(ABC4) – Spring is here and many birds are hatching from their eggs. Finding a baby bird on the ground is a common occurrence during this time of the year and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has some tips on what to do if you cross paths with a baby bird.
“Baby birds usually chirp and call from the nest, waiting for their parents to bring food to them — and sometimes, that results in them falling from their perch,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Migratory Game Bird Coordinator Blair Stringham said.
According to the DWR, the most common baby birds that people find are robins (which nest in trees) and swallows (which build their mud nests in eaves and on the side of houses.)
Here’s what you can do if you find a baby bird on the ground:
Put it back in the nest if it doesn’t have feathers
The DWR says if the bird is very small and still featherless, you should place it back in its nest. If you can’t find the nest, put the bird on a branch safely out of reach of dogs and cats.
“The baby will squawk, and its parents will find it,” Stringham said.
Unlike with some other wildlife species, the DWR says you don’t need to be concerned about leaving your scent on the bird. Most birds do not have a good sense of smell so if you pick a baby bird up, its parents won’t even know you’ve handled it.
Under no circumstances should you take a baby bird home. Most birds are protected by state and federal laws making it against the law to possess wild animals without special permits.
Leave it alone if it has feathers
If the baby bird is hopping around, you’ve found a bird that almost isn’t a “baby” anymore. These young birds are called fledglings. They have most of their flight feathers and are very close to taking their first flight.
If the bird isn’t in danger, leave it where you found it. This awkward “hopping” stage typically lasts two to five days. It’s part of the natural process a baby bird goes through before taking its first flight. The parents are watching the baby bird and are still feeding it.
If you think the fledgling is in immediate danger, then move it carefully to a safer spot nearby. However, if you can’t catch the bird, just leave it alone.
Don’t feed the bird
According to the DWR, birds have a specific diet, and feeding them something that’s not part of their diet can kill them.
“While robins and some bird species can safely eat worms, others can’t,” Stringham said. “So don’t try to feed baby birds or other wildlife that you may see. You may think you are ‘helping’ them, but it usually does more harm than good.”
Don’t bother or move bird nests that have eggs or baby birds in them
While bird species that nest in the eaves of buildings may seem like a nuisance, it’s unlawful to disturb nests that have eggs or baby birds, and you can be cited for doing so.
What to do with baby ducks
If you find a duckling on the ground that looks like it’s been separated from its parents, don’t move it or try to put it in the water. Baby ducks should be left alone, unless they are trapped in a storm drain or somewhere else dangerous, like in a swimming pool.
The DWR has more information on what to do and what not to do if you find a baby bird on its website.