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Tue, Feb. 18

Column: What to do when you discover a baby bird

Carol Lang/Courtesy photo<br>
A female Anna’s Hummingbird sits in her nest in Watson Woods.

Carol Lang/Courtesy photo<br> A female Anna’s Hummingbird sits in her nest in Watson Woods.

This past week, it seems as if the phone has been ringing off the hook here at the Bird Barn with questions related to the discovery of baby birds out of the nest. I have fielded calls about owls, hawks, finches and a variety of other bird species that individuals have found and want to help.

What most folks don't realize is that when they discover a baby bird out of the nest, it is usually because the bird left the nest on its own. Granted, there are times when birds end up out of the nest prematurely, such as when a nest gets disturbed, perhaps by a strong gust of wind, which dislodges the nest and the baby birds end up on the ground. There are also times when a predator will try to grab a baby bird or two out of a nest, and the babies end up down on the ground.

However, more often than not, when a baby bird is out of the nest, it is because it left the nest. Trying to "rescue" baby birds by either putting them back in the nest or by putting them in a shoebox and bringing them indoors is not the right strategy, in my opinion. In most situations, I recommend letting nature run its course. I know it won't always turn out perfect, but it doesn't always end up perfect when we interfere, either.

Nature is better suited to meet its own needs by being left alone by well-intentioned individuals. No matter how genuine our attempts are to "save" a baby bird, birds left in nature have a better chance of survival than birds that are removed from their natural setting and brought into captivity.

When baby birds fledge (leave the nest), they are still under the watchful care and tutelage of their parents. Baby birds are not suddenly abandoned by their parents just because they have left the nest. On the contrary, fledglings will continue to be cared for by their parents for an unspecified period of time. Juveniles learn how to forage for food and how to avoid predators by observing the behavior of their parents - this occurs after the babies leave the nest. Taking baby birds into captivity prevents this from happening.

The juvenile ravens in our yard are still in the nest - but not for long, as they are getting really close to fledging. They continue to squawk and carry on each time the parents come to the nest to bring them food. The youngsters are now standing on the edge of the nest exercising their wings.

We have another clutch of house finches in the nesting box that is just outside the front door of the Prescott store. It really is remarkable how quickly the juveniles develop and progress. Already I can see the gaping mouths of the babies as they beg for food each time a parent comes to the nest. Come by the store and grab a pair of binoculars off the shelf, and you can easily look right into the nest. Don't wait too long, though, as I suspect this batch will be gone in about another week.

Two weeks ago when I was leading a bird walk in Watson Woods, we discovered an active Anna's hummingbird nest. At that time, she was still sitting on the nest, but I assume the eggs have hatched by now. It will take almost three weeks before the juveniles will be ready to leave the nest.

Nesting season is certainly in full swing. Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn, with two locations to serve northern Arizona - 1046 Willow Creek Road in Prescott, and 2360 State Highway 89A in Sedona. Eric has been an avid birder for more than 45 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email

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