If you find an injured bird, call our helpline at (734) 761-9640 and leave a message with the details and your contact information. We will return your phone call as soon as possible. Read on about the services we can provide and the most common situations in which people find injured or helpless-looking birds, as well as what you can do if you find one. In some cases, like fledglings being cared for outside the nest, the birds do not need assistance.
GEOGRAPHICAL AND SPECIES LIMITS OF OUR SERVICES
We wish that we could help every bird that needs our aid, but our limited energy and resources force us to erect certain limits.
Our first limit is geographical: Our primary mission is to help Washtenaw County birds at this time. We would love to train staff from nature areas or animal welfare organizations in other nearby counties to care for wild birds. If you are interested, please call the center.
The second limit concerns expertise: Our strength is in helping songbirds, a wide category that embraces birds that are neither waterfowl or raptors (owls and hawks). We refer injured and abandoned hawks and owls to the River Raisin Raptor Center (Dody Wyman, 734-428-8455) and waterfowl to Howell Nature Center (517-548-5530).
In an emergency, we can give advice and short term aid for these kinds of birds, but are not equipped to handle their long-term rehabilitation at our center.
Tall buildings are the major cause of death for migratory birds. Lights in tall buildings should be turned off at night, and especially when the weather is foggy. Put Bird Savers© (or other decals on the outside of windows at home that birds hit. Move bird feeders to within three feet of a window. An injured bird’s tail may be off to one side or you may suspect a collision because it is under a window or beside a road. These birds need medication immediately. Keep the bird warm and quiet and call for help. The bird center cell phone, listed above, is a good place to start. You must confine the bird.
CAT CAUGHT BIRDS
Although the bird may not appear to be injured, all birds that have been in a cat’s mouth need antibiotics. If not treated they die a long slow death in the wild from infection. Puncture wounds from the cat’s teeth are often invisible. For your health and the welfare of your cat keep it inside. If it does go outside, make sure that its rabies vaccination is up to date. The raccoon strain of rabies is now in the Cleveland, Ohio area. It is expected to reach Michigan. We have the bat strain and the skunk strain of rabies in Michigan presently. The bird flu, H5N1, which has not yet reached us, also appears to be fatal to cats.
With the exception of a very small number of birds such as swallows and swifts, songbirds leave the nest unable to fly. They remain on the ground for a day or two until their wings become strong and they are able to flutter into low bushes for safety. During this time they fall prey to dogs and cats, children, well meaning adults, cars, lawnmowers, etc. Fledglings should be able to walk or hop, and they should be covered with feathers. Watch the bird quietly from a distance for an hour. If during this time the parents arrive and feed the baby, all is well. Put cats and dogs inside, ask your neighbors to put theirs inside, or get out your garden hose and give any marauding beasties a discouraging shower.
HATCHLINGS AND NESTLINGS
Finding a little pink hatchling or small nestling on the ground is a traumatic experience. If the nest can be found and the bird does not appear to be injured, returning it to the nest is an option. If the bird is very weak or cold and is not opening its mouth to be fed you should not return it to the nest. The parents will only feed young that open their mouths and beg for food. Call for advice immediately. Make a facial tissue nest and keep the bird warm at 85-90 degrees. Do not use grass which is cold.
Good nesting spots are scarce. Try not to remove old dead trees if they do not pose a risk. Almost all birds, eggs, nests, and nestlings are protected under federal law. A nest is not forever. Call the Bird Center and we will try to give you an estimate of how long the nest will be occupied. We will also advise you on how to avoid the problem in the future. Check all nursery trees to be sure that yours does not contain a nest. If a tree must be removed during the spring and summer, watch it for some time to be sure that it does not harbor a nest. Again, we can give you an estimate of when it would be safe to remove the tree.
With the exception of doves, all songbirds are feeding their young the soft squishy insects, grubs, and worms that you or your lawn company may be trying to eradicate! Help your health and that of children, pets, and birds by eliminating pesticide use. If that seems too drastic, alternate years and dig a few dandelions in the alternate year. You will find you can go much longer between applications.