General Care of Baby Birds
Fauna Rescue of South Australian Inc. is South Australia's largest wildlife organisation caring for our sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.
Check for injuries. Is the baby healthy and just learning to fly? Can it be put back in the shrub or tree for the parents to rear? Half an hour of watching now can save weeks of work for you and is best for the bird.
Steady warmth needs to be provided by a variety of means such as a heat box, light globe, pet warming pad, bed lamp, electric blanket [lowest setting], foot warmer or hot water-bag. For an emergency or disposable heat source use a plastic cool drink bottle filled with hot water, wrapped in a towel or sheets of paper. [Prop so it can’t roll.]
Other needs of the bird depend on the particular species. If you don’t know what the baby is, consult books or people who can help with identification.
Pedigree Puppy kibble, soaked in water for an hour or two is a food suitable for most birds except parrots and lorikeets, until you find out what species they are exactly. This gives water and nourishment for the time being.
Nestlings can be made comfortable in nests made of boxes, baskets, margarine or ice-cream containers lined with paper towels.
As they get near to leaving the nest, a cage with a perch placed above the nest allows them freedom to move in a safe environment that is transportable while you are still hand feeding.
Accommodation needs to increase in size as they develop so that they build up necessary strength for eventual release. Make sure perch size is appropriate. The foot should be comfortably open, not fully encircling the perch.
Temporary cages can be made from cartons with an orange/onion bag stitched over a rectangular hole cut in the front and a perch pushed through in a suitable position. Make sure there is always enough room between the perch and the side of the cage to minimise risk of feather damage. These cardboard boxes are not ideal to house lorikeets/parrots as they can get their feet caught in the mesh or chew through the cardboard.
Some birds such as plovers, quails and ducks are well developed at birth and are self-feeders. They need to be watched closely initially to ensure they are in fact self-feeding. If not, sprinkle some rice cereal on their water dishor sprinkle chick starter on the floor of their cage and tap your finger on the floor to encourage them to follow your lead.
They need to be provided with shallow bowls of drinking water and suitable food. A large carton or aquarium can be used for housing so that their food can be placed at the opposite end from the heat source.
Birds which need to be hand fed can be fed in a variety of ways such by syringe and tube, spoon, stick or with fingers according to type of bird and it’s age. They only need to be fed during daylight hours. Allow birds with crops to empty their crop before re-feeding. Serve food at room temperature or quite hot for very young parrots & lorikeets.
A bird’s windpipe is just behind it’s tongue, so be careful if you need to force feed, that you place the food behind the ‘glottis’. Also check that the tongue is down flat or you could be trying to push the food under it. Most babies will soon gape for food [try tapping on the edge of the nest to represent mum landing,] and can be fed small amounts regularly on demand. Begin with glucose if the bird has been without food for a long time.
Also see feeding granivores, insectivores, nectivores, lorikeets, water birds and raptors, or ring your species coordinator for specific feeding requirements.
Before being released, a bird must be self-feeding and able to fly strongly. It has to be released in a suitable area for the species at a time of the year when it won’t be attacked by breeding adults.
The bird must be on a diet of natural foods that it is likely to encounter before it is released. Support feeding at the point of release is quite often very successful.