All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Baby Bird Found at Preschool

Dear Marie,
My daughter and I arrived at her preschool before anyone else this morning and found a little sparrow hiding in a corner by the front door. My little girl immediately started running towards it, but instead of flying away, it tried to run and would occasionally try to fly a little. It barely got off the ground and only managed a few feet at a time. I was worried that it had been attacked by cats or was sick so I tried to catch it as well. Well this bird was amazingly fast for being injured or sick and somehow he got away from us and disappeared on the playground. In the meantime, there were two other birds that kept attacking us – not that they really did any damage – they would just fly by our faces. It seemed like they were watching over their friend. I didn’t
know sparrows did this. My question is this – should I try and find that injured bird and take it to a veterinarian? I’m really worried about it.

Dear Corrin,
Thank you for having so much compassion for this little bird. However, you should know that he is most likely not injured at all and he will be fine.The scene you described is currently playing out everywhere this time of year. The bird in this situation is a fledgling. He looks like an adult, completely feathered and nearly adult size; but he runs and hops rather than flies. To ensure his safety, mom and dad birds distract anyone or
anything that tries to hurt their baby. After a few days strengthening his flying muscles and working on his coordination, he’ll master flight and start life on his own. Next spring, he’ll be watching over his own fledgling offspring.

Many caring animal folk such as yourself will routinely capture fledgling birds believing them to be injured or sick. This is the worst thing they can do. Wild baby birds in captivity become very stressed and more often than not, do not survive. This is compounded by the fact that people don’t really know what to feed various wild bird babies. Every species has a specific diet and if they don’t get it, they are doomed.

Many important developmental changes occur during a baby bird’s fledgling period. Most significant is learning how to be self-sufficient. Though his parents are indeed watching over him and will also bring him some food, they are encouraging him to take care of himself by letting him find some of his own food and more important still, letting him figure out how to escape from predators. If he doesn't learn how to master these skills, he will not survive.

A fledgling who is brought into the human world is deprived of this essential developmental period. If he does stay alive under human care, he may become attached and/or dependent on people. Then at some point, if he is returned to the wild, he will not be ready to care for himself and will most likely not survive.

You should also know that it is a violation of state and federal law to capture and keep wild birds unless you have a special permit for rehabilitation. There are a few birds who are not protected, such as pigeons and starlings; but the rule of thumb is to leave wild birds alone. Wildlife rehabilitation centers are overwhelmed with fledgling birds every summer and they usually request that these babies be returned to the spot where they were found. I understand that it is hard to leave a little guy out in the open where he appears to be so vulnerable – but this system has worked quite successfully for Mother Nature as evidenced by the millions of birds that grace our planet.

As a final related note, I strongly encourage all cat owners keep their cats indoors. Cats are remarkable hunters and have a significant impact on wild bird populations. They are NOT part of Mother Nature’s system and we as pet owners need to keep that in mind at all times.

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