What to do if you find a fallen baby bird or nest – Tips from a Wildlife Biologist
Every spring and summer, birds busy themselves
building nests, laying eggs, and feeding their young. But what happens when something goes
wrong, and you find helpless, unfeathered babies on the ground, or a nest that has been
knocked out of a tree? It’s a simple process to reunite nesting birds and their young.
This mockingbird nest was knocked out of a tree in our backyard after a strong storm.
When you find unprotected nestlings, be sure to put away household pets. Curious cats and
dogs are a threat to nesting birds. In our case, these mockingbird chicks aren’t fully
feathered, and they aren’t aggressively trying to fly away, so we know they aren’t ready
to leave the nest just yet. If the nest is still intact and you can reach it, simply
place the chicks back in the nest. Don’t worry about touching the birds. It’s not true that
the smell of your hands will cause the nest to be abandoned.
If you can’t find the nest, or if it is out of reach, you can make a temporary replacement
nest. You’ll need a hanging basket, and some natural materials like mulch, leaves, or moss.
Fill the hanging basket so that the materials come up to the edge of the basket. This way,
as the chicks get older and begin to explore their nest, they won’t fall between the nest
and the walls of the basket. Be sure to leave space in the middle to fit the chicks.
If you have the nest, place the nest into the hanging basket. Make sure to fill in the
gaps with natural materials to stabilize the basket, support the nest, and prevent the
chicks from falling into the deep basket as they explore their world.
Find a hanging spot as close to the original nest as possible, and hang the basket from
a sturdy hook or branch. When the parents return, there’s a good chance they’ll find
the new nest, especially if the nestlings make lots of noise. But resist the urge to
babysit too closely, (or to constantly check on the nestlings). You want the adults to
feel comfortable investigating, and they can’t do that if you’re constantly peeking into
the nest. The adults may not return immediately, and when they do, they probably won’t stay
very long. In our case, the adults watched the entire procedure, and fed the nestlings
within a few hours. Not all bird species are so bold, so be patient. Trust that their nesting
instinct will continue and let them do what they do best. They may even have a thing or
two to say about your handiwork! Be sure to check out our other videos about
nature by searching for Texas Parks & Wildlife Department on YouTube.