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Orphaned and Injured Animals

It is likely that in your life you will find an injured, orphaned, or sick bird out of its nest. It is an emotional experience that often leaves you wondering, “What can I do to help?”

First off, you have to make sure that the bird is actually orphaned or injured. When you encounter a bird you think may be injured, observe it for 20-30 minutes; it may simply be stunned and will fly off after resting, or it may be a young bird still under parental care, in which case removing it would be very detrimental to its health. Sometimes a young bird will have fallen out of a nest early, or just recently fledged, but is still being faithfully cared for by its parents. Adult birds may be gone for some time trying to find food for their young. Keep predators like cats and dogs away from the bird as you observe it.

The National Audubon Society recommends that you place an injured bird into a cardboard box with a towel or lid over it and into a cool, dark, quiet place – do not force feed it food or water! After a few hours, if the bird is still alive and won’t fly away, contact a local Wildlife Rehabilitator (see resources below).

If the bird is a nestling (having a sparse coat of feathers, unable to walk, fly, etc) you can try to find the nest from which it came and place it back inside. Parents will usually return to care for the nestling. If parents don't return, or if you can't find a nest, contact a local Wildlife Rehabilitator (see resources below).

If the bird is a fledgling (with a full coat of feathers and is mobile), the best thing to do is place it gently into some form of cover, like a bush, so it won’t be out in the open for predators to find. Fledglings are still learning to walk and fly and may be cared for by their parents on the ground for a few days. You can monitor the fledgling and it if is not being fed by a parent, contact a local Wildlife Rehabilitator (see resources below).

Remember- it is illegal for you to possess most bird species unless you are a federally and state licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Contact a Wildlife Rehabilitator (see resources below) FIRST and they will direct you to properly care for the bird.

When birds get injured in the wild, many times they are simply unable to function and survive in their natural environments. It is a sad truth that many birds die every day from cats, window collisions, getting hit by cars, and other human-based causes. Sometimes, the best thing to do is allow nature to take its course. Severely injured birds may not be able to live a natural and productive life. While you may not be able to help that individual bird live on in a fully bodied manner, there are many ways to try to help prevent injuries from happening to other birds.

1) Keep your cats indoors. It is estimated that the average number of birds killed by cats annually is 2.4 billion. That number may represent more deaths than those caused by all other human-related bird deaths combined! If you have a cat, please keep it indoors – you can save many birds that way!

2) Safeguard your windows for birds. Millions (possibly billions) of birds are killed each year in window collisions. By safeguarding your windows, you can save many birds! Check out Keeping Birds Safe Around Windows for ways to help prevent bird window collisions.

3)Support your local nature centers and save native habitat. This is more of an indirect approach. By saving natural habitat in which birds are adapted to live, you can greatly increase the survival of the species. Donate time or money to your local Wildlife Rehabilitator, nature conservation groups, and wildlife refuges. Plant native trees and shrubs in your yard. Raise awareness in your neighborhood, school, or workplace about birds and other wildlife. When you care about something, you want to protect it.


  • Contact a Texas Game Warden
  • Gladys Porter Zoo 500 E. Ringgold St., Brownsville, TX 78520 (956) 546-7187
  • Game Warden Headquarters Texas Park and Wildlife Department 4200 Smith School Department Austin, TX 78744 (512) 389-4845

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