how to tell if a bird is in shock

How to tell if a Bird is in shock: Symptoms of a Bird in shock

If you’ve ever happened across an injured, orphaned, or sick animal, it can be heart-wrenching. Despite the human horror stories we see in the news, many of us want to be helpful. And deep down, human nature wants to help our fellow animals. Sometimes, we end up doing more harm than good if we don’t know exactly how to help. But do you know how to tell if a bird is in shock?

Shock is characterized by a bird that is fluffed up, unresponsive, slow breathing, and weak. For recovery, the ideal location is a quiet, dimly lit environment. The temperature should provide warmth, and it should be humid, if possible. 

There are more than just the above signs, and we are going to check them out in this article. 

Guidelines for How to Tell If a Bird Is In Shock

Here are some guidelines to help you help out an injured bird. This is where you should start when learning how to tell if a bird is in shock.

First, let’s take a look at more specific signs of a sick or injured bird.

Author Note: An adult bird can get sick or injured in the wild, and there’s plenty of reasons to cause this. Whether it’s an attack by a cat, being hit by a car, flying into a window, falling from the nest, or sick from a virus or bacteria. 

Here are the symptoms you need to look out for:

  • Immobile on the ground
  • Does not escape (fly) when you approach it
  • Feathers are fluffed
  • Wounds with blood
  • Eyes with crust, swollen, bleeding, squint
  • Injured limbs (obviously legs dangling, wings hanging, or even asymmetrical)
  • If the bird does try to fly but struggles or can’t, that is a clear indication that the bird needs help.

How Long Do Birds Stay in Shock?

bird in shock

There is no set time for a bird to remain in shock, as it depends on what impact the bird sustained. If it was a harsh impact, it could take several hours for the bird to recover. But sometimes, it only takes a few minutes. While the bird is still in shock, you should avoid stimulating the bird while it is recovering.

Do Stunned Birds Breathe?

Yes, a stunned bird will still be breathing. You might see that it has an open beak, and it is breathing out of its mouth. The breath might be incredibly slow, but that doesn’t mean it is not breathing. If the bird is breathing through its mouth with an open beak, it is an indication it is in shock.

The best thing to do is to keep the bird in a dark, quiet area. Do not try to stimulate the bird, and try to leave it in a peaceful environment. 

If you can see visible injuries, you might do more damage to it by trying to move it. However, if you are going to move it out of the wild into a safe place, here’s how to do it. Place it very carefully in a cardboard box. Cover it with a towel or a breathable lid.

Leave the box in a cool (but not cold), safe place. Please remember that a bird will go into shock easily when it is injured. More often than not, the bird will die from the shock combined with the injuries. 

What Happens When a Bird Hits the Window?

If a bird flies into your window, it is likely to be still alive. The bird will most probably go into shock, and it will just need a little bit of time to recover. You can place the bird in the cardboard box and leave it in peace for a while to recover. 

It is important that you do not try to force-feed it or force water. You can take the box outside every 15 minutes or so to give it the opportunity to fly away. If several hours have passed, then it might be a good idea to get in touch with a wildlife authority. 

Tips For Handling a Bird in Shock

Firstly, it is a good idea to observe the bird closely. Before you touch the bird, you should observe its reactions. How does the bird respond when you approach it? If it seems unconscious, then obviously, it won’t have much of a reaction. 

Author Note: Sometimes, a stunned bird will be very still and will even sit upright. You might notice drooped wings, and they sit very still in one spot. If the bird is in a safe place, then you should leave it alone to recover.

If the bird is still conscious without any serious injuries, it will likely recover within a few minutes. If, however, the bird appears severely injured or is thrashing on the ground, then you should consider helping it out. 

Check for Injuries

bird that hit window

Secondly, you need to check for any injuries. Always handle a bird with great care and with extreme gentleness if you encounter an injured bird. If the bird has lost consciousness, gently examine the bird for injuries. Check for the following signs of injuries.

  • Broken bones
  • Cuts
  • Missing feathers could be an indication
  • Discharge coming from the bill

If you see that the bird is suffering from a more severe injury, it might be best to contact a wildlife center or wildlife authority. 

Top Tip: Wear gloves when handling a wild bird

Next up, it’s essential to keep the bird safe.

If the bird is stunned, keep it in a safe and sheltered place. Always try to keep the bird in the same place where you found it. If possible, leave it in the cardboard box in the same place where the bird was. This box might offer some protection from predators. But, the box must be big enough so the bird can stretch its wings if possible.

Providing the bird with some shelter and the opportunity to fly away again when it is ready, especially if it will be safe from predators. It is best to line the box with a cloth or newspaper. If the box is closed, then make sure that there is plenty of ventilation, and the bird can still have plenty of fresh air. 

Give the Bird Recovery Time.

The recovery time will depend on the severity of the impact the bird suffered. If it has a severe impact, the bird will take a few hours to recover. If the impact was more gentle, then it may only take several minutes. If the bird does not exhibit any signs of recovery within a few hours, then it is best to take it to a wildlife rehabilitation center as soon as possible.

Finally, if all goes well, release the bird.

Once the bird is able to move again and is a little more active, you can return it back to its natural environment. If you’ve moved the bird inside, take the box back outside to where you found the bird. This will help the bird to find its bearings again once it is out of the box.

Once the bird is moving again, it will typically take a moment to get up and about again. It may fly out as soon as the box opens, but it may not fly far. It will take a while for the bird to be comfortable enough to fly away. 

If the area where you found the bird is not safe, then try to find a similar but safer environment with shelter, water, and food. 

What Not to Do

baby hawk in shock

It is normal to want to help the bird if it collides into your window, but there are some things to avoid if you don’t want to hurt the bird. 

Avoid giving the injured bird food or water. Even if you want to help the bird, it is important to remember birds have specific diets. Do not force an injured bird to eat. The bird will forage for the right food once it is released again. 

Top Tip: Do not give the bird any medications. Medications for humans can be toxic to animals. If the bird is bleeding, wrap the wound in gauze to stem the bleeding. But get the bird to a wildlife center as soon as possible. 

It is very important that you do not release the bird indoors. At the same time, you may want to open the bag or the box when you hear movement, don’t! The bird might fly out faster than you expect and get stuck inside your house. This premature escape might end up causing more harm to your rescued feathered friend. Not only will this cause panic, but you could end up harming the bird even more. 

And one of the most important rules? Never keep the bird as a pet, even if you have grown attached to it. Never keep a wild bird as a pet, even if you intend to release it. Not only is this cruel, but it is illegal. The Federal Migratory Bird Treaty deems it unlawful for any person to keep a wild bird. The penalties could involve jail time or being fined. Wild birds may become accustomed to human interaction, but it is not in their best interests. 

What If You Find a Raptor? 

Avoid handling a raptor. Even if they look small and cute, it is not a good idea to handle raptors. Not only could this be potentially dangerous, but it could harm their reintegration.

A raptor has sharp talons and strong bills that can cause severe harm. If a bird of prey has flown into your window, then contact the proper wildlife authorities immediately. A qualified personnel will be able to handle the raptor or offer guidance without causing further damage to the bird or harm to humans either. 


Figuring out if a bird is in shock can be the difference between it living or dying. We hope you found this article on how to tell if a bird is in shock useful and informative.

Fly high friends!


How do you know if a bird is in shock?

If you suspect that a bird is in shock, keep an eye out for some key warning signs: the bird may seem weak and unresponsive, breathing rapidly, have pale or discolored comb and wattles, be cold to the touch, not be interested in food and have dilated pupils. These are all red flags that something’s not right. If you see any of these signs, don’t hesitate to get that bird to the vet ASAP!

How long does a bird stay in shock?

The duration of shock in a bird can vary, it depends on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause. Some birds may recover quickly while others may require prolonged treatment. It’s important to note that even after the physical symptoms of shock have been resolved, the bird may still be weak and debilitated, and may require supportive care to help fully recover. It’s best to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate assessment and for a proper treatment plan.

How do you help a bird in shock after a cat attack?

To help a bird in shock after a cat attack, keep the bird warm, provide fluids, monitor breathing, do not feed, and transport it carefully to a veterinarian for immediate medical attention. It’s important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible as a bird in shock can be a serious condition.

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