Feeding Baby Birds


Saturday afternoon, Morgan strolled down to the river with a friend. An hour later, they came back with four wild baby birds. Then Morgan said, “Good luck with that!” and she went to camp for a week.
Okay, she didn’t leave for camp till the next morning, but the rest of it is true.
She found a destroyed nest on the bank of the river, with the four babies scattered nearby. If I’d been there, I wouldn’t have let her pick them up, but I wasn’t there. By the time she brought them back to the house, I wasn’t sure what the right thing was to do since she’d already handled them and removed them from the nest’s location. Probably, having had a few days since then to read up on baby birds, the right thing to do would have been to have her take the babies right back to the riverbank and put them right back where she found them, on the chance the mother bird would have come back to rescue them.
By the time I’d read enough to think that was probably the right thing to do, it was way past the window of time in which that could have been done.
I started calling wildlife rehabbers I found listed on the internet. It was a holiday weekend, though, and I couldn’t find anyone so I had to figure out how to keep the babies alive. And just where was Morgan? I fed them a mushy mixture I made by dissolving chick feed in warm water, delivering it to them with a small syringe.

All four ate eagerly and seemed strong and healthy. (You see me feed three in the video clip, but don’t worry, the fourth one got fed, too. That clip only shows part of one feeding. Each baby was taking two syringefuls per feeding, and I fed them as often as possible.)

Keeping wild baby birds, sweet as they are, isn’t on my agenda. They need to be fed constantly. Besides, it’s illegal to possess wild animals, not to mention that I don’t know what I’m doing. I pretty much treated them like baby chicks (except you don’t have to mush up the feed for chicks and give it to them in a syringe). I kept the birds in a room shut away from the cats, warm and fed frequently, in a cardboard box, nested in alfalfa, and continued trying to dig up a wildlife rehabber.
By Monday morning, I was talking to Ron at Three Rivers Avian Center, located a couple of hours south of Charleston. Ron is a wildlife rehabilitation specialist and he was just what my sweet little baby birds needed.

I took the baby birds out to my Jeep in the box I’d been keeping them in. They had an hour-long drive to the big city.
I met Ron and his partner at a Go-Mart in Charleston and handed over my charges, alive and strong, but slightly mixed up as I had almost convinced them that they were chickens.
They put the babies into a bird carrier box.
Ron told me these are two-week old sparrows.
Thank goodness for places–and people–like Three Rivers Avian Center. I felt absolutely confident and yet absurdly possessive at the same as I watched them take my babies into their much more competent care.
I’m sure I did almost everything wrong, but I did keep them alive–in my care for just under 48 hours–until I could get them to proper, expert management. (By the way, according to Ron, the best thing to feed baby birds is wax worms and mealworms.) Our baby sparrows are now in the best of hands–specifically, NOT MINE.
Now I can’t wait till Morgan gets home from camp so I can beat her.

Update from Three Rivers Avian Center: Two of the babies died. (sob) But, the other two are thriving, and not only are they thriving, they have been adopted by a new mama! After getting a better look at the babies, Ron determined that they were actually Eastern Phoebes. Upon discovering an Eastern Phoebe nearby, he placed the two remaining babies outside where the mother could hear them chirping. She flew down and got excited, so he placed them in a basket and hung it in the tree. The mother is now feeding the babies! They are back where they belong, in the wild, being cared for by a mother bird. Fabulous!

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on June 23, 2009  

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23 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 6-23

    You’ll be surprised to hear that you did pretty much everything RIGHT!
    I’m a wildlife rehabber at the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center in Virginia. If the nest was destroyed and the babies were scattered you definitly couldn’t have put them back. You did a great job and saved 4 precious lives… thanks!

  2. 6-23

    Here is hoping that the story has a happy ending at rehab. Although we all love nature, she can be a cruel woman at times (sorry ladies to resort to that “Mother Nature” portrayal). Being a birdwatcher it never ceases to amaze me at how much they fight over everything. The thrushes and my mean mockingbird are having a go at it in the backyard now.

  3. 6-23

    Funny. Morgan reminds me of my daugher. She loves animals. We have a bird house hanging on the tree. It is at eye leavel and she has to check it every day. We get a bird to move in each year. She talks to the birds each morning.

    Thank goodness she does not bring home strays or I would be in trouble. lol But she does collect bugs for her 4h entomology club. But she would rather keep some alive for awhile instead of killing them. So we end up with an intresting variety of bugs in recycled jars and container all summer long.

  4. 6-23

    Hey, job well done! True compassion is a beautiful gift.

  5. 6-23

    Been there done that. Don’t these girls drive you crazy? If it’s not stray dogs and cats it’s baby rabbits and abandoned ducklings.

  6. 6-23

    Cuteness just keeps finding its way to your house, Suzanne! :snuggle:

  7. 6-23

    My daughter did possum baby rehab for awhile before she left for college. She enjoyed it alot.. me ?? well……….not as much :clover:

  8. 6-23

    Bless you, My only attempt was with 2 baby squirels that some how were abandoned. Hubby called me at work in a panic, we got supplies and one baby lived a few hours, the other 2 days. Never again, it broke my heart.

  9. 6-23

    I have brought home more strays and taken care of wild birds for brief stints, so I can completely relate to Morgan.
    Hoooray for you for doing what you do best, caring for and loving animals no matter how long they are staying with you.
    BTW, I love the new video feature :hug:

  10. 6-23

    Thank God for these rehab people. They are wonderful, get paid very little, and know A LOT. We have a few near us…it’s wonderful that they all exist!

    Good job, Suzanne!

  11. 6-23

    Morgan brought the baby birds to you, because she knew that you would help them. :fairy:

  12. 6-23

    :snuggle: Good job woman! I volunteer at 2nd Chance Wildlife Rehab in Maryland, and those babies should be fine! We take in birds so small they are practically see-through, and they live. My little girl comes with me and helps feed the babies. They do eat well, even when so small! This is the season for baby birds, and I’m glad they came to the right farm! :snuggle:

  13. 6-23

    My hubby just chopped a big bush in half and when I went to clean up I found a nest now almost totally exposed – there was one good size bird, one that didn’t make it and two eggs. Luckily the parents were still flying around so I covered the next with leaves and watched it constantly (we have outside ferals in the back of the house). The parents kept tending the baby but the nest shifted almost vertical so I had to go in and help. The baby fluttered out of the nest but I was able to gently recover it and it stayed because I’m sure it couldn’t have gotten back on it’s own. Then we had a huge thunderstorm that night so I added more leaves. The baby would now stand on the edge of the nest and two days later it was gone. The other eggs never made it but I feel lucky that the baby did. I was lucky I didn’t have to try and feed it lol.

  14. 6-23

    I love you guys! That is exactly what I would have done. It’s sounds as though you and Morgan did the right thing. Even Mother Nature needs a little help now and then!

  15. 6-23

    You did a great job taking care of those babies and of course Morgan knew you would, that’s why she brought them to you!

  16. 6-23

    A bird rehab specialist came and talked to my students last week. He said that it’s perfectly all right to pick up baby birds to put them back in a nest, and that the mother wont mind your scent at all. He also told the kids that if a nest has broken that you can stick a basket or something, even an egg carton, up where the nest is and the birds will start using it just as if it was their own. I’m sure you’re baby birds are just fine now, and grateful that you did so much to help them.

  17. 6-23

    Birds do not have a sense of smell, so they can not “smell” that humans have handled their babies!! If you had been able to put the babies in a basket of some sort and tied it up as high as possible in a tree, the Mama Bird would have continued to care for her youngens…if she was able, since the nest was destroyed, she might have also been injured…Best of Luck to you and the little ones.

  18. 6-23

    Well done!

  19. 6-23

    You are totally awesome! However, if you want help beating Morgan, let me know! My stepson did the same thing to me with four newborn kittens he found under our deck. We waited for 3 days for mom, who never showed (figured she was dead or injured). However, it was a Friday and off he goes to visit his mom for the weekend and there I sat bottle feeding kittens until I could get them to the shelter on Monday. I wanted to fold, spindle and mutilate him when he returned Sunday night! I should have, because two years later he hauled home another tiny kitten (thank heavens this one didn’t need bottle fed) who owned me for years after he moved out and started his own family. And I never liked cats!

  20. 6-23

    Those little babies are so sweet! You did the right thing and I’m so glad Morgan rescued them!

  21. 6-24

    that’s a sweet story. ron is amazing! however, your jeep needs a bath. :devil2:

  22. 6-24

    What a wonderful story!! I’m glad two of the babies have found a new mommy. We have a mockingbird couple who lay in our backyard every year. Last year a snake got the babies and we were devastated. This year we have four “teenage” mockingbirds. :)

  23. 12-16

    Amazing, I am surprising that i see these birds. I will never see these types of birds in my life.

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