What To Do With An Injured Bird

Finding an injured bird can be alarming and elicit an urgent desire to help the poor creature. However, wild birds require specialized care, and improper handling can do more harm than good. Here’s a quick answer if you’re short on time: Gently contain the bird, keeping it in a quiet, dark, and warm space.

Do not try to force feed/water it. Then contact a wildlife rehabilitator right away to arrange professional treatment.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover the proper steps to take if you find a hurt or unwell wild bird. You’ll learn how to safely capture and contain the bird, assess its condition, temporarily care for minor injuries at home, determine if and when professional rehabilitator intervention is required, and locate qualified wildlife rescue centers nearby.

Safely Capturing an Injured Bird

Encountering an injured bird can be a distressing situation, but it’s important to handle it with care and compassion. Here are some steps to safely capture an injured bird:

Approach Slowly and Quietly

Approaching an injured bird requires patience and a calm demeanor. Birds can easily become startled or frightened, which may worsen their condition or cause them to fly away. It’s best to approach slowly and quietly, avoiding sudden movements or loud noises.

This will help to keep the bird as calm as possible.

Gently Contain in a Towel or Box

Once you’re close enough to the injured bird, it’s important to contain it in a safe and secure manner. One option is to use a soft towel or cloth to gently wrap around the bird. This will help prevent any further injuries and provide a sense of comfort for the bird.

Another option is to carefully place the bird in a well-ventilated box with a lid. Make sure there are air holes for the bird to breathe and keep the box in a quiet and warm place.

Wear Thick Gloves When Handling

While handling an injured bird, it’s crucial to protect yourself as well. Some birds may be frightened or in pain, and they may attempt to defend themselves by pecking or scratching. To minimize the risk of injury, it’s recommended to wear thick gloves when handling the bird.

This will provide a protective barrier between you and the bird’s beak or claws.

Remember, it’s always best to contact a local wildlife rehabilitation center or bird rescue organization for further guidance and assistance. These organizations have the expertise and resources to provide proper care and rehabilitation for injured birds.

They can also advise on how to safely transport the bird to their facility.

Assessing the Bird’s Condition

When you come across an injured bird, it’s important to assess its condition before taking any further action. This will help you determine the appropriate course of action and ensure the bird receives the care it needs. Here are some key steps to consider when assessing the bird’s condition:

Check for External Physical Injuries

The first step in assessing the bird’s condition is to carefully examine its body for any external physical injuries. Look for obvious signs of injury such as cuts, abrasions, or broken wings. Keep in mind that birds have delicate bones, so even a slight fracture can greatly impact their ability to fly or move properly.

If you notice any visible injuries, it’s best to leave the bird alone and contact a wildlife rehabilitator for further assistance.

Look for Signs of Shock or Trauma

Shock or trauma can have a significant impact on a bird’s overall condition. Symptoms of shock may include rapid breathing, pale or bluish mucous membranes, and a weak pulse. If the bird appears to be in shock, it’s crucial to handle it with care and keep it warm and quiet.

Placing the bird in a small, dark box with air holes can help minimize stress. However, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible, as shock can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Identify Clues to Internal Injuries

While external injuries may be visible, internal injuries can be harder to detect. Look for signs such as difficulty breathing, abnormal posture, or blood in the bird’s droppings. Vomiting or regurgitation could also indicate internal injuries.

If you suspect internal injuries, it’s best to contact a wildlife rehabilitator or a local veterinarian with experience in treating birds. They will be able to conduct a thorough examination and provide appropriate treatment.

Remember, it’s crucial to prioritize the bird’s well-being and seek professional help whenever necessary. Wildlife rehabilitators have the knowledge and experience needed to provide proper care and increase the bird’s chances of recovery.

Caring for a Minorly Injured Bird

If you come across a bird that appears to be injured, it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure its well-being. Here are some guidelines for caring for a minorly injured bird:

Keep in a Quiet, Dark, and Warm Location

When you find an injured bird, it’s crucial to keep it in a quiet, dark, and warm location. This will help reduce stress and ensure its comfort. Place the bird in a well-ventilated box or cage lined with soft cloths or towels.

Make sure the container has enough space for the bird to move around but is secure enough to prevent escape.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have a suitable container, you can use a cardboard box with air holes punched in it.

Don’t Attempt to Give Food or Water

While your instinct may be to provide food and water to the injured bird, it’s best to resist the urge. Feeding an injured bird can be dangerous, as it might have difficulty swallowing or could choke on the food.

Additionally, giving water can lead to aspiration if the bird is unable to drink properly.

It’s important to remember that birds have very specific dietary needs, and feeding them the wrong food can do more harm than good. Instead, focus on providing a safe and comfortable environment for the bird until it can receive appropriate care from a wildlife rehabilitator.

Monitor the Bird Closely

Once you have placed the injured bird in a suitable location, it’s essential to monitor it closely. Observe its behavior, breathing, and any visible injuries. Take note of any changes or worsening of the bird’s condition.

If you notice any significant changes, such as difficulty breathing, excessive bleeding, or signs of distress, it’s crucial to contact a wildlife rehabilitator or a local animal rescue organization immediately. They will be able to provide the necessary medical care and support for the injured bird.

Remember: It is illegal to keep most wild birds as pets without proper permits. The best course of action is to contact a professional who can provide the appropriate care for the injured bird.

Getting Professional Help for Serious Injuries

Contact a Wildlife Rehabilitator Immediately

If you come across an injured bird with serious injuries, it is crucial to contact a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible. These professionals have the necessary expertise and resources to provide the appropriate care and treatment for injured birds.

They are trained to handle various injuries and illnesses, ensuring the best possible outcome for the bird’s recovery. It’s important not to attempt to treat the bird yourself, as improper handling or treatment can further harm the bird and hinder its chances of survival.

When reaching out to a wildlife rehabilitator, provide them with detailed information about the bird’s condition, including its species, location, and the nature of its injuries. This information will help them assess the situation and provide appropriate guidance on what to do next.

Arrange Safe Transportation of the Bird

Transporting an injured bird safely is vital to minimize stress and further injuries. If possible, carefully place the bird in a well-ventilated and secure container, such as a cardboard box with air holes.

Make sure the box is large enough for the bird to move around but not too spacious to prevent additional injuries during transportation. Line the box with a soft cloth or paper towels to provide some comfort.

It is crucial to handle the bird with care and avoid excessive contact. Stress can worsen the bird’s condition, so try to keep noise and disturbances to a minimum during transportation. If necessary, gently cover the bird with a light cloth or towel to help keep it calm.

Remember to keep the box in a quiet and warm place, away from direct sunlight or drafts.

Expect to Pay Rehab Center Fees

While wildlife rehabilitators provide invaluable services, it’s important to be aware that there may be fees associated with their care. Rehabilitating injured birds requires specialized equipment, medication, and expertise, which can be costly.

Some rehab centers rely on donations and grants to cover their expenses, but they may still require a contribution towards the bird’s treatment.

Before handing over the injured bird to a wildlife rehabilitator, it’s a good idea to inquire about any potential fees and discuss payment options. Some organizations offer sliding-scale fees based on income, while others may require a set fee.

Remember that these fees contribute to the ongoing care and support of injured wildlife, ensuring that they receive the best possible treatment.

If you are unable to afford the fees, don’t hesitate to explain your situation to the wildlife rehabilitator. They may be able to provide alternative solutions or direct you to organizations that offer financial assistance for wildlife rehabilitation.

For more information on finding a wildlife rehabilitator or to locate a rehab center near you, visit the website of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.

Locating Nearby Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers

Search State Association Directories

If you come across an injured bird and are unsure of how to help, one of the first steps you can take is to search for nearby wildlife rehabilitation centers. State association directories are a great resource for finding these centers in your area.

These directories provide a comprehensive list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators who have the necessary expertise and facilities to care for injured birds.

One such directory is the Wildlife Rehabilitation Information Directory. This website allows you to search for wildlife rehabilitators by state and provides contact information for each center. It’s a convenient way to quickly find the nearest center that can help with an injured bird.

Contact Local Wildlife Agencies

Another option to consider when looking for wildlife rehabilitation centers is to contact local wildlife agencies. These agencies are often affiliated with or have information about nearby centers that specialize in bird rehabilitation.

They can provide guidance on where to take the injured bird and may even offer transportation services if needed.

One well-known wildlife agency is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Their website provides a wealth of information on wildlife rehabilitation and conservation. They have regional offices throughout the country that can be contacted for assistance with injured birds or for information on local wildlife rehabilitation centers.

Look for Specialized Bird Rescue Groups

In addition to state directories and wildlife agencies, specialized bird rescue groups are also worth considering when trying to locate a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center. These groups are often dedicated to the care and rehabilitation of specific bird species and may have extensive knowledge and resources to assist with injured birds.

One example of a specialized bird rescue group is the Audubon Society. They have chapters throughout the United States and can provide valuable information on local bird rehabilitation centers. Their website also offers educational resources on bird conservation and ways to help injured birds.


Discovering an injured bird can be worrisome, but there are right and wrong ways to provide help. With some caution and care when handling, quick containment in a safe environment, and prompt involvement of wildlife rehab experts for serious injuries, you can greatly improve the bird’s chances of recovery and survival.

Getting professional assistance ensures the bird receives species-appropriate treatment and has the best opportunity to eventually be released back into the wild.

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