What Should I Do If:
- I found a baby bird?
- I found an injured bird?
- A bird is nesting on my porch?
- My cat found a bird?
- A bird flies into a window?
- I have a bird in my chimney?
- A woodpecker is drumming on my house?
- I found ducks or ducking’s?
- I found a dead bird?
- I need to release a bird after care?
In the Spring and Summer, it is not uncommon to find a baby bird fallen from the nest, or a fledgling fluttering around close to his/her home tree. These babies may be divided into two “types”:
-Very young babies (newborns) – newly hatched, with pinkish skin, no feathers
Older babies, with some feathers (mostly down) on body, wings, and head.
-Fledglings (adolescents) – fully feathered, trying to fly, running around, generally found in the bushes or on the ground near their nest trees.
1. Baby Birds
If you find a baby bird (newly hatched or slightly older), which appears to have fallen from its nest. Remember that the parents are the experts in caring for their babies, and all attempts should be made to help them continue doing so.
–Try to locate the nest and put the bird back. It is not true that a parent bird will reject a baby if it is touched by a human – most birds have no sense of smell, so cannot tell their baby has been touched. Make sure this is a baby fallen from the nest – some birds nest on the ground…(for example, ovenbirds, some sparrows, horned larks,killdeers), and leave their young in the cover of grasses or brush while out searching for food. These babies have NOT been abandoned, and should NOT be removed. Watch for the babies for a couple of hours, staying out of sight and good distance from the baby;parents will not come to it if a human is nearby If there is no sign of a parent in a couple of hours, then the baby needs our care.
–If you cannot return the baby to its nest (too high in the tree, on the roof, etc.), or if the nest has been destroyed, make a new ‘nest’ from a small box or plastic container(preferably plastic, water-proof). Put a few small holes in the bottom of the container for drainage, and put dry grass or leaves inside for bedding for the baby. Tie it securely in the tree close to where the baby was found. Watch for a few hours to see if the parent returns to care for the baby – if it hasn’t returned by the end of the day, the baby has probably been abandoned.
–If the baby is cold, warm it before placing it in the nest, by wrapping it loosely in a warm towel, or placing it in a box with a (warm) hot water bottle (covered by a towel to protect the baby from being burnt) for a short period of time.
–If you cannot replace the baby in a nest, or if the parents do not return, bring the baby indoors, place it in a warm covered container in a warm, dark, quiet place, away from children and animals
DO NOT give it water or milk.
DO NOT attempt to feed it.
DO NOT handle it – stresses from handling, noise, and cold are the biggest killers of baby or injured birds.
Call Le Nichoir (450) 458-2809 if you need further information, and make arrangements to bring it to Le Nichoir as soon as possible.
2. Fledgling Birds
Unless it is endangered by cats, other birds or animals, or children. These birds have hopped out of their nest on purpose, and are learning how to fly. It is normal to find birds of this age on the ground. Generally they are fluttering around on the ground, or in a bush. Because they cannot fly very well, people often think they are injured, and ‘kidnap’ them, and bring them to Le Nichoir. Usually their parents are watching and protecting them (but may not do so when humans are in the area, or interfering with their baby). Unless the fledgling is in danger, put it on a branch in a nearby tree or bush, and the parents will return. (You may have to put it on a branch several times, as it will keep hopping off trying to fly!). Only if it is in danger, and you are unable to find a way to protect it and enable to parents to continue providing care, should you capture the fledgling and bring it to Le Nichoir. Remember that some birds have young which are able to run around at birth, and are fully feathered, such as killdeer, meadowlarks, ducks). These birds look like fledglings, and may seem to have no parent with them, but they have not been abandoned, and should not be disturbed – their parents are watching and will return when humans are no longer near their babies.
Birds are injured most frequently by contact with a hard object, such as cars, walls, trees, windows. The most frequent and obvious injuries are broken wings and legs. The bird may be unable to fly away from you , or be unable to run away, or may be able only to fly a short distance, and not be able to fly upwards. When you find a bird which you think has been injured:
-Observe it to make sure it is not a fledgling, or an adult bird trying to lure you away from its young by pretending to have a broken wing (such as killdeer).
-If you are sure it is injured, it should be caught and brought to Le Nichoir for treatment. The least stressful (for the bird and you) method of capture is to cover the bird with a towel – once the head is covered, most birds will become less agitated and less aggressive. If the bird is an adult crow, or seagull, or a hawk, it may try to bite you with its beak, or scratch you with its claws. If possible, wear thick gloves to pick up these birds. Pick up all injured birds from the back of the bird, as it is easier to control their wings and feet, and there is less change of causing further damage and stress to the bird. NEVER, NEVER ATTEMPT TO CAPTURE A HERON! If you find an injured heron, contact Le Nichoir and we will advise you about what to do. Herons’ bills are deadly; very sharp and fast, and they aim for your face!
-Once you have captured the injured bird, keep it loosely wrapped in the towel, and place it in a brown paper bag, or a small box. Bring it to Le Nichoir as quickly as possible for treatment.
-Birds which have been injured may be very quiet, and appear to be comfortable and sleeping. This is not the case however. Birds definitely feel pain and fear, but do not show it, as in the wild, any bird or animal which shows it has been injured quickly becomes a target for other birds and animals, and is killed. Even if the injured bird appears in no distress, get it to Le Nichoir as quickly as possible, so we can provide treatment and pain relief if necessary.
-At Le Nichoir, all birds with injuries are examined carefully by trained personnel, and by a veterinarian if necessary. X-rays are done if required. Treatment may include immobilization of the injured area (e.g. a splint), medication, and/or placing the bird in a small cage to restrict movement of the injured part. Unfortunately, many birds have injuries which are not possible to treat, such as severe fractures at the joints of the wings or shoulders, or severe damage to muscles and/or nerves. These injuries will never heal completely, and the birds will never be able to fly again, or to be released. Each bird is examined carefully, and all possible treatment is provided. Only in situations when we are positive that successful treatment is not possible, and there is no alternative, is euthanasia considered. If euthanasia is necessary, an injection which acts within a few seconds, and is painless, is administered, and the bird is no longer in pain.
Many birds (such as starlings, house sparrows, and pigeons) like to make their nests on porches, window ledges, or other areas which are used by humans. This frequently results in conflict, as humans do not appreciate the noise, mess, and possible attacks by the nesting birds, and the birds do not appreciate the interference by humans as they try to incubate and raise their young.
In most instances this conflict can be prevented by preventing the birds from building their nests in the area of conflict.
-As soon as a bird is seen to be building a nest in the area, remove the nest. The birds may make several attempts in the same area, but if the nest is continually removed, they will eventually move elsewhere. If you first find the nest with only 1 or 2 new eggs in it, the nest and eggs can still be removed at this stage, and the birds will build another nest somewhere else.
-Ledges on which the birds are nesting can be made less desirable to them by removing flat surfaces; stretching a ‘slinky’ toy along the ledge; stringing aluminum plates, strips of plastic or colored cloth, etc., along the birds’ entry points, or similar actions.
-If the nesting has advanced to the point where the birds have been sitting on eggs for several days, or there are babies in the nest, nothing can be done until the young have fledged and moved away. For most birds, this will be approximately 6 – 8 weeks after the first egg was laid. It is illegal to remove the eggs and young of most bird species.
-After the young have fledged, follow the prevention procedures mentioned above; many species will raise more than one brood a year, and will return to nest spots which have previously been successful.
-Birds will also nest in vents from clothes dryers, stoves, or other outlets from the house. This can easily be prevented by placing a wire “cap” or cover at the outlet of the vent before the nesting season begins, or after removing a partially built nest from it.
All birds caught by cats are considered to be injured even if there is no evidence of a problem. If your cat has brought a bird home, or you have rescued a bird from your cats clutches, the bird needs to be brought to Le Nichoir and treated as quickly as possible (preferably within 8 hours). This is because cat’s saliva contains bacteria which cause a deadly infection in the birds. Rapid treatment with antibiotics may prevent the infection. Without treatment most birds that have been attacked by cats will die within 24 hours, even if there is no sign of damage.
To reduce the frequency of cat attacks:
-If possible, keep your cats indoors. If you do allow them to go outside, try to keep them indoors at least for a few hours after dawn, and before dusk.
-Place your bird feeders high enough so cats are unable to jump and catch birds while they are feeding (at least 8 feet high). If you find birds nests in trees or bushes where cats can reach them, put animal guards around the trunks of the trees, or around the bushes during nesting time.
-Place your bird feeders in the open, in an area where there is nothing behind which the cat can hide (e.g. a fence, flowers, trees). This is especially important as many birds eat seed off the ground, and are very vulnerable when feeding. Also, place the feeder where there are some tall bushes or a tree for the birds to fly to if they are threatened (by a cat, a hawk, humans).
Birds frequently fly into windows, confused by the reflections of the sky (or trees), or (when defending territory), flying aggressively towards the bird they see in the window (their own reflection). You frequently hear a loud at the impact, and find a bird lying motionless below the window. The bird may be knocked out temporarily.
Pick up the bird, place it in a small box or brown paper bag, covering the top of the box with something which will prevent to bird escaping when it regains consciousness.
Place the bag/box in a warm, quiet place for 60-120 minutes. DO NOT peek in to check on the bird.
After this time period, take the (closed) bag/box outside and open it. If the bird was merely stunned, it should be able to fly out of the bag/box and return to the wild.
If the bird will not fly out, or if it tries to fly, but only flutters to the ground, or if you observe blood on the bird or the placed where it was first picked up, bring it to Le Nichoir as quickly as possible.
If you cannot bring it right away, keep the bird in a quiet, warm, dark place, away from pets, children, and noise. DO NOT try to feed it or give it water (it cannot swallow, and will die).
At Le Nichoir, we administer medication to reduce any swelling and decrease the possibility of bleeding, keep the bird in a very quiet, dark area, and observe it carefully. Only when it is active and alert again to we offer it food and water. Some of these birds have difficulty in flying for several days or weeks after the impact, and we often have to keep them in a large aviary until they regain their flying skills before releasing them.
Many window hits can be prevented:
Feeders approximately 3 meters straight out from a window cause most bird hits, so place your feeder either very close to, or further away from, the window (from 7 to 10 meters away if possible).. Also, do not place them straight out from the window .
Use strips of material, plastic or foil, silhouettes of owls or other birds, aluminum pie plates, balloons with big eyes painted on them, to break up the reflection on the window. A screen or strips of tape on the exterior of the window is especially effective.One or two small feathers can also be taped to the outside window, or use a highlighter marker and draw on the window (birds can see ultraviolet!)
Put an awning, or plant trees to block the sun from hitting the window to eliminate some reflection.
Chimney swifts are small, swallow-like migratory birds, who, as their name implies, nest in chimneys. Swifts catch and consume hundreds (possibly thousands) of flying insects each day, especially mosquitoes. The lack of natural nesting sites (hollow trees), coupled with increased spraying against insects, have greatly decreased the number of chimney swifts in southwestern Quebec. Special nesting and roosting towers have been placed at Le Nichoir, and other areas, in an attempt to increase their number.
If you hear bird-like noises in your chimney (twittering, fluttering), it is likely that chimney swifts have built a nest in it. Chimney swifts are protected by federal law under the Migratory Bird Act. It is illegal to remove or disturb chimney swifts, their nests, eggs, or young during the breeding season.
Occasionally the nest might fall from the side of the chimney (to which it was attached) and fall into the fireplace, or (if the damper is closed), onto the damper. When this happens, the bird-noises will be much louder. Other birds (especially starlings) may also fall down the chimney occasionally.
If found in the fireplace below the damper and still clinging to the nest, simply pick up the entire nest and place it in a small box. If the babies are not in the nest, pick them up carefully, which special care to avoid damaging the legs and feet of the bird. Swifts have very long fragile nails, necessary for clinging onto rough walls. Place the birds in the holding container (box), which should have a non-looped cloth (i.e. not terry-cloth or toweling) placed in the bottom, to prevent their legs from sliding.
Young swifts which are not feathered, or are only partially feathered, can be returned in their nest/box to the chimney, if they can be placed near the top of the chimney where the parents can continue to feed them. If it is not possible to replace them in the chimney, they need to be care for at an experienced rehabilitation centre, so bring them to Le Nichoir as soon as possible, keeping them warm and in a quiet safe place until they can be transported.
If they are partially feathered and have their eyes open, the babies may be placed inside the chimney on the side of the wall, above the damper. If they do not cling to the side, they may be ill or injured, and should be brought to the centre.
The noise made by the birds may be muffled by wedging layers of insulation or other material in the fireplace directly under the damper.
Other birds may have fallen down the chimney:
Other birds, fledglings or adults, may also fall down the chimney, getting caught on the damper (if it is closed), or falling into the fireplace. They will announce their presence by loud twittering and fluttering. These birds are unable to fly up the chimney again, and must be helped to exit the chimney and house.
Close the room, and keep all children and pets away darken the room by closing blinds, doors, etc., leaving only one exit (open window or door, as large, bright, and sunny as possible) for the bird to fly out. Leave it alone to find its way out. DO NOT chase it or otherwise try to force it to leave; this will stress the bird and could result in its death. Be patient. It might take an hour or two for the bird to relax and find its way out.
To prevent birds nesting in, or falling down, a chimney, place a mesh ‘cap’ on the top of the chimney (can be done by professional roofers). Place the cap before the nesting season or after the birds have left in late summer (i.e. between September and April).
Woodpeckers are often seen (and heard) attacking a house, or drumming on the outside. This is most frequent in the spring, and is usually because the bird is establishing its territory, and announcing its search for a mate. If it is later in the year, it may be because the wood of your house is infested with insects.
Woodpeckers are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Act; it is illegal to interfere with their nests, young, or the adults during nesting season.
If a woodpecker begins drumming on your house in the spring, it is better to start control efforts as soon as possible, as woodpeckers are not easily driven away from their established territories.
-If possible, cover the area being pecked to prevent access, by covering it with plastic bird netting, aluminum sheeting, or use padding to muffle the sound of the drumming, and to discourage the woodpecker. Hanging bright strips of cloth, plastic, or foil to flutter in the wind may also frighten the bird away.
-Check the wood, and treat any insect infestations right away.
-If you are unable to get rid of the bird, have patience! This behavior will last only during the early nesting period, and should end in approximately 6- 8 weeks!
-If the woodpecker is attacking a tree in your yard, it is probably because there is a good foods source (insects) in the tree. This is a warning that your tree is damaged, and you can either do nothing, or engage an expert to advise you on the problem with the tree.
N.B. woodpecker young are very aggressive towards each other in the nest, and may push the smaller ones out of the nest hole. Replacing the baby back in the nest cavity does not work: it will just be pushed out again. Bring the bird to Le Nichoir for care. Woodpecker young have special requirements for growth and re-introduction to the wild.
DO NOT remove an old tree during the spring and early summer unless it is unavoidable, as there may be woodpeckers or other birds nesting in it. If a tree with a woodpecker nest is felled, cut the nest hole portion of the tree, and re-hang it close to the old site. Watch from a safe distance for a few hours – if the parents do not return to care for the babies, bring the whole nest log to Le Nichoir.
Every year, over 200 ducklings are brought to Le Nichoir. Most are only a few days old upon arrival, and stay for several weeks before being released in areas where there are other families of their species.
Many of these ducklings have been “kidnapped” by well-meaning people, and brought to us. Because ducklings are able to walk and to feed themselves (if shown the food) from birth, their mother may not stay directly with them at all times. She may hide them while she goes off to find food, and return later. If you find several baby ducks together, it is highly probable that the mother is nearby, and will not come to them until you move away. Before picking them up to bring to Le Nichoir, watch for a couple of hours to be sure the mother does not return to care for them. Of course, if you are sure the mother is dead, or if she does not return in a few hours, they should be captured and brought to us. If the ducklings are in danger from cats, raccoons, or other animals, and the mother is still around, try to remove the animals form the area.
Tips on capturing ducklings:
Make sure capture is necessary.
Ducklings cannot fly, but they can run very fast, slide easily out of your hands, and hop out of a box which is 40 cm high! It is easiest to have 2 -3 to do the capturing. Keep the box closed (you need one person to open and close the box when you are putting more ducklings in it).
Try to direct them to an area where they cannot escape, such as the corner of the yard, or an area surrounded by walls, fences, etc. on at least two sides. If you have a large box, lying it on its side, and directing the ducklings into the opening may be successful. If you are able to obtain a fish or insect net, it will be very useful, or throwing a towel over them might keep them relatively quiet for capture.
Once you have caught them, bring the ducklings to Le Nichoir as soon as possible. Baby ducks require a great deal of warmth, and must be placed in a special incubator for a few weeks (they have no mother to warm them!).
DO NOT try to force food or water into the ducklings, as they will choke.
DO NOT keep the ducklings yourself. They require a special diet to make their bones and feathers grow properly. Also, if they become imprinted upon humans, they will not function well in the wild when released.
Ducklings are very cute when they are small, BUT ADULT DUCKS DO NOT MAKE GOOD PETS! They cannot be house-trained, are very messy, and frequently become aggressive in captivity. DO NOT purchase ducklings (or chickens) for gifts for children, and DO NOT keep any wild ducklings you may find.
Eggs & Nests:
Ducks and geese do not incubate their eggs until all have been laid, thus the nest is left unattended after each egg is laid. This often results in people thinking the nest has been abandoned. However, the nest has not, as a rule, been abandoned, and should be left alone.
If the nest is in an area which is unsafe for the mother, eggs, or ducklings, and the mother has just started to lay the eggs (i.e. there are just a few eggs in the nest), try to protect the nest area. If protection is not possible, it is kinder to remove the nest and the eggs already laid before the mother begins incubation. In most instances, she will begin a new nest in another (hopefully safer) location. Moving the nest and eggs to other locations (unless they are nearby), has not been found helpful, as the mother returns to the old site.
If eggs have been truly abandoned, it is usually not successful to attempt incubation. The egg embryos have often been chilled, and are no longer alive, or are damaged.
If the ducklings are hatched in an unsafe place (cats in the area, a fenced area they cannot leave, parking lot, etc.) it might be considered best to move them to a safer area. If you do this, CATCH THE MOTHER FIRST! Ducklings cannot survive without their mother, and she is very hard to catch. Mother and ducklings can be transported in a (well-closed) box to a safe place near a lake, stream or pond, preferably where there are no predators (raccoons, skunks, cats, etc.).
If you find a dead bird, place it in a plastic bag, and call the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Heath Centre to find out what to do. They may wish to test the bird for disease (especially West Nile Disease) or poisoning, and will collect the bird from you.
Montreal area: (514) 345-8521, ext 8346
Other areas: (450) 773-8521, ext 8346
One of the most exciting and satisfying days at Le Nichoir is when birds are released. Opening the door and allowing them to fly out into their natural habitat is the goal to which we strive for every bird which is admitted. Most birds are released directly from Le Nichoir, although those which require special habitats are taken to the most appropriate place for release.
The length of time birds stay at Le Nichoir depends on their initial problem(s). All birds are carefully observed each day to determine their readiness for release, and they are released as quickly as possible. Before being released. a bird must be able to fly well, and be self-feeding. We have many feeders with different types of food around Le Nichoir, as well as many bushes with berries for the birds to feed on. Baby birds generally are released about the age at which they would fledge in the wild – usually between 6 – 8 weeks of age, after several days or weeks in a large aviary practicing flying and feeding. Birds which have been injured may stay for only a few days, or up to several weeks to months, until the injury is healed.