What to Do

Temporary Care Instructions for Orphaned or Injured Birds

If you think the bird is orphaned or injured, please capture it and contain the bird. Please do not feed the bird any food, water or any liquids! When you force feed a baby bird, food or water, it can do more damage than good. Most baby birds are fine for almost 24 hours without food or water. For adult birds, leaving a shallow dish of water or proper bird food is fine.

Next, find a cardboard box or container. Punch small air holes in it so the bird can get air but cannot get out. Try to use a box appropriate to the bird’s size. A shoe box, a tissue box that you can tape a top onto or any other clean box with a lid works great. Then, call Help Wild Birds at (540) 342-4890.

Baby Bird (Skin Showing)

If you find an orphaned hatchling or nestling bird, it must be kept warm. How can you tell which birds need supplemental heat to stay warm? If you can see the bird’s skin, it needs to be kept warm.

found a baby bird

A bird’s chance of survival decreases if it is not kept warm and remains cold to the touch. Birds that just have down or fuzz and are naked need their mother to keep them warm and incubate them. You can be that mother.

Use a microwaved rick sock or a heating pad set on LOW, or break open a “hot hands” pack. Place the bird in a tissue-lined cup and put the cup on top of the heat source. Next, call your local rehabilitation center. Check the bird’s temperature. Its body should feel warm, like a child with a fever.

Again, please DO NOT feed it or give it water. The most important action to take is to keep the bird warm until you can get it to a permitted bird rehabber.

Birds with Feathers

For most birds that have feathers, just a paper towel-lined box works well. You can roll up a paper towel and make it into a circular perch or shape it into a “nest” and lay it on the bottom of the box.

If the bird is injured and needs physical support, place rolled paper towels or a rolled up clean cloth in a tight circle shape (donut) and place it in the box. Put the bird gently in the center. Try to make sure the bird stays upright and does not lie on its side if at all possible. This is good for window hit birds.

Keep the bird in a quiet place. Leave the bird alone; don’t handle or bother it. Keep children and pets away. Call Help Wild Birds at (540) 342-4890. If we do not answer, please leave a message and we will call you back.

You can download and print these instructions here.


Maureen Eiger, Director
2415 Mount Vernon Rd. S.W.
Roanoke, VA 24015-3617
(540) 342-4890

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