Native Songbird Care & Conservation
Saving Native Songbirds One Bird at a Time.
I Found a Bird

If you have found a bird, please click on the option below that best describes your situation. 

I found an Adult Bird

I found a
Baby Bird                         

Preparing a bird for T

Please note:
Without proper licenses from California Department of Fish and Game and US Fish and Wildlife Services, it is unlawful to possess a native bird, even if you intend to return it to the wild.  If you find an injured, orphaned or ill songbird, please call us so that we may provide it with the proper medical care by an experienced wildlife rehabilitator in a licensed facility.

Birds that we provide care for:
We accept care for all native passerines; however, we do not accept crows, jays or ravens.  We also do not accept non-native birds such as starlings, pigeons and house sparrows.  If you need assistance with any of these species, please call us and we will happily provide you with a referral.

 Adult Birds - If you have found an adult bird, please call us at (707) 484-6502 and follow the instructions to prepare a bird for transport to the hospital.

 Preparing a bird for transport
Please follow these steps:

  • Prepare a box or paper bag appropriate for the size of the bird.
  • Make small holes for ventilation in the box/bag. Make sure the bird cannot escape through the holes.
  • Line the box/bag with something soft so the bird is insulated and does not slip around.  Please note: if you are transporting a hatchling or nestling bird, please fashion a small nest using a clean soft cloth around the baby to help insulate it - they cannot regulate their body heat at this age.
  • Carefully pick up the bird with a soft towel or gloved hand and place the bird in the bag/box. 
  • Make sure the box/bag is securely closed to prevent accidental escapes.  This is absolutely essential before you bring the bird to us.
  • DO NOT off the bird any food, water or medication - the wrong food can kill a bird, fluids when administered improperly can kill a bird, the wrong medication/medical treatment can kill a bird.
  • Keep the bird warm, dark and quiet.  
  • Stress can KILL a wild bird!  Talking to the bird, holding it, playing music, noise from pets and children, etc. is very stressful for any wild animal.
  • Call us ASAP at (707) 484-6502 to let us know you're on the way with a bird.

 Baby Birds – To rescue or not to rescue?  That is an excellent question!
Baby birds go through many stages of growth and development before they become independent and no longer require the care of their parents.  Let’s take a look at some of the critical stages of development for baby songbirds and review their needs for parental care, what’s normal behavior, etc. 
Click on one of the follow links to determine what is normal for:

 Sometimes baby songbirds are genuinely in need of human assistance.  Below are guidelines to help you determine if a baby songbird needs your help.  Click on the link below that best describes your situation:

·        I found a hatchling/nestling on the ground

·         I found an injured/ ill baby songbird

·         I found an orphaned baby songbird

·         The nest was destroyed/blown down/accidentally removed

·         I accidentally kidnapped a healthy baby songbird

·         How do I conduct the rescue effort?

Hatchling songbirds are naked, featherless, and helpless; their eyes are closed during the first few days of life.  These birds are 0-3 days old and will be in the nest, not on the ground.  Typically, the female parent will brood the babies to keep them warm because at this age, baby songbirds are not able to thermoregulate (maintain their body heat).  Parents deliver food to their babies at regular intervals throughout the day, approximately every 15 minutes from sunrise to sunset.  At this stage they will quickly die of hypothermia and starvation without parental care. 

Nestling songbirds are still nest-bound and very dependent on their parents for care.  Their eyes are open and they are vocal.  Older nestling are preening (grooming) themselves and beginning to exercise their wings. In general, young nestling songbirds have pin feathers (feathers which are just developing and still covered in a keratin sheath) and older nestlings have mostly feathered bodies, but are still growing in their tail and wing feathers.  Notice the difference in coverage and development of feathers in these photos. 

The length of the nestling stage varies from species to species, but is usually 9-12 days.  SWALLOWS are an exception as they remain in the nest until they are approximately 20 days of age.  Nature’s plan for baby songbirds is for them to grow quickly so they can leave their nest quickly.  As prey species, the longer they’re in the nest, the more vulnerable they are to predators.    

This is the stage of development that we receive the most calls about during the baby bird season.  It is important to know that most songbirds leave the nest BEFORE they’re able to fly.  In much the same way human toddlers must crawl before they can run, songbirds hop and walk around a few days before they’re able to fly.  The only exceptions to this are SWALLOWS and SWIFTS – these birds are fully feathered AND flight capable when they are ready to leave the nest on their own.  Fledgling swallows and swifts that cannot fly must be rescued.  There are also a number of cavity-nesting species which are also flight when they fledge the nest.

The majority of fledgling songbirds are well feathered on their body with short wing and tail feathers; they’re able to stand, walk and hop; they may be able to make short flights from branch to branch or from the ground up to low branches; and they are vocal and still dependent on their parents for care.  During this stage they are commonly observed on the ground, out in the open, on branches and in bushes - all over the place! 

Although the parents may not be with their fledgling every second of the day, they remain in
vocal contact at all times.  Additionally, the location where you observed the baby is the parents' territory, so they are always nearby.  It will take a few days to more than a week before fledgling songbirds can fly well enough to attempt to keep up with their parents and evade danger.  They are vulnerable and naïve at this stage of their development.  If you have outdoor cats, the kindest thing you can do for the birds is keep your cats indoors.  Remember, keeping cats indoors is safer for wildlife AND cats. 
 If you think a nest of baby songbirds or a fledgling songbird has been orphaned, please follow these steps first, before you attempt a rescue:

·       Watch the nest or the youngster for at least one hour, non-stop.  Parent birds are fast and discreet when feeding their young.  So by taking your eyes off the baby or the nest for even a few seconds, you could miss the parents delivering a meal.

·       Observe at a safe distance away from the nest or the baby, at least 50 feet.  If you can view the birds from a place indoors, this is even better.  Parent birds will be wary to approach their baby if they know a predator (human, or otherwise) is in the vicinity. 

·       Keep pets inside while you’re observing.  If you have a child observing with you, make sure they understand it is important to remain very quiet and still.

·       If you observe the parent birds delivering food and tending to their young, all is well.

·       If you are certain the baby/babies are abandoned, follow the instructions for “Preparing a bird for transport”. 

 If you find a hatchling/nestling on the ground:

·         Carefully and loosely wrap it in a soft cloth and place it in a small box or bag with a few holes for ventilation

·         Keep the baby warm, dark and quiet

·         Placing the container with the baby in it on a heating pad set on LOW will be very helpful in keeping the baby warm.

·         Do not offer it any food, medicine or water

·         Call us immediately for further advice, even if you know where the nest is. 

 Nest destroyed/blown down/cut down:

Please call us first before attempting to re-nest baby birds.  Re-nesting songbirds does not simply involve preparing an artificial nest and attaching it to a tree branch, or relocating the original nest.  Songbirds are very selective about the structure and placement of their nest.  Even under the best of circumstances, a nest of baby songbirds is extremely vulnerable to predation by jays, crows, hawks, squirrels, raccoons, snakes, rats, and cats; as well as exposure to the elements and human disturbance.

 Accidental kidnapping of a healthy baby bird:

Are you a kidnapper?  After reviewing the information above and deciding that the baby bird you found is healthy and doing what is normal for its age, then please put the baby back where you found it – in the nest if it is a warm healthy nestling or back on the ground (on the branch, in the bushes, etc) if it is a healthy fledgling.  Most songbirds have a poor sense of smell, therefore it is a myth that songbird parents will reject their baby if a human has touched it.  More than anything, parent birds want their baby back so that they can continue raising it, with the goal of perpetuating the existence of their species.

If you found a healthy fledgling in a dangerous area, like the middle of a road or sidewalk, carefully pick the fledgling up and place it in or under a bush or on the lowest branch of a tree that is closest to where you found it.  Make sure predators, such as cats, have been cleared from the area.  Observe from a safe distance to be sure the parents have returned to care for their baby.

 Signs of a baby songbird in need of rescue:

·        Obvious injury such as blood anywhere on the body; a leg or wing is not symmetrical with other side;  bird is unable to use a wing or leg; leg or wing is dragging or part of it is missing or out of normal position.

·        Had contact, or suspected contact, with a cat or dog – even if you can’t find any injuries, you need to bring the bird to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for care.  The tiniest puncture wound, especially from a cat, quickly introduces lethal bacteria into a bird’s body.

·        It is a featherless, helpless hatchling.

·        Appears lethargic, weak, unresponsive, cannot lift head, or is cold.

·        Has a strange odor.

·        Feathers are contaminated with something, or appear wet and matted down.

·        Has poor balance, seizures, cannot turn head straight, is a fledgling and cannot stand up or grip with feet, or is shaking.

·        Eyes or nostrils appear infected.

·        Droppings are liquid and white or bright green.

·        Has bugs, ants, flies crawling all over it.

·        One or both of the parents are known to be dead.

If the bird exhibits any of the signs above, rescue it immediately, and follow the instructions to “Prepare a bird for transport”.

Please remember, all native wildlife is protected by federal law and can only be cared for by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.  Wild native songbirds have very specific dietary needs, requirements for housing, care and release back to the wild.  The internet is filled with misinformation, even some grossly irresponsible information and should not be utilized for advice about hand-raising any wildlife.  It is also important to remember that raising wild native birds is in no way similar to raising domestic pet birds, regardless of advice provided by a health professional for domestic animals or a pet store.  Over the years we have received many baby birds that were raised by well-meaning, but misinformed untrained humans.  The results were very poor and often resulted in the unfortunate and unnecessary death of the bird.  So, if you’ve taken the first step to do the right thing for the bird by rescuing it, please complete the process and bring it to a licensed wildlife facility where it can receive proper medical and supportive care by a trained professional.

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