Baby Birds

Often, “rescues” for baby birds are unnecessary and can be detrimental to the survival of the animal.

Each spring, volumes of healthy fledgling birds come into care when well-meaning people find them on the ground and see no parents immediately nearby. Even the best carer can’t teach them what they should learn from their parents, and resources are best used on truly orphaned and/or injured birds.

If you find a baby bird

If you find a baby bird, do not attempt to look after, feed or hydrate it. If it is injured or in imminent danger, place it in a dark, warm, dry place away from pets and contact our 24/7 Rescue Line on .

If it is not injured or in danger, you should:

Resist the urge to “rescue”

Observe from afar instead. The parents are unlikely to return whilst you are interfering directly with their baby. In the case of nocturnal species like the Tawny Frogmouths, they may even be asleep or well camouflaged.

Try to return it to the nest (or make one)

A small box or ice cream container with drainage holes makes an excellent temporary nest. Secure the nest in a tree as close as possible to where the chick was found.

Check if the parents come to feed the chick over the next few hours. If they don’t, if the chick is showing signs of illness, injury, weakening condition, or is attacked by other birds, call our 24/7 Rescue Line on 0418 628 483 and one of our rescuers can bring the animal into care.

Hint: If the bird is pooping – he’s likely being fed!

Signs A Baby Bird Needs Rescuing

A baby bird with any of the following signs is injured and needs medical attention:

  • There are obvious wounds or blood on its body
  • It has had contact with a cat or dog – even with no obvious injuries, this is a medical emergency for baby birds
  • The bird is lying on its side and cannot right itself
  • The bird has droopy wings or limps
  • There is a dead parent nearby
  • It is covered in bugs or insects
  • The bird feels cold to the touch when you pick it up.

To keep the baby bird(s) safe while you figure out how to help them, put them in a small cardboard box with a soft towel or t-shirt. Even on a warm day babies can get cold, so give them a heat source using ​a plastic bottle from the recycling bin filled with hot tap water and wrapped in a face cloth or tea towel. Please don’t make it too hot.

Do not give them any food or water – right now keeping them warm in a dark and quiet place is more important.

For any babies who are not injured, it may still be possible to reunite them with their parents. Work out what life stage they are at to decide what to do next:

Hatchling / Nestling

Hatchlings and nestlings must be reunited with their parents

If the baby bird is pink, has no feathers and its eyes are closed, it is a hatchling. If it is sparsely feathered and not capable of hopping, walking, flitting, or gripping tightly to your finger, it’s a nestling.

In both cases the nest is almost certainly nearby. If you can find the nest (it may be well hidden), put the bird back as quickly as possible. Don’t worry—parent birds do not recognize their young by smell. They will not abandon a baby if it has been touched by humans. If the nest has been destroyed you can make a new one using a clean icecream container, place the chick back inside and watch to see if the parents come back.


May be monitored from a distance

Most of the baby birds people find are fledglings. These are young birds that have just left the nest, and can’t fly yet, but are still under the care of their parents, and do not need our help. Fledglings are feathered and capable of hopping or flitting, with toes that can tightly grip your finger or a twig. These youngsters are generally adorable and fluffy, with a tiny stub of a tail.

When fledglings leave their nest they rarely return, so even if you see the nest it’s not a good idea to put the bird back in—it will hop right back out. Usually there is no reason to intervene at all beyond putting the bird on a nearby perch out of harm’s way and keeping pets indoors. The parents may be attending to four or five young scattered in different directions, but they will return to care for the one you have found. You can watch from a distance to make sure the parents are returning to care for the fledgling.


Precocial birds are born with downy feathers, eyes open, able to stand and follow their parents. They can feed themselves. e.g. ducklings, plovers.

These youngsters will always be on the ground, as will the nest they are using. Stay well clear and watch to ensure the parents are attending.

Provide an improvised nest

Step 1

Take an ice-cream container or similar item and put some holes in the bottom for drainage. Put some more holes at the top to make a handle.

Step 2

Put some leaves or grass in the bottom. Use the original nesting material if the nest has fallen from the tree. Place baby bird in its new home. Mum and dad won’t mind that baby has been handled by humans.

Step 3

Secure the container at about head height or higher in a leafy protected area, away from direct sunlight, as close to where you found the baby bird. It does not even have to be the original tree.

Step 4

Watch from a distance to make sure the parents return to feed baby. This may take several hours so be patient. If the parents have not returned by dark, call the Hunter Wildlife Rescue.