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Finding a way to help the fledglings

May 30, 2008 |  3:56 pm


It's a common scenario in spring: You spot a baby bird on the lawn or on the street. Your first instinct is to try to find its parents or its nest, perhaps to move the fledgling or nestling to safety. What do the experts say?

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers a helpful list of suggestions for fledglings found by humans:

1. Look the young bird over for signs of physical trauma.

2. If it is seriously injured, take it to a veterinarian. If it looks slightly injured, contact your state's Department of Fish and Game for the name and telephone number of the nearest wildlife rehabilitator. The Camarillo Wildlife Rehabilitation organization has compiled a list of rehabilitators licensed by the state Department of Fish and Game.

3. Carry the animal in a small enclosed box, such as a shoe box, lined with paper towels. Poke a few holes in the top of the box for ventilation.

And is that bird really abandoned or an orphan?

Here's what Cornell experts say:

Nearly always, the answer will be no—most baby birds that people find are actually recent fledglings that cannot fly well. The first thing to do is determine whether it is a nestling or a fledgling.

Let the young bird perch on your finger. Is it gripping firmly? If so, it is a fledgling. The best thing to do, to get it out of harm's way, is to place the baby bird in a shrub or tree—somewhere above the ground—and leave it alone.

If the bird seems unable to cling well to your finger or to branches, it is most likely a nestling. Look around in nearby shrubbery or trees for the nest the bird came from. It will probably be well hidden. If you do find the nest, simply put the young bird back in it. If you can't find it, you can provide a substitute nest by tying a berry basket (the kind with holes in the bottom, for drainage) in a tree. Line it with some tissues or other soft material, put the baby bird inside, and leave it alone.

What about the fear that if you touch the baby bird, later it will be disowned?

"It's an old wives' tale that the parent birds will reject the baby birds touched by humans, because most birds have a poor sense of smell and wouldn't be able to tell humans have touched them," said Nicky Thole, director of Camarillo Wildlife Rehabilitation, a rescue group that Ventura County Animal Services uses as a reference on bird matters.

Courtesy of the L.A. Audubon Society, a list of local wildlife rehab agencies to call when you find a sick or injured bird is on the jump below.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Kevin P. Casey/Los Angeles Times

If you find an injured or sick wild bird or bat in your area, contact the closest licensed rehabilitator listed below:

Long Beach All Wildlife Rescue and Education (562) 434-0141

Long Beach Animal Hospital, 3816 E. Anaheim (between Redondo and Termino), Long Beach, CA (562) 434-9966

Malibu California Wildlife Center (818) 222-2658

Mission Viejo Critter Care of Orange County (949) 380-8719

Palos Verdes South Bay Wildlife Rehab (310) 378-9921

Pasadena Humane Society (626) 792-7151

Poway Bat Rescue (bats only) (858) 679-0211

San Pedro International Bird Rescue and Research Center (310) 514-2573 (especially for seabirds)

Simi Valley Wildlife Care of Ventura County (805) 581-3911

Sunland Wildlife on Wheels (818) 951-3656

Thousand Oaks Wildlife Care of  Ventura County (805) 498-8653

Topanga Wildworks (310) 455-0550

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