Down-covered young birds
should be kept in a cardboard box indoors away from pets and small
children and out of direct sun or drafts. Keep the temperature in
the box between 80 and 90 F. A lamp with a 40 or 60 watt bulb
should provide enough heat, but don't put the lamp directly over
the bird. This won't be necessary if the bird is fully feathered.
Cover the box to cut down on
disturbance to the bird, eliminate drafts, and prevent the bird
from getting out of the box. Put an artificial nest made of a
margarine or similar container lined with paper towels in the box.
This will support the bird. When the bird begins to get out of
this "nest", provide a perch or two for it to rest on.
Do not use a wire cage. Birds often will get excited and damage
their feathers on wire so that they won't be able to fly properly
Nestlings require frequent
feedings-- as much as every 30 minutes from dawn to dark. One
person should take care of the bird to avoid excessive human
contact. ( Don't tame the bird! ). Food should be at room
temperature and of soft consistency. The bird shouldn't need water
if the food is fairly moist.
Begin feeding young birds
with an eyedropper. Fill the dropper so there are no air bubbles.
If the bird won't open its mouth when food is presented, gently
open the beak by slipping a fingernail between the upper and lower
jaws and prying them apart. Put the dropper in the back of the
bird's throat, behind the tongue, and slowly squeeze the dropper.
Be careful not to get fluid in the breathing tube in the floor of
the mouth just behind the tongue. Clean food from the beak and
feathers with a moist tissue.
Later the bird will take
thicker food and will eventually open the beak when it sees food
or it may even squawk when it wants food. Stick the food to the
end of a pointed popsicle stick or a drinking straw cut on a slant
and give it to the bird. Do not use metal tweezers as they may
damage the bird's tender mouth. As the bird grows it will eat
more, but less frequently.
Birds have a high
metabolic rate and a high energy requirement. Bread crumbs and
milk are not sufficient. Most baby birds are unable to feed
themselves; normally the parents feed them, so putting bird seeds
or worms in the box does no good. You have to put the food into
the baby. At first you may have to pry open the beak to do this,
but soon the bird will realize that you are the source of food (
mama ) and will open its beak and squawk whenever it is hungry or
when it hears you approach. Feed it when it asks for it. When it
has enough it will collapse and sleep until it is hungry again.
A warning: be VERY
CAREFUL not to get any food underneath his tongue. That is where
his airway is and if food gets lodged in there he will choke. When
he opens his beak, just make sure that you take your time to put
the food above his tongue, preferably near the roof of his mouth.
Just relax and don't worry about making a mess, because baby birds
are very messy.
The majority of birds can be
classified in two groups: meat eaters and seed eaters. Basic diets
for these are listed below with suggestions for special foods for
different species of birds. The sooner you identify the bird, the
sooner you can provide the best diet. The basic foods mentioned in
these diets can be classified into two groups:
P/D dog food (canned and available from most veterinarians), dry
puppy kibbles (have to be soaked in water), boiled chicken,
strained beef baby food, hard boiled chicken egg yolk, live
insects such as flies and mealworms.
protein dry baby cereal , wheat germ, corn or oat meal that has
been powdered down in a blender.
grain proportions are generally:
Insect Eating Birds -
l part meat to 2 parts grain.
Seed Eating Birds - 1 part meat to 4 parts grain.
When meat is asked
for in the diet, you can pick any meat from the meat group. You
can then add, in the right proportions , any grain from the grain
group. For example, a seed-eater diet could be 1 part P/D dog food
and 4 parts wheat germ. You should vary this diet as much as
possible as long as you stay within the proper framework. For
example the next time you mix up a batch of formula for your seed
eater bird, you might use 1 part boiled chicken and 4 parts high
protein baby cereal. Variety is the spice of life, and also keeps
young birds healthy.
A good pinch of
VET-NUTRI, a Squib vitamin/mineral supplement available at most
veterinarians, should be added to each new batch of food you mix.
Sprinkle over and mix in. Mix food daily; never mix more than you
can use in a day's time. Otherwise it may sour. Supplement these
basic diets with frequent little goodies whenever possible. Normal
diets are listed below, so use your imagination. Those occasional
tidbits of natural food help. Remember that young birds eat large
amounts of food and at frequent intervals. Some consume an amount
equal to their own weight each day. Just leaving food in the box
or feeding two or three times a day is not enough!
When the bird is
eating solid food on its own, it will need water. You can drop a
little water on its beak or into its mouth until it catches on or
teach it to drink by gently dipping its beak into water, then
releasing it immediately. Keep a small dish of water in the box. A
large dish will create a hazard for the bird and likely cause a
mess in the box.
The bird will
eventually learn to feed on its own. Fruit- and seed-eaters will
learn to feed themselves if you place a soft piece of fruit (apple
or banana) on a flat surface in front of the bird and gently press
the bird's beak into the fruit. Bits of fruit will stick to the
beak and the bird will eat them. Repeat this procedure at each
feeding until the bird feeds by itself. You may put small bird
seeds in for seed-eaters to practice on
be given mealworms or other small crawling insects in a similar
manner. Usually the bird quickly learns to pick up any crawling
animal. If the bird is reluctant to feed on its own, wait a day or
so and try again. Feeding is a matter of maturity, the instinctive
behavior will not begin until the bird is old enough.
You don't have to
teach the bird to fly. When it is old enough, it will fly
instinctively. You may move the bird to a larger box to give it
more room. Put several sticks or dowels through the box for
perches. Young birds may begin to fly a week or two before they
can feed themselves, so don't rush them. Don't let the bird fly
freely in the house! It is likely to get trapped by furniture,
windows, and cats.
Once the bird is
feeding itself on its natural diet, you should release it in a
familiar area where it can be protected from cats and dogs until
it can fend for itself. An outside bird cage or aviary is ideal
for this purpose. Provide natural food and after a week leave the
door open during the day and close it at night for protection. It
may take several weeks for the bird to adjust to the outdoors and
stop returning to the cage for food. Give the bird time and
continue to provide food. Don't handle or talk to the bird during
this time; you should be breaking the ties between you and the
Keep in mind that a
certain level of nest failure is normal in bird populations, so
don't be discouraged or feel that you are a failure if you are not
successful. Your best effort is all that can be expected.
A few birds you may
find and what they eat
Phoebe - Pewee
( normal diet is insects, some fruit ). Feed insect eater diet.
One that works is straight P/D dog food mixed with hard boiled egg
yolk, dried flies, crushed mealworms and pupae (remove heads)
Supplement with bits of non-citrus fruits pyracantha berries.
Grosbeak - Finch
- Sparrow - Goldfinch - Towhee - Junco
( normal diet is seeds and insects. ) Feed insect eater diet
A successful mix is: one ounce GRAIN mixed with water, and one
teaspoon strained beef baby food, and one thin slice of banana.
Supplement diet with mealworms.
Hawk - Owl -
Vulture - Eagle - Falcon
(normal diet is rodents, birds, insects, other small mammals).
Up to the age of one week, feed pink, hairless rat babies.
Don't use rat heads or stomachs (the stomach will be white and
full of milk). Chop up the rest of carcass into bite size pieces,
probably match-head size, and feed everything to the bird. When
the youngster is 2 to 3 weeks old, use older rats, but no heads or
stomachs. You should skin the rats. Feed everything including
bones. When the bird is 4 weeks old, it can have whole bodies of
mice and some of the fur. Fur for casting material is NOT
(normal diet is nectar, aphids, small insects, spiders).
4 parts boiled water to 1 part granulated sugar, plus mockingbird
food (pet stores), Esbilac (bitch's milk supplement available from
pet stores), mealworm innards. Good mix is: 2 cups water, 1/2 cup
sugar, 20 squeezed mealworm insides, 1 tsp mocking bird food, 1
tblsp. Esbilac, a pinch VET-NUTRI.
Jay - Magpie -
Crow - Raven - Starling
(normal diet is omnivorous). Feed insect eater diet
Supplement diet with mealworms, water-soaked currents or raisins,
bits of non-citrus fruits, and berries such as pyracantha. Also
sun flower seeds, peanuts (without the shell). Also occasional
bits of chopped rat or mouse.
(normal diet is insects and worms).
Killdeer leave the nest soon after they hatch and feed
independently, under the watchful eye of the parents. Usually
"rescued" killdeer are picked up on a lawn and the
finder assumes they are orphaned. Best thing to do is put them
back and wait for the mother to call them to her. Keep in a box
with a light. Put in a shallow dish of water; drop globs of
tubifex worms (get at fish stores) into the water. Killdeer will
eat them voraciously. Add mealworms later.
Blackbird - Oriole - Woodpecker - Shrike - Bluebird Thrush - Robin
(normal diet insects, fruits, seeds). Feed insect eater diet
Supplement with mealworms, water-soaked currents, raisins, bits of
non-citrus fruits and berries such as pyracantha. SAPSUCKERS do
not do well on whole crushed mealworms. It's better to give them
wax worms (check with a bee keeper), crickets, crushed mealworms.
You can also supplement them with HUMMINGBIRD FORMULA.
Thrasher - Nuthatch - Titmouse - Chickadee
(normal diet is insects, seeds, berries). Feed insect eater
diet Suggestion: straight P/D dog food mixed with hardboiled egg
yolk dried flies, crushed mealworms, and pupae (remove heads).
Supplement with bits of non-citrus fruits, such as the pyracantha
berry. Give extra pinch of VET-NUTRI. Prone to rickets.
Pigeon - Dove
(normal diet seeds, grains, fruits, insects).
Feed 1/3 chick starter (available at feed stores), 1/3 GRAIN, 1/3
wild bird seed (pet stores). Mix with water to make slushy gruel.
If mix is put into crop dry, add water ever so often. Palpate crop
to make sure it always feels slushy, otherwise if too dry it will
bind up and kill the bird. Only fill crop about 1/2 full at a
Swift - Swallow
- Vireo - Warbler - Kinglet - Wren
(normal diet insects of flying type).
Feed straight P/D dog food mixed with hardboiled egg yolk, dried
flies, crushed adult mealworms and pupae (remove heads). Thin to
feedable consistency. Supplement with fresh flies, spiders.
Chukar - Quail -
(seed-eaters). Normally escapes from a captive breeding site,
these birds feed independently. Give small bird seed, grit (coarse
sand), and water.
All Birds eat
Although some birds do eat worms, best example the American
Robin, most birds cannot handle the parasites associated with
Baby birds that
have been touched by humans will be abandoned by their parents
As far as songbirds are concerned, they have a very poor sense
of smell and will return to young as soon as we humans leave them
Give baby birds
water so they don't get dehydrated
Never give a baby bird water alone as they cannot close their
airway to allow it to pass into their crops. They drown easily and
their air sacks are very susceptible to bacterial infections.
Moisten bread for a temporary solution, pieces of fruit or mix a
baby bird mash into a paste with water and place it in the crop
with a 1cc syringe, without the needle. They will gape for
vibration or peeping sounds. Insert the syringe in past the
windpipe and inject it slowly into the crop. If any backs up into
the throat, clear it with a Q-Tip. The windpipe is the hole
directly behind their tongue.
on humans should never be released
A bird that has imprinted on people is at a definite
disadvantage for the first few weeks of freedom. Any that outlast
these weeks have as good a chance as any other. You still have to
supplement the diet of a freed bird at regular intervals through
the day, they will learn to forage and will imprint on it's own
kind in time.
My cat brought
us a bird, but I rescued it and it is fine
Many times a bird that has suffered a cat or other animal
attack appears fine at first but dies within 24 hours of the
attack. This is usually due to a bacterial infection caused by the
animal's saliva. Birds may be in great condition a day after
an attack, only to die an hour later.
The wounds should
be treated even though the bird appears to be doing OK. Internal
as well as external antibiotic treatment continued for at least 3
days may work. Try Hibitane Veterinary Ointment on the wounds once
a day and administer 1 drop of Chlor Palm 125 twice daily for
three days and and you may save them.