I found a fledgling that appears to have been Injured has blood around its beak and idk what to do I see the nest and am wondering if I should try a d put it back in the nest it had a sibling but I found it dead a few feet away what should I do

  39. I rehab raptors, but moved and am not very close to a facility anymore. Anyways, had a thunderstorm and a fledgling mockingbird was discovered shivering in front yard. I took it out of the rain and made a nest of towels in a very shallow (2 in deep) box so it can hop out. No parents around, bout 6 hours. Now it’s breathing heavily, but not shivering since it dried off. Has moved a bit, is standing and isn’t injured. Cared for quite a few birds in my day, but never seen one breathing heavily like this. Isnt chirping or making any noise either. Otherwise, seems fine.

  40. Well, as soon as i wrote this mom came back. They are chirping back and forth. Breathing heavy still, but it seemed to perk up when it heard mom. Wondering if it’s slightly ill, or maybe just slightly traumatized from being wet and cold for so long

  41. Just tried to put nestling Robin back into his nest. But caused a fledgeling to jump out. The parents are in distress. I then he grabbed the fledgeling and tried to put him back in but he keeps on jumping out now. Should I build a small nest and place it next to the other and point the nestling in it? Should I attempt again to put the fledgeling in the next again?

  42. Once a fledgling tries to take flight, how long until they are successful? I rescued one from my cat and put him in a makeshift nest out of reach, but I’m worried that if he jumps out again and doesn’t fly, one of the many feral cats around here will get him. He doesn’t seem too badly injured – he did cling pretty tightly to the cloth I picked him up in, and also to the tree branch, but then fell to the ground again. Anyway to know when he’ll be strong enough to actually fly?

  43. I am trying to figure out if I did something wrong. I had a birds nest on the front porch up in a corner. The babies were born and the mama took good care of them. As they started to grow it became apparent that the nest in the corner wasn’t large enough and a baby fell out onto the concrete below. As I kept looking two other birds almost fell out as well because they didn’t have room to move. I went and got a old hanging basket and put some pine straw in it and took a spatula and got under the nest and put it in the basket on top of the straw and hung it on a hook next to where the nest was (I had on gloves as well). The mama came right back to the nest in its new place and I thought all was well. I went back out about two hours later and the babies were dead. Any idea what might have happened?

  44. I feed birds several times daily in my back yard, and hadI guarded and watched the Wren’s next hanging from the rafter of my front porch. I am a worrier.
    Then the parents didn’t come or feed them all day, so I looked in the nest and thought they might be dead, but when I moved the bamboo bird house they all came out and started running on the ground in every direction, and one could almost fly. I think now the parents might have been trying to get them to leave the net, but NOW I am worried sick because one of the babies ran almost to another yard and under a car! CAN THE PARENTS FIND THE BABIES IF THEY HAVE GONE FAR AWAY FROM THE NEST AREA? I have written everywhere asking if parents can find the babies if they have run a good distance away. I know the parents are nurturing one of them already, because I saw it through the window, but what about the one who is all the way around the house under a car? I work constantly for rescued animals and can’t bear to think one of these birds might not live because the parents don’t know where it is.

  45. Another concern, can baby birds on the ground out of the nest survive a rain storm?
    We may be getting some rain tonight. Also, how long do baby birds stay on the ground before they are able to fly up into a tree and away from predators?

  46. Does anyone know how long mockingbird fledglings remain on the ground? I have one baby still in the nest (in our backyard) and the other is now a fledgling on the ground. Unfortunately I have a husky-mix who is very interested in the chirping baby hopping on the ground. Just wondering about how long I need to keep him indoors?

  47. How do you tell what kind of nestling bird the bird is??

  48. I found a baby nestling in my front yard ditch and there was no nest near it. There was no momma bird coming. He was shaking as if he was cold what should I do?

  49. Found two baby robins and their nest on the ground in my yard. They are not nestlings but not quite fletchlings either. Tree is too tall for me to put nest back in tree. What should I do? Mommy bird was on the ground with them at first but hasn’t come back in awhile.

  50. Please tell me what kind of baby birds you display at top of this article. We have them. Finch?

  51. I have wrens that built a nest in a birdhouse that I had. The babies hatched a couple days ago. It’s been a week of 90’s, but cooler today. It’s on a shepherd’s hook. Today was extremely windy and in the blink of an eye, the house was on the ground. (3 feet drop). (it was upright and nothing spilled out). I quickly rewired it and noticed there weren’t any peeps coming from the box. I’m sick. Mama was agitated. She still keeps going in with food, but once came back out with it. What are the chances the babies are just stunned. It’s been 4 hours. I thought I heard a faint peep…but…If the babies didn’t make it, will the mother stop coming around? Any thoughts. Should I hold out hope that they still might make it? How long should I wait before emptying the box and what are the chances they will lay again this summer Thanks…upset in VT.

  52. Hello, the nest fell out of the barn when a large storage door was opened. Only one survived. Brought it in & found out it was a sparrow about 6 days old. Followed care instructions & administered a cat food mixture & electrolyte solution every half hour. It was pooping well and seemed strong. Trying to put the nest back was not an option. However, there were sparrows nesting in an abandoned pump house in another location. I peeked in the nests with my phone camera and found one I could reach with babies less than a week old that were peeping loudly. The parents were flying around outside. So I carefully put the orphan in another sparrow nest. They may have been slightly younger by a couple of days, but not sure.

    My question is whether you think the sparrows will adopt it or push it out of the nest? My broody hen adopted two 4 day old chicks from the feedstore right after hatching her own singlet, and they are 2 months old now, so I thought it was worth a try, but I can’t find this sort of a situation on the internet where instead of trying to replace said chick into original nest, it is instead placed into an adoptive nest of same species and age of nestlings? Have you heard of this and whether sparrows will take in a strange chick?

    I don’t want to go back in and monitor it because the building is structurally unsound.

    Thanks for your opinion.

  53. I live in NY ,Brooklyn , and I always see tiny baby birds that have fallen out of nests but most of the time they are already gone. I’m the type that will nurse any animal to health if it’s hurt but I have parrots at home so bringing a wild bird into the home would be a concern now for disease reasons . In any cAse , some NY animal lovers and I found one today that seemed very healthy just too young to fly . We looked after HM while the Parent kept coming to feed him but he didn’t have all his feathers and it was obvious he couldn’t fly back to his nest . We made him a little one , but he kept hopping out of it every time the parent bird came and hopping around on the ground , where he was for sure going to get stepped on or ran over . . It was only a matter of time! So a maintenance man cAme and found the only best he could in the area, which he said he knew had been abandoned and put him in where he at least wouldn’t get eaten or ran over or stepped on. It took a super long time for the parents to find him , and I’m not even sure they were his parents. If they weren’t, will the birds that have been flying up there now hurt him? Or , will they adopt him? I feel so invested w this little guy, he got very comfy w me all the times I rescued him from the street he kept hopping to and trying to put him back in our nest until we put him in the one we found . It’s been several hours abs there are birds goibfvinband our if it, but the Mom was feeding a clear adolescent , that could fly so I’m worried that wasn’t his Mom.

  54. In fact we probably saved his life 30 times from being stepped on in just the hour or two we were watching over him !

  55. Sorry for typos !

  56. Ps. He’s a tiny little sparrow or something like that .

  57. We have a Robin’s nest next to our porch, I noticed that one is dead. Should I remove it from the nest?

  58. Yesterday my mom had her pine tree cut down because a tornado had come through and the roots were broken. Today my son went over to cut it up and found a tiny grey bird. Not walking or moving around barely has its eyes open. Unsure really what to do with it. Has a lil peach fuzz on it. Any advice?

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