What to do with baby bird with swollen belly that fell out of its nest?
May 8, 2015 6:20 PM   Subscribe

Found a baby bird that fell out of its nest. Took it inside, fed it. It now has a swollen belly. What do I do??

I live in NJ. I found a baby bird that fell out of its nest. It is about 2 inches big, totally featherless, pink, translucent, and its eyes are still closed. It has 3 toes pointing forward and 1 pointing backwards. The nest is completely out of reach, but we hear chirping coming from up there. I tried to leave it in the area hoping its mom would come get it/feed it, but it was getting cold outside and the internet told me it should be fed every ~30 minutes and it should be kept warm, so I brought it inside, made a little nest for it out of leaves and pine needles, fed it soggy dry cat food every 30 minutes (it gobbled it up!), and kept it warm under a heating lamp.

(All animal control/shelter #s we tried were off-hours when we called when we first found it.)

3 hours later I see it has a translucent marble-shaped swelling in its belly. What do I do with it now?? It pooped twice, and the poop was pretty liquid (but not sure if it is more liquid than normal bird poop).

Possibly relevant details that traumatized me further: We found 2 more baby birds that fell out of the nest in the same spot!! These two were already dead unfortunately. One of these 2 also had the marble-shaped swollen abdomen bump.

What is happening?? Is the living chickie going to die from this horrible swollen abdomen? Should I have let it flail around outside and let nature take its course? How do I take care of it in the meantime, and what is the long term plan?? My county and the 2 counties near me don't even have a wildlife rehabilitation center, and I doubt our animal shelter would take this thing in.

I can email a picture to anyone who is interested in seeing this baby bird if that will help in figuring out what to do with it.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
Chances are that a Cowbird laid an egg in the nest. When it hatches, the little bugger will push out any other chicks and the hapless parents will feed and raise it until it flies off and does the same thing when its mature. Sorry, you can't help those poor babies.
posted by walleeguy at 6:29 PM on May 8, 2015

Is there a university with a vet school?
posted by aniola at 6:34 PM on May 8, 2015

Have you called up the wildlife rehabilitation center to see who they suggest?
posted by aniola at 6:36 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Here's a list of Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators in New Jersey. California might be different, but when I found a baby hummingbird that fell out of a nest our marine life rescue center (I didn't know who else to call) got me in touch with a woman who specialized in rehabilitating hummingbirds in her home. She took the hummingbird in and released him when he was ready.
posted by corey flood at 6:42 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Regarding the university vet school suggestion, definitely call first. Years ago I found a baby bird (sparrow perhaps?) in downtown Philadelphia.. I was willing to help and a passerby assured me that the vet school at Penn treated wildlife, going so far as to state authoritively that someone they knew took a hurt squirrel in. Long story short, borrowed a small box from a nearby store, hailed a cab, went to the veterinary clinic at Penn and they wouldn't even look at the poor thing, nor could they suggest a nearby wildlife rehab center or other vet who would. I had to leave the next day on a trip and ended up leaving it in a nearby park, hoping for the best, but assuming nature took it's course. It was over 10 years ago and I still feel bad about it.
posted by kaybdc at 7:28 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

When I had a wild baby bird that needed rehoming (it was limping and being attacked by cats) I called around and the raptor center in Davis recommended that I call the vet med center. So I called them and they invited me down. So I biked the little baby bird down in a rainstorm, with the bird huddled in a cup in my jacket. The person who took the bird away was efficient, but also had an excellent bedside manner. They told me that if they could rehab it in the wild they would, and that if they couldn't, they would raise it to be food for the raptors at the raptor center. Hopefully this is reassuring to you, kaybdc.

The point of my story is that I finally found the place to take the bird by calling around until I found the place that recommended a place. My recommendation to call is based on the success I had in using this approach.
posted by aniola at 7:47 PM on May 8, 2015

Others have made useful suggestions about long-term plans, would just like to add that the first thing I thought based on your description of the swollen belly is that it's because it's full. Little creatures are so little, their bellies get visibly distended when they've eaten a lot, which you say it has.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:02 PM on May 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

Does it look anything like the chick in this forum question? That's a parrot chick. A songbird's crop (a pouch in the GI tract) is located a little lower on the abdomen.
posted by zennie at 2:15 AM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Call the Raptor Trust in Millington NJ.
1390 Whitebridge Rd, Millington, NJ 07946
(908) 647-2353
They will tell you what to do and not do, and you can even bring the bird in and they will take care of it and try to save it. They are wonderful, I have brought injured birds there before.
posted by mermayd at 3:39 AM on May 9, 2015

I'd suggest going onto a Facebook or forum page for pet bird owners and getting advice there. For example, cockatiel breeders often have to hand rear babies that parents can't look after. It sounds like what you can see is his crop, which is normal.
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome at 6:29 AM on May 9, 2015

I also thought the swollen belly could be just from eating, particularly if he is pooping and drinking water and generally acting all right.

I think you should make the suggested calls anyhow, because the bird will have a better chance that way.

Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 12:20 PM on May 9, 2015

It sounds like he has a full crop, as others have said.

I have been around birds most of my life and I still wouldn't take on responsibility for handfeeding a baby. It's really easy to fuck up. If you can find a breeder near you who'd do this (and honestly, I think the chances aren't great) that would be second best to a wildlife rehab. I have successfully rehabbed hurt fledglings but it sounds like this bird is much younger since his eyes are still closed.

Good luck, but please don't be crushed if he dies, the odds are really against you here. :[
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:22 PM on May 9, 2015

Oh, if you have a Petsmart or Petco nearby, I think they sell powdered handfeeding formula. It is VERY important that the mixture be the right temperature; too hot can burn the crop, and too cold can cause impacted crop and infection.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:24 PM on May 9, 2015

Response by poster: Update: It's been 2 days, and the baby bird is doing well: eating regularly and eagerly, tiny feathers are growing slightly, his eyes opened today even though they were completely closed slits 2 days ago (!!!), chirping, and seems happy.

We are 99% certain that it is a baby sparrow, and he is about 6 days at this point.

All the wildlife/shelter places I tried to call were closed this weekend, but I will try them all again Monday morning and see if anyone wants to take this bird off our hands. Otherwise, it looks like we are adding a bird to our list of pets (2 cats and 5 turtles). I would be more excited about this if we didn't have the 2 cats that would gladly hunt after this bird if it ever got loose.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 7:04 PM on May 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Update #2: The Raptor Trust in Millington took him in this morning, and said they have a few of these baby birds so he will have lots of friends.

It was so special watching him develop, gain strength, and become better at eating over these last couple of days. He fully opened his eyes this morning and was looking around a bit, I felt like a proud mama! I even got a little emotional letting him go. It sounds like he is in good hands, and I hope he will grow up healthy.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 8:36 AM on May 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

I am so glad you proved me wrong!

Baby birds are indeed very special. It's amazing how quickly they develop. Good job!
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2015

« Older Identify certain repeats in table   |   Seeking women's summer fashion role models Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.