When you find a baby bird squeaking and fluttering its wings in your yard, the temptation to "help" them by raising them indoors and away from harsh weather, predators and other hazards can be overwhelming. Doing so, however, is not only illegal but it can harm the birds by depriving them of necessary survival skills and nourishment they can only get from their parents. Fortunately, savvy birders can take advantage of these easy ways to help baby birds without ever needing to intervene directly in a baby bird's life, but still ensuring that it has a safe, suitable environment to grow up in.
Many backyard birds nest in birdhouses, and choosing safe birdhouse designs will keep baby birds away from threatening predators or harsh climates. Choose birdhouses with the proper dimensions for your backyard birds, and use houses without perches that can give predators a handy way to access vulnerable hatchlings. Position each birdhouse properly to be shielded from the worst sun and wind, and be sure they're clear from rain or storms.
2. Eliminate Insecticide Use
Baby birds require tremendous amounts of protein for proper growth and adequate nutrition, and their parents provide it through frequent feedings of live insects. Avoid using insect sprays in your yard that would deprive them of this ready food source. Similarly, avoid any harsh chemicals on the lawn or bird feeders that might contaminate the adult birds.
Parent birds need to keep up their strength when caring for hungry hatchlings, and clean bird feeders will be a welcome, easy food source without risk of spreading diseases through mold, mildew or bacteria. Wash feeders and bird baths regularly with a weak disinfectant solution, and keep feeding areas clear of feces and spoiled seed.
4. Offer Good Food Sources
When baby birds begin to venture out of the nest, their parents will lead them to easy food sources and healthy bird feeders are a convenient option. Offer the best possible food sources for fledglings, including sunflower seed, millet and other top birdseeds. Suet is another good food source that will provide fat and protein, as will small pieces of nuts. Avoid feeding bread to young birds, however, since it lacks the nutrition they require.
A bird-friendly yard has native plants that offer natural food sources as well as excellent shelter from potential predators. Choose locally native plants and create clusters of plantings in your yard that can be a safe haven for immature birds. At the same time, add a water source for critical drinking and bathing so all of a young bird's needs are met in your yard.
6. Keep Predators Away
Young birds are not experienced at avoiding predators, and helpful backyard birders will take steps to protect backyard birds from cats, hawks and other hazards. This includes investigating ways to prevent window collisions that can be fatal to young birds. Children should also be taught to respect wildlife and not molest any backyard birds.
It is occasionally necessary to help a baby bird, particularly if it is too young to leave the nest or if the bird is known to be an orphan. Birders who know the proper way to help baby birds will increase the birds' chances of survival even if the parent birds are no longer around.
8. Support Wildlife Rehabbers
Wild bird rehabilitators take in hundreds of injured, sick or orphaned baby birds every year, often paying for the birds' care and food from their own pockets. While there is usually no charge for turning in a wild bird for care, donations are always welcome. If you prefer not to make financial donations, ask what materials would be most needed – many rehabilitators are in constant need of bird foods, cleaning supplies and other items. Volunteers are also welcome to help care for the birds or attend to different tasks at the rehabilitation facility.