When and How to Rescue a Bird

Wild animals require specialized treatment and diets to recover from injuries or to develop into healthy adults so please do not attempt to care for or raise wildlife yourself. Remember, in the State of Wisconsin it is illegal to possess a wild animal without a permit unless you are transporting the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

When NOT to Rescue a Bird

In many situations young birds need only a little help or no help at all. Contrary to popular belief, parents will not reject their babies if humans have touched them.


Nestlings are young birds with only downy feathers. If they are found on the ground and are not injured they can be returned to the nest from which they fell or a surrogate nest can be created.


Fledglings are young birds just learning to fly and they spend a lot of time on the ground. These birds are still protected and fed by their parents and do not need to be rescued unless they have been injured. If you find a fledgling in your yard, protect him by keeping pets away and encouraging children to watch from a distance.

Ducklings or Goslings

Unlike songbirds, ducklings and goslings leave the nest almost immediately after hatching. They already know how to find their own food, but still need their families. Their parents keep them warm, lead them to safe places, food sources and protect them from danger. If you find a duckling or gosling, it is almost certainly just separated from its family. If you can find the family, place the baby close to the flock and then watch from a distance. If the baby joins the flock you can leave the area, the baby is fine. If the baby is rejected, or if the family cannot be found, contact a wildlife rehabilitator.

Window Strikes

If a bird hits your window and is unable to fly away, place it in a box or paper bag with air holes and put it in a warm, dark, quiet place for one to two hours. If it is unable to fly away within two hours, take it to the nearest wildlife rehabilitator for medical care.

When to Rescue a Bird

In the following situations a rescue may be needed.

  • If the bird is bleeding, shivering, lethargic or unresponsive.
  • If the birds has been attacked by a cat or dog.
  • If the parents or siblings are known to be dead.

How to make a Surrogate Nest

  1. Find a container such as a small box or plastic container and punch drainage holes in the bottom.
  2. Fill the container with leaves, paper towels or a clean, soft cloth.
  3. Place the nest in the tree or bush closest to where the bird was found, out of the sun and rain, as high up as you can safely manage.
  4. Place the bird(s) in the nest (wear gloves) and leave the area.
  5. Monitor the nest for parental activity.

How to Rescue a Bird

  1. Find a suitable container (cardboard box, pet carrier). Poke air holes in it, if needed. Line it with a clean, soft cloth or paper towel.
  2. Gently pick up the animal (wear gloves or cover with a cloth) and place in the container.
  3. Secure the container so the animal cannot crawl or jump out.
  4. Keep the animal in a warm, dark, quiet place away from pets and children. Remember stress from over handling can kill.
  5. Do not give food and give water only if the animal can stand.
  6. Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible to arrange for the wild animal to get help.

Remember any wild animal, when scarred, will try and protect itself. Please contact a wildlife rehabilitator prior to rescuing or transporting any wild animal.