It’s baby season for birds, which means millions of birds are hatching and finding their place in the world. Young fledgling birds are making their first appearance outside of their nest at this time, so bird-nappings have started happening as well. Bird- napping is when a young bird who cannot fly yet is taken to a rehab center because of the fear that they’re injured when they are not. We want to emphasize that fledglings are just learning how to fly, so it is normal for them to be on the ground. The fledgling’s parents are almost always watching them from a nearby tree and feeding them. The parents will not feed their their baby if a human is around, which is why many people observing a young bird may think it is abandoned.
Bird-napping separates these birds from their family. This can lead to possible imprinting, when a young bird identifies with — and depends on — humans, which prevents the bird from ever being released back into the wild. Rehabbers get very frustrated when we receive healthy fledges because we have to figure out how to return these birds to their original spot while caring for baby birds that have to be fed as often as every 20 minutes. In the past week, we received three bird-napped birds — including one that had been picked up 40 miles away.
The most common bird-napped birds are Robins, Crows and Blue Jays, so here are the things you should look out for in order to make sure the bird is healthy (and does not need to be taken to a rehab center). If you can hear the parents making alarm-calls, see droppings near the bird (an indication it’s being fed), or it appears healthy, then it should be left alone. Fledgling crows are often mistaken for adult crows because of their size. Fledgling crows have blue eyes and a pink mouth, so if a crow is not flying, look for these signs to confirm it is young and just figuring out aerodynamics. People are often worried about other animals getting to the bird on the ground. If you have cats or dogs, keep them inside or on a leash for a few days until the fledges have taken off. The parents are watching it and will chase off predators and fledges instinctively hide. The bird is much better off staying where it is. If it is clearly injured, bleeding or has flies on it, that’s when it should be taken to a rehab center.