Wild baby bird, now what?
June 27, 2007 10:28 PM   Subscribe

My dog found a baby bird. What kind of bird is he and what do I do with him?

While taking a walk, my dog spotted a baby bird laying in someone's driveway. There was no visible nest.

My gf picked it up and took it home (about 10 feet from where we found it).

We decided to feed it, so my gf ground up some barley cooked it, cooled it and fed it to the bird as well as giving it water. We put it a box with paper from our shredder and I put a 2 bowls of warm water inside. It slept for 3 hours and it just woke up so I gave it food and water.

What is the proper course of action when finding a wild bird? Should I call the humane society? I don't really want it as a pet but I'd be willing to care for it until I can release it to the wild, (How long will that be?) but I'd much rather take it somewhere it can be properly cared for.

Also can anyone identify the bird? He has really big yellow lips. Can you tell if it is injured? (I've attached a movie, the bird seems to shudder every once in a while.. is that normal?) What should I do if it keeps chirping other than feed it? Is there some more proper food that I can give it?

movie (12mb) (it ends up falling asleep at the end of the movie)

While I have been writing this post he has been continuously chirping as well as flapping his wings, seemingly with his eyes closed. Any insight to what he is doing?
posted by mphuie to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: It may be a starling. If so, this page has some information including a food formula. It may be illegal for you to keep and raise. Releasing it to the wild may be impossible if you raise it on your own.
posted by null terminated at 10:42 PM on June 27, 2007

Here's more information on starlings. That certainly looks like one.
posted by luriete at 10:48 PM on June 27, 2007

Response by poster: After google searching starling, it looks exactly like it.

I'll call Washington States Dept of Fish & Wildlife first thing in the morning. Will they actually take care and rehab this little bird?
posted by mphuie at 10:49 PM on June 27, 2007

The proper course of action when finding a baby bird is not to touch it. Lice is an issue, and even if you could find the original nest, your scent would taint the bird. That never really stopped us from doing exactly what you did when we were kids, but the birds always ended up dying. It's an object lesson.

I can't really imagine the Department of Fish and Wildlife rehabbing a starling. That species of bird is incredibly common in some parts of the US (actually a nuisance bird where I went to college). If it was a falcon or eagle or something endangered then yes, but a starling?

I could be wrong, but judging by the care you've already given it (including a home, a photoshoot and considerable research) I think it has a better chance with you. But still almost none.
posted by Jeff Howard at 11:34 PM on June 27, 2007

I hope it makes it, but be prepared for it not to.
posted by Locative at 11:37 PM on June 27, 2007

Starlings are an aggressive non-native species that are outcompeting native birds and contributing to their decline. A conservation agency would be more likely to trap and destroy such birds than rehabilitate them.
posted by Manjusri at 11:45 PM on June 27, 2007

I think that the "scent tainting the bird" thing is just an urban legend.
posted by thelongcon at 11:52 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Could be an urban legend, maybe designed to keep kids from breaking their neck trying to climb a tree with a chirping bird in their hand. Also helps to counter the guilt that arises from inaction.
posted by Jeff Howard at 12:07 AM on June 28, 2007

Seconding manjusri.

Please do not release a starling, or give it to anyone who would. This is like intentionally planting kudzu, or releasing africanized bees.

On the one hand, you could continue feeding it with the intention of keeping it as a pet.

On the other hand, you could humanely euthanize it. A simple and humane way to kill a small animal is to place it in a bucket and put the bucket under a running car's tailpipe. I have done this to mice, and death occurs in one or two seconds.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:08 AM on June 28, 2007

DF&G is unlikely to have the resources to care for the bird, but there's several wildlife rescues in your area which will likely take it in.
posted by jamaro at 12:16 AM on June 28, 2007

Jesus, a baby starling is a bit different from kudzu and killer bees. Here's more info on raising them.
posted by Liosliath at 12:21 AM on June 28, 2007

Lioslath is dead on with his link - I have raised a baby bird from this age, and was successful. It was not easy. As the link states, I also fed my baby bird dog food ( at the suggestion of my vet) and it did just fine.

I let it go when it was ready to be on it's own - and it returned every day, hanging out on the porch, looking for me. Eventually, his vists were less frequent, but I really enjoyed it for a bit. He would fly up, land on my head, and just sit there with me. Kinda cool.
posted by bradth27 at 1:37 AM on June 28, 2007

Starlings are one of two birds that you are legally allowed to kill at any time. (The other being English House Sparrows). If it really is a starling, I'd euthanasize it by holding it under water. It'll be dead in 5 seconds. You'll be doing the country a favor.
posted by COD at 4:47 AM on June 28, 2007

WAIT! Stop feeding it and giving it water! Digestion will use the energy it needs to live and water could give it pneumonia among other things.

I've rescued a several animals before including one bird and the advice is always not to give it anything till you find a rehabber. Also, the scent thing IS a myth. If you call/Google around I'm sure you'll find a rehabber eventually, that's probably the best thing for it. I think if you give it to Fish and Wildlife or Animal Control they almost always euthanize.

It's really sweet of you to take care of him. You're good people.
posted by Jess the Mess at 4:57 AM on June 28, 2007

Whatever you decide to do with the bird, you must send the video to Cute Overload.
posted by desjardins at 5:46 AM on June 28, 2007

Turkey vultures hunt by smell, but they are (virtually) the only North American bird that can do so. Most birds have no sense of smell.

It looks as though it's starting to get some feathers in addition to its down - this is good, since it means it's better able to keep itself warm. Starlings are pretty omnivorous - seeds, bugs, maybe some worms, dog food, etc. are all things it will likely eat (although at this age, maybe not so much with the seeds).

Starlings are pretty smart and wicked noisy - if you're going to raise it and keep it, be prepared!
posted by rtha at 5:50 AM on June 28, 2007

Whatever happens with this one, please don't pick up any more baby birds. If you find one, leave it alone - that goes for any and all wildlife. The mother is likely nearby, and even if she isn't, that baby bird could provide a much-needed snack for another wild animal.

It's not cruel, it's nature. Human intervention doesn't usually go well, and it doesn't often do a wild animal any favors unless you're an expert.

At any rate, good luck.
posted by agregoli at 7:02 AM on June 28, 2007

It's a myth.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:07 AM on June 28, 2007

That's not a starling: it's a mockingbird. If you think its lips are bright yellow, wait until you see the inside of its mouth--the bright yellow says "PUT FOOD HERE NOW!" to its parents. You did the right thing picking it up if you couldn't find the nest--there's no way his parents could get him back into one, and something (dogs, cats, even ants) would have killed him long before he could fly.

My mom found one on a highway, a bit younger than that one when I was in high school--not knowing anything about wildlife rehabilitators, I raised it myself. It had feathers when I found it, but it was still completely helpless and unable to walk or feed itself. It made it to the point where it could fly and catch food on it's own--it was living in the yard free, but still flying to meet me when I came home when it disappeared. It was probably hit by a car or eaten by a cat.

The best thing you can do, of course, is get it to a wildlife rehabilitator. Raising the bird is one thing, preparing it to be anything but a pet is another. That being said, if you can't do that right away, you need to feed it by hand. Baby birds have the metabolisms of space shuttle rocket boosters, and going without food for an extended period of time is BAD.

While I have been writing this post he has been continuously chirping as well as flapping his wings, seemingly with his eyes closed. Any insight to what he is doing?

Mine did this: It's asking for food. Judging from the pictures, it's too young to feed itself. The main food I gave mine was crickets, which you can get from a pet store (or bait shop, if necessary). Surprisingly, mine flatly refused to eat unless I whistled at it, at which point its mouth flew open and it started screeching like crazy. You'll have to grasp each cricket by its back legs and push it waydown the bird's throat. Don't push hard, of course, and he'll help by fitting about half your finger in his mouth. This looks pretty shocking, but of course that's how his parents feed him: shoving their beaks down his throat and regurgitating. You'll have to do this a lot: at first mine got hungry every 30 minutes from sunup to sundown, and ate 1 to 3 crickets every time. I've never seen anything eat so much compared to its size. You can't leave it alone for any extended period of time because of this, another good reason to find a rehabilitator.

I don't think you'll need to worry about water--mine didn't seem interested in it. I guess he got enough moisture from his food. I also fed him a few worms, but he seemed to have a harder time swallowing them.

Someone mentioned lice in a comment--don't worry about them. Your bird is almost certainly covered in them, but they are harmless. They don't suck blood, like human lice; they eat feather dust, and they can't live on humans, spread to your carpets, etc..

So, anyway, try to find a rehabilitator. Call a local vet or the DFW if you need to. But if you have to keep it for any length of time (like, through the afternoon), you'll probably want to feed it. A vet could probably give you better advice on feeding than I could, but the crickets worked pretty well for me. Good luck!
posted by crake at 8:20 AM on June 28, 2007

ROU_Xenophobe ... I tried that once after my dog caught and half ate a little bird, but with a bag taped to the exhaust instead of a bucket, and I ended up cooking the poor little thing, I think I was about 10 and I am still traumatized. My mom got one look at the half cooked and still kicking baby bird, closed back up the bag, put the bag on the ground, got in the car and backed up. Byebye little birdy...

So Sad...and I got in trouble for starting the car since I was so young...bird killer and grounded all in one day.
posted by Jenny is Crafty at 8:32 AM on June 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

Oh, also, all this stuff about euthanizing baby starlings is stupid. They are a real ecological threat. However, there are 200 million already in North America. At this point, drowning abandoned nestlings will do nothing to change that. All it will do is let morons feel self-righteous. You could make a much more substantial difference for native birds by killing stray cats. But I doubt anyone here is drowning kittens.

Euthanizing a baby starling may be necessary: many (most?) wildlife rehabilitators probably won't take them, and raising one, whether you intend to keep it as a pet (remember, myna birds are just big, asian starlings) or release it, is a major undertaking. You must keep it with you almost continuously during daylight hours for at least a few weeks. But killing one in a gesture of environmental consciousness is futile.
posted by crake at 8:39 AM on June 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

If you're going to raise it, you're going to have to learn how to hand feed it. It's really not that hard, I've done it for a number of baby cockatiels. Ignore the recipes for making your own baby bird food, go to any pet store and they'll have a commercial preparation that already has everything a growing baby bird needs. It's cheap and super easy to use, and it comes with directions so you can figure out how much to give the little bugger. Also, you'll need to buy some hand feeding syringes (also available at any pet store) and you'll need a digital thermometer. Any el cheapo model used for taking the temp of a human will do. The food has to be at a pretty precise temp, 103, a few degrees above that will burn the baby's crop, a few degrees below and it'll have problems digesting it.

Other than that, you'll need to keep the bird warm. We raised our cockatiels in a shoe box lined with kleenex (for easy changing, they poop a LOT). You will have to keep them warm, between 100 and 103 degrees ideally. We did this with a heating pad on its lowest setting, beneath a folded towel, beneath the box.

There's a lot more information out there on the web about raising baby birds, most of it will be geared towards pet species but it's the same principle. Whatever you decide to do, good luck!
posted by TungstenChef at 9:54 AM on June 28, 2007

Those "big yellow lips" are the gape flanges that many baby birds have. They will disappear as the bird gets older and no longer needs to be fed by its parents. In other words, don't use that to try to id it. Another link.
posted by gingerbeer at 4:23 PM on June 28, 2007

« Older Do not care for the crimson wave   |   New private pilot Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.