How to Take Care of an Injured Bird or Other Found Wildlife

what to do if you find an injured bird

House the bird in a box until you can get it to a licensed wildlife center. Photo by jessicafm, Flickr

Learn how to take care of an injured bird or other wildlife you’ve found to give it the best chance for survival.

Found an injured bird and need to know what to do? Or have you taken in a sick or injured wild rabbit or maybe even a snake. You have done well so far by helping a creature that would likely not survive without help. Although some are too sick or injured to be save, many can be saved. The care the animal receives next can make the difference as to whether or not the animal survives to live once again in the wild. Despite what your initial instincts may tell you, doing less is better and will give the rescued wild bird or other animal a greater chance of survival. Doing too much, without the proper training for the particular species that you found, will often end in tragedy.

Where to Put the Injured Animal

Line a box with paper towels or an old t-shirt. Towels are not the best to use because they can easily unravel and the animal can become tangled in strings.

Poke some air holes in the box.

Place the animal inside the box and close up the lid.

Put the box in a warm, dark, and quiet room until you can transport it to a bird rescue center or wildlife rehab center. If the animal feels cold, you can warm it by placing the box halfway on a heating pad. Put the heating pad on low and the wild bird or other animal on the side of the box that is not directly sitting on the heating pad. If the animal is mobile and chooses to move to the heated side, that is fine.

Where to Take Injured Birds and Other Wildlife

Transport the animal to a wildlife rehabilitation center within 24 hours. By federal law, you can hold a native wild bird for only 24 hours for this purpose. In addition, there are federal and state laws that regulate the holding and care of other native mammals and reptiles. To give the animal the best care possible, the sooner it can get to a wildlife rehab center, the better.

care for an injured bird

Parents do take care of their fledglings that have left the nest. Be sure a baby bird truly needs help before you pick it up. Photo by auntjojo, Flickr

What Not To Do

Do not give the animal any water. An animal with head trauma can easily drown in even a shallow bowel of water. Giving water with an eyedropper will cause undue stress on the animal and may cause the animal to take water into the lungs.

Do not give the animal any food. The animal may have internal injuries that would make eating food dangerous. Also, each species has its own diet; the wrong food can cause stomach upset and life threatening diarrhea.

Do not handle the animal more than necessary. This means not showing it off to your friends or letting your kids pet and talk to it. This also means no selfies with the bird to post on Facebook. Such stress can and does kill some sensitive animals such as wild rabbits and certain wild bird species.

Do not try to treat any injuries yourself. Animals respond differently to human medications, even topical ones. Treating a wild animal’s injuries without proper training can do more harm than good. For example, applying a topical cream to a bird is that same as coating its feathers with petroleum oil.

Want to Learn How to Care for an Injured Bird Yourself?

If you want to learn how to properly care for and rescue bird or other wild animals, then sign up to volunteer at your local wildlife rehabilitation center. Wildlife rehabilitation centers often hire their most hard working volunteers, you may even find a new career working with wildlife. WildlifeInternational.org has a database of wildlife rehab centers.


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