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How to Find Wild Bird Rehabilitators


Bird in Hand

When a bird needs a helping hand, call a bird rescue organization.

Matt Reinbold

Many birders love to nurture the feathered friends that visit their yard and take great care to provide nutritious food, high quality bird feeders, clean bird baths, safe bird houses, bird-friendly landscaping and more to ensure their birds have the best backyard sanctuary to enjoy. Unfortunately, there are times when birds need specialized care that is beyond what a backyard birder can provide, and at those times it is necessary to find a bird rescue organization or a licensed bird rehabilitator to provide that care. By knowing where to find bird rescue organizations, every birder can help protect the species they enjoy.

Why Find Rehabbers?

It can be tempting to try to help a sick or injured bird yourself, especially if you've had years of experience observing, feeding and enjoying birds. In many areas, however, it is illegal to hold a wild bird captive for any reason, even if you plan to help the bird and release it. Furthermore, birds need special care to not only recover properly but also to ensure they have the necessary skills and proper development to survive on their own. Not only are wildlife rehabilitators trained and licensed to provide the proper care to birds, but they are also equipped with the right housing, food and other equipment needed to keep the birds safe and secure. Whenever a wild bird needs help, the best choice is always to turn it over to an experienced bird rescue organization and licensed bird rehabilitator.

When Birds Need Help

Wild birds are resilient and can often recover from stress, minor injuries or illnesses or other circumstances without intervention. There are times, however, when it is necessary to get a bird some help so it can survive. Seek the help of a bird rescue organization when birds are…

  • Injured: Whether the injury is from a window collision, attack from a cat or other predator, accidental shooting or other problem, and injured bird needs the rehabilitation resources of a proper rescue organization to heal properly so it will be able to fly, feed and otherwise take care of itself.

  • Sick: Very ill birds such as those suffering from lead poisoning, bacterial or virus infections or oiling need dedicated care to recover. A bird rehabilitator will be able to provide medication, appropriate nutrition and other care not only to help cure the illness, but also to strengthen the bird so it can survive easily when released.

  • Orphaned: While fledglings often leave the nest a few days before they can fly well, there are times when birds are too young to be without their parents' care. It is best to return them to their nest, but if the parents have left or the nest has been destroyed, it may be best to contact a bird rescue organization so the young birds can be raised well to develop the skills they need to survive in the wild.

There will always be times when even the best rescue organization will be unable to help an injured, sick or orphaned bird, but by understanding when it is necessary to contact a rehabilitator every birder can be sure their birds get the best care when they need the help.

How to Find Bird Rescue Organizations

Once you know when to contact a bird rehabber, finding a qualified rehabilitator can still be a challenge. Checking different resources can help you find several local or regional rehabbers. An online search for "bird rehabber" or "bird rescue" along with a city or county name can provide local contact information, or you can ask for rehabber recommendations from bird-related groups such as:

  • State and local wildlife conservation offices
  • Birding groups or organizations
  • Veterinarians and humane societies
  • Zoos, aviaries or bird sanctuaries

Before taking a bird to a rehabber, call to ensure they are qualified to take in the bird you have – different types of birds require different licenses and training for proper care, and not every bird rescue organization is equipped to handle every type of bird. If the first rehabber you contact is not able to take in the bird, they may be able to recommend a colleague who can. If they can accept the bird, ask when you can bring it to them and what you should do to be sure the bird is transported safely. When you drop off a bird, it is polite to offer a donation for the bird's care (though this is not typically required), or you can investigate whether the rehabber or organization can use material donations, volunteers or other help to help them continue to care for wild birds.

Knowing how and when to find bird rescue organizations is essential for backyard birders to ensure their birds get the best care whenever it may be necessary.

Photo – Bird in Hand © Matt Reinbold

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