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Expert Offers Tips for Helping Baby Birds

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An older nestling who is almost, but not quite a fledgling. Also a Robin. At this age he still belongs in a nest, because although he has feathers, he cannot stand and hop. (Credit:  Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic)

An older nestling who is almost, but not quite a fledgling. Also a Robin. At this age he still belongs in a nest, because although he has feathers, he cannot stand and hop. (Credit: Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic)

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By Molly Daly

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s baby bird season, so you may notice more young birds on the ground, who seem to need your help. But a local wildlife expert says the vast majority are not orphans.

Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic Director Rick Schubert has some advice if you find a nestling — a baby bird whose feathers don’t seem fully developed.

“If you find a baby bird on the ground, it’s perfectly okay to try to pick the bird up very gently and put it back in the nest. Mom and dad birds will not abandon their young because people touch them, as many people believe — they have no sense of smell anyway.”

Most of the birds you see on the ground are fledglings. Schubert says there’s no need to kidnap them in a well-meaning attempt to rescue them:

“Because baby birds often leave their nests before they can fly, and that’s perfectly normal. The mother and father bird will protect them, and leave them on the ground till they’re ready to go.”

If a fledgling is in harm’s way, carefully pick it up and put it in a nearby bush, not a tree, away from the street, pets and kids. Watch from a distance, and see if the parents return and feed it. If, after 2 hours, they don’t, or if it seems hurt or lethargic, contact a wildlife rehabilitator. In the meantime, put it in a warm, dark, quiet place, like a small box. Do NOT attempt to feed it or give it water. Baby birds don’t drink water, and will choke if forced to drink.

Schubert says there’s another way you can help baby and adult birds.

“The one single best thing you can do for baby birds is keeping your cats indoors. First of all, for your cat’s sake, indoor cats live much longer, much healthier lives, and outdoor cats live much shorter lives, and they kill millions and millions of songbirds every year,. So, I love cats, but I keep my cats inside.”

If you have questions, call the Wildlife clinic at 215-482-8217.

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