3 Things You Should Do If You Find a Baby Bird! (2024)

So you found a baby bird and want to help.

what to do with a baby bird?

First, let me commend you on having a big and generous heart. 🙂 I know it’s sad to find a helpless creature, and you just want to do what’s best for it.

Today, you are going to learn EXACTLY what to do with a baby bird!

But before we begin, let’s review the different stages that a baby bird goes through.


This information is VERY important to review and understand, so you can best help.


what to do with a baby bird - hatchling

These are birds that were just born and are completely helpless. They shouldn’t have any feathers on them and may not even be able to open their eyes.


baby birds - nestlings

These baby birds are at least a few days old. They typically have some feathers or fluffy down on them and are fairly active, but they don’t leave the nest and can’t take care of themselves.


baby birds fledglings

These are baby birds that have left the nest on their own. They typically look somewhat awkward (like most teenagers!) and have most of their feathers. They can usually fly just a bit or can at least hop on the ground. Many fledglings even stay around their parents for another week or two AFTER leaving the nest to receive additional care and support.

Ok, so now that you know the different stages a baby bird goes through, what should you do next?

#1. Leave the baby bird alone!

Yes, I know that you want to try and help. But in most instances, the BEST thing you can do is NOT to do anything. 🙂

Let me be clear that this strategy ONLY applies to FLEDGLING birds.

Remember, fledglings are baby birds that have already left the nest on their own. They can hop around and may even be able to fly for short periods. They have a lot of feathers, but overall they still look very young.

In fact, seeing a fledgling out of the nest is EXACTLY what nature has intended.

baby bird - mourning dove

A fledgling Mourning Dove. Leave them alone!

For example, every summer, we have Mourning Doves that nest all around our yard. The hatchlings grow fast and leave the nest after only about two weeks. But…

These fledgling Mourning Doves definitely don’t look like adults! In fact, they actually still rely on their parents to feed them for another week or two, except that it happens on the ground instead of in the nest. The immature birds hide in bushes and brush, waiting for Mom or Dad to come back with food.

If you were to catch one of these fledgling birds, then it would be going directly against what is natural for Mourning Doves! You would actually be putting them in severe danger. Unfortunately, many people end up harming fledglings, even though they were only trying to “help.”

I know that every instinct in your body wants to help.

But the BEST thing you can do for fledglings is to leave them alone!

And also, keep your dogs, cats, and kids out of the yard as much as possible for a few days.

Now, if you found a helpless hatchling or nestling, please keep reading. 🙂

#2. Put the baby bird back in its nest!

So far, we have learned that you should leave FLEDGLINGS alone.

Now, let’s talk about what to do if you find a HATCHLING or NESTLING.

hatchling bird vs nestling bird

Remember, these are baby birds that should not have left their nest yet. Typically, they are helpless and most likely can’t even move on their own. They are either naked or mostly covered in fluffy down (you may see a few flight feathers).

The BEST thing you can do to help a baby bird is to find the nest it fell from.

Gently pick it up and place it back inside. Make sure to look for other hatchlings or nestlings that look the same. You don’t want to put the baby bird in the wrong nest!

Since baby birds can’t travel very far, the nest should be close. Make sure you don’t ONLY look in tree branches since different species have different nest preferences. Shrubs and enclosed cavities (like bird houses) are very popular spots. And believe it or not, some birds even nest directly on the ground, such as in thick grass.

At this point, you may be thinking about some information that you received as a kid, and it goes something like this:

Never touch a baby bird because the mother will be able to smell you, and then she will abandon the nest.”

Believe it or not, this advice is absolutely FALSE!

Most birds have no sense of smell in the first place. My guess is someone started this rumor to prevent kids from messing with bird nests.

So you have nothing to fear when you pick up a baby bird. But they are fragile creatures, so be gentle.

Remember, this strategy is ONLY for HATCHLINGS and NESTLINGS!

If the bird you found is a FLEDGLING, then you shouldn’t try to put it back in the nest, as it left on its own. Also, a fledgling can hop around and sort of fly, which means the bird may be quite a distance away from the original nest.

But what if the entire nest blew out of the tree?

It’s not entirely uncommon to find an entire nest of baby birds that were blown to the ground after a big storm. This presents a unique problem because obviously, you can’t just put a baby bird back into the nest if it’s not there anymore!

If you find yourself in this situation, then you can try one of two things:

  • If possible, gently pick up the nest and try to put it back where it came from. You may be able to see pieces of the nest still stuck in a tree or bush. If not, then find a secure spot where the nest can have support and safety.
  • You can try to create a new nest for the baby birds! For more information on how to do this, check out the video below:

As you can see above, try finding a hanging pot, filling it with different types of grasses, mulch, or even an old t-shirt, and then placing the baby birds inside. If it’s available, put the original nest on top.

This strategy can also be used if you CAN’T find the original nest.

You may find yourself in the terrible position of finding a nestling or hatchling on the ground, and you are unable to locate the original nest. It’s probably a long shot, but you can try making your own nest for the baby bird and hanging it in a nearby tree. If you’re lucky, the parents will find it and start to take care of it again.

#3. Call an animal rehabber to help the baby bird!

wildlife rehabilitation

If you are convinced that the bird is not going to survive because it’s injured, its parents are dead, or you can’t find the original nest, then you should call a local wildlife rehabilitator. These people will be trained on what to do and can hopefully give you advice on the next steps.

So how do you find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator?

I can’t stress enough that you should only call a rehabilitator if you feel strongly that it needs additional care. Please don’t try to raise a baby bird either, as they have complex dietary needs. In most cases, your good intentions will just lead to premature death.

Lastly, it’s illegal to raise any wild animal in captivity without a permit.

Nature, red in tooth and claw

It can be heart-wrenching to find a baby bird, especially if it’s a young nestling and you can’t locate the original nest.

Unfortunately, the odds of it surviving are not very good. These young birds need specialized care from their mothers.

I know this can be tough to hear, but it’s the truth. Baby birds have EXTREMELY high mortality rates.

In fact, birds have evolved to produce way more young than can ever hope to survive.

For example, in warmer climates, Mourning Doves have as many as SIX broods of babies every year. Since they have 2 eggs per brood, that means that each pair can produce 12 new Mourning Doves in that breeding season. If all of these young birds survived, then soon, the whole continent would be taken over by Mourning Doves.

I hope this last section isn’t too depressing and that you can save the baby bird that you found by getting it back into a nest or with a local wildlife rehabber.

What would you do if you found a baby bird?

Did I miss anything?

If so, please share below!

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  1. Wonderful information, my baby blue birds just left the nest, hope they survive and come back to visit!

  2. Thanks for this informative and timely post, Scott!

    I feel sad when I hear about people’s cats killing birds. As if life isn’t hard enough for those little winged beings. I had a neighbor long ago who was amused that her cat hunted hummingbirds. Isn’t there something responsible cat people can do to minimize this harm?

  3. I want to buy a small baby talking bird, which one would you recommend. I currently have blue birds nesting on my deck and one on my front porch (whose species I not familiar with)

  4. As a lover and feeder of birds (even pigeons!), I found this particular article on out-of-nest baby birds extremely helpful and reassuring, even though I am a third-story city resident with a large flat rear roof as a feeding area with no trees overhanging the roof. A great number of birds keep me buying a LOT of bird food, so I find your input helpful and informative. Thank you for your efforts.

  5. My cat dragged a nestling into our house, and I thought it was a piece of poop! (Until I flipped on the light and it MOVED!) It was really close to fledgling phase, but wasn’t moving much. We put him in a box on a hanging shelf as close to where we had seen finches nest before (in a fascia vent hole with a torn cover) and had watched them fledge, so we were hopeful they’d find him. Checked him the next morning and no sign of parents, so off to the rehab place he went. He appeared on their FB page and I got to watch him grow up and get released!

  6. Nutrition is important for baby birds and this includes adequate food and water. Hatchlings and those in the nest are still physically immature so if you are wondering about this question: Do baby birds drink water?

  7. Thanks guys. I totally agree with you. Nutrition is important for baby birds and this includes adequate food and water.

  8. Do robins get confused? We had a robin sitting on 3 eggs. It was about 2 weeks when something knocked the nest to the ground and ate the eggs. We were so upset. The nest was built on the eaves under my deck high off the ground. I don’t know what kind of animal it was or possibly a large predator bird. It must have been a tasty treat because I thought they were almost ready to hatch. After a few days the robin started to build nest on all the eaves . She would fly up and in and out of the eaves looking very confused. She seemed to finally choose the eave closest to the house and built a decent nest but not as good as the original one. There is nest material on all the eaves. She sits on the nest but we don’t see any eggs yet. Do you think she will have another brood ? Should we keep checking? Do you think those other starter nest could be decoys?

  9. This article was timely. We had house finch hatchlings in a nest by our front door in an Easter egg wreath, and we stopped going in and out our front door and used a side door, had deliveries made on the other door and tried to not spook the parents. Then, our next door neighbor’s cat killed the mother and one of the hatchlings and the next day the other hatchlings also died. Before they passed, I was hoping the father could feed them, but it didn’t look like he was trying (or able??) to do that. The very same day we saw a fledgling crow on the ground near a big rosemary plant and we were hoping the parents were feeding it, but sadly a opossum got him that evening. I love our birds and also have a bluebird nest in a box and I sure hope they survive as I’m so sad to witness their mortality rates! 🙁

  10. I found a baby bird a year or two ago (just little pieces of fluff on it definitely not a fledgling) on the ground. I found it’s nest not far away and returned him only to realize that there was an egg in the nest and a lot of ants. What would you do in that situation? I came back and found him on the ground again and monitored him and eventually he disappeared. I never saw what happened to him but I hope the parents brought him somewhere safer.

  11. We found a baby bird in the hatchling stage, scooped it up with a small plastic bowl and placed it back into the nest on the overhang under the eaves of the front porch’s overhang. Thanks for the advice!

  12. Right there with you. That happened on the golf course last year. The baby apparently fell out of the nest. The parents were freaking out and squawking at us. The nest was too high for us to reach so we just couldn’t do anything. A few tears were shed, but nothing could be done at the time.

  13. Thank you very much for the information. My wife did wildlife rehab years ago but we don’t have the facilities in our home now. Just knowing what to do at different stages of a bird’s development is very helpful. You are doing a wonderful service.

  14. Unfortunately this happened to us just last evening. There is a grackles nest high up in our pine tree in our back yard. Our dog was sniffing something and we noticed a grackle dive bombing her. I went to look at what she was sniffing and it was a baby grackle obviously too little to be out of the nest. The nest was too high in the tree to put it back so we just left it alone. Unfortunately it died. But there are others in the nest that I can hear peeping so hopefully others won’t fall out!

  15. Very well presented with great factual information and sound advice!
    – NYS RETIRED Environmental Conservation Officer