Birds need to be rescued if they are:
- Caught by a cat or dog
- Cold to the touch
- Naked (no feathers)
- Orphaned (see below)
- Seen attacked by cat or dog
- Bleeding or injured
- Falling over on one side
- Wing tweaked upward or drooping
- Weak or shivering
Keep the bird CLEAN (no food on face or feathers)
QUIET (no children or pets in sight of the bird)
CONTAINED (a box with screen top or box top with a few air-holes)
DO NOT put any liquid in the bird’s mouth. The airway opening is on the back of the tongue, and the bird may drown if fed or hydrated incorrectly.
DO NOT feed baby birds bread, rice, milk, pasta, or oatmeal. They cannot digest these foods and may become very sick from them.
If a young bird is uninjured and has some feathers, put it up in a nearby tree in a makeshift nest, such as a berry basket, plastic margarine cup or shoe box lined with shredded tissue. The parents have no sense of smell and will not know a person has touched it. Stand back some distance and watch to make sure the parents return. The parents will come feed the baby if they are not frightened by the presence of people. However, the parents only “stop by” to feed the baby, so the nest should be watched closely for up to 1 hour.
If shortly after putting the young bird back in a nest, it jumps back out, then it has likely fledged and will be fed by its parents on the ground. Fledgling birds are learning to fly, and will flutter around and hide under bushes, while the parents watch and gather food. If you see any parent bird nearby, please leave fledgling birds where they are.
If the bird runs around and is chick-like (covered with short fuzzy down) it may be a baby quail or killdeer. These birds nest on the ground, and the parents fly off when people come near. Leave the immediate area and watch to see if a parent will come back. (You may have to wait up to 1 hour).
The bird needs help and should be brought to the Project Wildlife Care Center if:
- The parents are known to be dead
- The bird is newly hatched and the nest and nest mates are out of reach
- The bird has fallen from a very high nest
- Attaching a substitute nest high on a tree trunk failed to attract the parents. (Note: a shoe box or small margarine cup can be duct-taped or nailed to the tree trunk)
- It has an injury
- A pet or a child has brought it in from places unknown
If the bird is injured, or has no feathers, it is very important to keep it warm. Use a heating pad set on low or a low wattage light source
If the bird is uninjured, parents will come feed it after people leave.
- If someone has picked up a healthy baby bird or a nest-full of babies and has kept it for a day or two, they can still try returning it to the nest site.
- Parent birds have home territories and, even if the nest and babies are gone, the parents remain there searching for their babies and will sometimes resume feeding them after an absence of one or two days.
All young birds need special diets, formulas, and/or feeding techniques. It is in the bird’s best interest to get it to us as soon as possible. Immediately feeding a dehydrated or sick bird can cause even greater health problems – Please only feed baby birds if it is impossible to get them to a rehabber within a few hours of finding them.
What to feed:
- Soaked dry cat kibble OR soaked dry dog kibble OR hard-boiled egg mashed into small pieces
- DO NOT FEED BABY SONGBIRDS ANYTHING ELSE (including but not limited to bread, rice, milk, pasta, or oatmeal) – birds can become very sick if fed food that they cannot properly digest.
Preparing and feeding soaked kibble:
- Add two parts boiling water to one dry food and soak for one hour
- Drain excess water
- Mash soaked kibble into small piece with a fork
- Use a wooden coffee stirrer, toothpick, or straw to place a small mouthful of moist food into the back of the bird’s throat
- Feed only a few mouthfuls about every 30 minutes. Do not overfeed – many baby birds will continue to beg even if full.
- DO NOT allow food to dry on the bird’s face, beak, or feathers. Wipe off food immediately after feeding.
- Do not force the bird’s mouth open to feed it.
Most people enjoy watching songbirds. They are frequent visitors to bird feeders throughout the year, particularly if stocked with sunflower or nyjer seed, and will congregate at hanging nyjer sock feeders.
How to help them
- Do not place finch feeders near a window. Although beautiful to watch, finches may fly to the feeder
reflected in the window and injure themselves on the glass.
- Keep your pet cat indoors if you have finches in your yard. Due to their tiny size, finches are easy prey to an agile cat.
- Babies that fall from nests can be put back in, parent house finches will take care of their healthy babies, even if put into the wrong nest!
If songbirds are causing havoc to your home by building their nests in your eves and leaving droppings on your porch, we can help! Once the nests are active, meaning they have laid their eggs or are raising their young, we have to wait until they are done. But from Sept- March it is usually safe to remove nests and install bird barriers to keep them from coming back. Visit our Wildlife Extraction Page to learn more.
Wildlife Care Center
San Diego, CA 92110
Directions & Map
Open 7 days a week
(except Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year's Day)
Staff/Volunteer hours: 8:30a.m. - 5:00p.m.
Drop-off area is open 24/7.
Outside of San Diego County?
If you are outside of our geographical area, please visit the emergency page of Wildlife International or contact your local Department of Animal Control or state Fish and Game office.
Resources for the media to learn more about the good work Project Wildlife provides San Diego County.