They say that raising a child is a full time job, and I’ve found that’s true… especially when it comes to birds. Yesterday a family brought a baby bird (We think a Cardinal, but it’s really still a UFO at this age) to the park saying they had found it in a parking lot and wondered if we’d look after it.
While we have a wildlife rehabilitator who works at the park and specializes in birds (raptors specifically, but other birds are fine too) we would normally put down a nestling this small and continue the circle of life by feeding him to one of the snakes or our opossum, but our rehabber saw this as a good opportunity to give me some first hand experience and we kept him.
He was very cold when we first got him as the family that had found him (full of good intentions) had put him in a well constructed, but very wet nest which had chilled him thoroughly. After getting him into a dry nest on a heating pad, rehydrating him, and feeding him we left him for the night which would probably determine his fate. Luckily he did not waste away, warmed up well, and was still alive this morning.
I started feeding him about 1 cc of crushed dog food mixed with water and some bird beneficial bacteria every thirty minutes or so via a syringe stuck down the esophagus and strait into the crop. Later our rehabber got in and brought me some real bird food which was full of all the vitamins and minerals he would need to be healthy. He’s now doing very well, has a full crop, and there’s a good chance he’ll survive to be released into the wild (after being de-imprinted possibly, he’s only just started opening his eyes this evening… I may be mommy now).
If you find a baby bird, the best thing you can do is put it back into the nest. With the exception of vultures, the birds of Georgia don’t have a sense of smell, so the mother is not going to smell you on the baby and kill it, and even if she could smell you she would still take care of the baby.
If you can’t reach the nest construct another nest out of an old basket (or anything else with holes for water to drain) and place it in the tree near the first nest; if the mother feeds the baby once she will continue to feed both nests. If the bird repeatedly falls out of the nest and has all of it’s flight feathers it may be learning to fly, so leaving it alone is the best way to ensure it’s survival. Finally, always remember that it is illegal to possess any native species in Georgia; if you don’t know how (or aren’t licensed) to care of the baby you can’t have him. Take him to a licensed rehabilitator or, even better, let the mother bird take care of him herself.
P.S. I hope you’ll excuse the quality of my recent images as I don’t have a real camera at the moment.
Update: No longer a Cardinal, UFO has grown up to be a Chipping Sparrow. Funny how alike they look as babies.