I volunteer with the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network in Santa Barbara, California and am providing these guidelines due to the numerous e-mails I've received from around the world asking for help in caring for a sick or injured bird. Our facilities, while small, are designed to help nurse and restore injured animals so they can be released back into their environment. Even with the specialized equipment and facilities the network has, it is a very difficult task in caring for these animals.
The following tips are suggestions for those of you who find a sick or injured bird.
Should you come across a bird needing help contact your local wildlife assistance department or organization first. If your city or town does not have one contact the closest state fish and wildlife office. They can assist you in contacting a local wildlife care unit.
Here is a link to a list of wildlife rescue groups and facilties in North America. Start at the state level by asking for a local contact. Fish and game departments will point you in the right direction but you'll still need to do some detective work to find the closest wildlife rescue or rehabilitation facility. Don't give up!
State and federal laws make it is illegal to posses most wild birds. If you are really interested in working to treat injured and sick wildlife consider taking a course in animal medicine or becoming certified through your state's fish and game department. A good place to find information regarding rehabilitation training is by looking at the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council's website for detailed information.
Your local zoo may also have an animal care aide volunteer program, much like the one I participate in at the Santa Barbara Zoo in Santa Barbara, California.
- Hawks, Owls and Seabirds are more dangerous to handle. Always approach
and pick them up from the rear. ALWAYS heavy leather gloves,
with birds of prey. Even if the bird looks lethargic keep in mind its defense
mechanism will kick in if it feels it is threatened.
Cover the head with a towel or cloth and wrap their bodies with a towel or cloth to subdue them. Remember to keep their claws pointing away from you and work quickly to hold their wings against their body. A raptor will not bite or peck but use their talons in defense. They may roll onto their back presenting you with two very strong and sharp sets of claws. Use a towel to cover their feet and have someone help by keeping a carrier or box handy to place the bird in.
Some shore and water birds such as herons and cormorants will strike at your eyes so keep them away from your face and wear goggles, when possible.
- Pelicans will often snap with their beaks. Cormorants and Loons will do the same. When they do you have a few seconds before they snap again. Grab the beak and hold it while someone helps you grab the wings to bring them back to the body. Once you have the bird controlled place it in a container. Because Pelicans breath through their mouths get them to a container as quickly as possible so their beaks can be released as quickly as possible.
Always contact your local animal control or wildlife rescue organization first before attempting a rescue yourself!
- Ensure the box or carrier has sufficient ventilation. Pad the container with towels to keep the bird comfortable and prevent it from sliding about in the container.
- Keep car windows slightly open when driving. Do not let drafts hit the container or bird directly. Never carry animals in the trunk of a car, do not play the radio, do not smoke and keep conversation to a minimum. Keep the container covered but still allow for ventilation.
If you cannot find the nest watch to see if the parents return later in the day. They may be out forageing for food.
Do not handle a young bird more than is necessary.
Again, if your town or city has a local wildlife care network contact them first. They are better equipped to nurse an sick or orphaned bird.
The feeding and care of an infant bird is not easy nor is it simple. It should be left to those who are trained in providing proper care.
It is illegal to shoot, trap, or harass birds simply because they have become nusances. The following links provide information and resources to help you deal with birds which may become a problem to your home or community.
Certain birds are often considered pests, starlings, crows, pigeons and woodpeckers, to name a few. The following are resources online which provide some measures to help remove birds from an area or house safely.
If your hummingbird feeder attracts more insects than birds consider using Bee or Wasp traps. Do not use insecticide to keep them away from the feeder.
If you have tried other approaches to keep hummingbird feeders free of bees or wasps let me know. I will post your suggestion.
Bird Art - Notecards: My series of color and black & white raptor portraits. Commissions accepted.
All images © Anthony Galván III
Any use requires written permission![Galvan's Bird Index]