can birds pick up their babies

Can Birds Pick Up Their Babies? Everything You Need to Know

Ever seen a baby bird alone on the ground? You can see that it’s too young to fly, so you wonder, can birds pick up their babies?

Should you leave the baby bird or should you look for the nest and put it back yourself?

Most mammals can carry around their babies easily; can birds do that too?

In this article, we’ll answer all those questions, and tell you everything you need to know. Stick around!

Are Birds Physically Capable of Picking up Their Babies?

goose with babies

Birds aren’t usually strong enough to carry their babies with their claws or beaks. Yeah, storks can’t carry babies in their mouths!

Birds don’t have enough muscles or strength either, they weren’t built for carrying. However, you might’ve seen a type of birds of prey like eagles pick up prey that can weigh three to four pounds.

Birds of prey are strong, they definitely can carry a baby bird, but not with the intent of putting it back in the nest!

Author Note: Ornithologists have only spotted 16 species that are able to carry their baby birds. That was extremely rare and we still don’t have a lot of information on how or why they performed it.

These species include:

  • Virginia Rails
  • Gallinules
  • Woodcocks
  • Chachalacas
  • Cuckoo
  • Willets
  • Clapper Rails

In addition to seven other groups of waterfowl birds, which are more common to be seen carrying their babies on their backs while swimming.

Swans and ducks carry their babies on their backs across the water until they’re able to swim on their own.

It’s not as safe as it may sound, baby birds may drown if they fall into the water, if they’re not capable of swimming. Their mother won’t be able to carry them back.

Ornithologists believe that in cases of extreme danger, birds abandon their nests, or in some rare cases relocate their baby birds! They can also try to do that to stay away from predators.

What Should You Do if You See a Baby Bird Alone on the Ground?

lost baby bird

The first thing you need to do is to figure out if the bird is a nestling or a fledgling. You can tell if that bird is a nestling; nestlings haven’t developed feathers yet, or have a small number of feathers across their body, their eyes might still be closed, and they can’t hop or move around.

If you can locate the nest, you should carefully pick up the little bird and put it back in the nest. However, if you can’t locate the nest or can’t reach it, you should contact the wildlife rehabilitator in your state.

Will the Mother Accept the Baby Bird if You Touch It?

It’s commonly thought that the mother won’t accept the nestling if you touch it with your hands. That’s a myth! Birds don’t have a good sense of smell, and mothers will accept the little ones you place back with no problem.

What if You Found a Fledgling on the Ground?

If the little bird you’ve found on the ground has feathers, this means that it’s a fledgling and it’s still learning to fly. You shouldn’t pick the fledglings up; they are capable of moving around and still figuring out a way to fly.

Top Tip: Even if you put it back in the nest, it will probably hop out again. The only help you can provide is to reposition it if it’s in the middle of the street or in an unsafe location. As they’re mostly capable of moving around on their own.

Contact the wildlife rehabilitator immediately in any of the following cases:

  • If the bird is injured or you see any signs of blood on it
  • If you spot any type of foreign material on its feathers
  • If the bird isn’t breathing normally or shivering

What Should You Do if You Found the Nest but It Was Broken Down?

broken bird nest

You should try putting the nest back together; you can use any material you can find around along with the remains of the broken nest, and follow these instructions:

  1. Make sure to place it back to where it was originally located
  2. If you can’t identify the original location, place it somewhere near you found it, as high as possible and away from direct sunlight.
  3. Place the little bird back in the new nest
  4. Look around for any other birds that may have fallen out of the destroyed nest
  5. Keep an eye on the nest from time to time to check if the mother has returned
  6. If the mother didn’t come back, or you couldn’t assemble the nest, contact the wildlife rehabilitator or the nearest vet

How to Move an Injured or Orphaned Bird to the Wildlife Center or the Vet?

If you’re transferring the bird to another place, the following steps will guide you through the process:

  1. Put on gloves and a face mask
  2. Find an empty box and make some holes in it
  3. Place a towel or piece of clothing in the box
  4. Carefully transfer the bird into the box
  5. Keep the box closed and warm while transferring it
  6. If you can’t transport the box immediately, keep it in a dark quiet place, away from any pets or children.

It’s worth mentioning that licensed vets can’t rehabilitate a wild bird; only licensed wildlife rehabilitators can do that. It’s illegal for anyone but them to rehabilitate a wild bird.

Are There Bird Species That You Shouldn’t Help?

Some bird species don’t need your help! For instance, goslings and ducklings can walk properly from the moment they hatch; they can even eat on their own.

Can Picking a Bird Do Any Harm to It?

holding a small bird

If you handle the bird carefully and place it back in its nest, no harm will be done, the mother will recognize its baby bird and accept it.

However, this may attract predators’ attention. They will notice the location of the nest and may plan to attack it.

The nestlings have a better chance of surviving in their nest as their parents can defend them from the attack if it occurs.

Author Note: On the other hand, if they remain on the ground, their survival chances are much lower. They’ll become an easy target for any predator if they don’t starve to death.

Can the Bird Do Any Harm to You if You Pick It Up?

It’s strongly advised to wear a mask and gloves before handling the bird; they might be carrying bacteria on their skin or could be hosting a disease.

It’s important to wash your hands thoroughly after finishing the process. Additionally, be careful when handling injured grown birds, they can bite or scratch you.

How Can a Bird End up on the Ground?

The simplest answer is that it fell from the nest, but it also may have fallen due to a predator trying to take it away!

Additionally, mother birds sometimes would throw a deceased, or weak bird, from their nest. Not all the birds in the nest survive. Sadly, nature can be cruel sometimes.

What Happens to Birds That Fall on the Ground?

bird that fell on the ground

If it’s a fledgling, there’s a chance it’ll be able to reach back to the nest by hopping and making small flights from branch to branch. If it’s fortunate enough to not get spotted by a predator.

However, the fledglings are still too young to be able to feed themselves or make long flights. If you spot a generally weak fledgling, you can put it back in the nest to have a better chance of surviving.

Unfortunately, nestlings have no capability of flying or feeding themselves. So, if not helped by anyone, it will become a prey or die out of the hanger.

In some cases, if the mother hears the sound of her offspring, it will fly to it and feed it. Birds can recognize the voices of their babies.

The sad thing is that even if the bird doesn’t fall from the nest, it’s not guaranteed that it will survive in the nest. Birds’ survival rates are around 46% to 74% due to extreme weather conditions, starvation, or diseases.

Can You Take Care of a Bird and Raise It Until It’s Able to Fly?

You should always contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or a vet; taking care of a bird is not a simple thing to do, even for experts.

Author Note: Additionally, you can’t raise a wild bird. It’s illegal in most states and you’ll not be able to meet all their needs. They should be out there in nature!

They also might be carrying diseases that can be transmitted to you.

In Conclusion

Birds aren’t physically strong enough to carry their babies. While waterfowl birds usually carry their offspring on their backs while swimming, it’s rarely seen that birds carry their babies while flying.

If you spot a nestling on the ground, place it back in its nest, and if it’s a fledgling you should leave it as it’s learning to fly and can hop back to the nest.

If the bird is injured or its parents didn’t come back, call the local wildlife rehabilitators or take it to the vet as soon as possible.

Don’t try to take care of a young or injured bird; it requires an expert. Additionally, keeping wild birds is against the law.

It’s advised to always wear gloves before touching a wild bird and to wash your hands afterward.

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