If you’re out and about and you come across an injured bird, a number of questions will go through your mind. 'Should I help?' and 'How should I help?' are just two of them and you’re right to stop and think before you do anything, as you might be providing bird first aid unnecessarily. A young wild bird learning how to fly could easily look like it’s in distress, so you need to be careful.
So, with this in mind, we now look at the basics of how to treat injured birds. By reading to the end you’ll have a better understanding of how to treat injured birds when you come across them. That way, you won’t cause more harm than good, no matter how well intentioned you are.
Should I Even Provide Bird First Aid?
The first thing you should consider before providing any bird first aid is whether the bird in question actually needs your help at all. It’s quite normal for fledgeling birds to be found on the ground for a few days whilst they’re learning to fly. Unless they are in immediate peril, it’s best to leave young feathered birds alone, however, if you’re unsure, keep watching for a few minutes to see whether it’s in need of help or just attempting to fly.
If the bird you encounter has no feathers, it’s a nestling and it should be gently returned to the nest - if you’re able to. Many think that adult birds will abandon their babies if they’re touched by humans, but this just isn’t true, so don’t let it stop you providing bird first aid and potentially saving a life
Careful Handling is Vital
When handling any kind of bird, it’s important to be as gentle as you can. That’s because birds shock extremely easily and the trauma of being caught can actually result in the death of the bird. Before doing anything, consider how easy you think it will be to capture the bird and adjust your actions accordingly.
Another important aspect to take account of is where you found the bird. For example, if you’ve hit the bird with your car, it could be badly injured, so a visit to the vet might be your only options. Or if you saw the bird fly into a window, it might just be concussed and only need a few hours of rest in a darkened room to recover. Birds can become injured a variety of different ways and the most appropriate bird first aid may take a couple of minutes to figure out.
What Part of the Bird is Injured?
It’s also important to determine what part of the bird is affected when considering how to treat injured birds. If the bird has only minor leg injuries, the chances are that it will just fly away when you approach and if it does, you shouldn’t try and capture it if it lands soon again afterwards. However, if it can’t fly away due to a wing injury, this is an instance when bird first aid can be appropriate. One thing you absolutely shouldn’t do is throw a captured bird into the air to help it fly, as you could make the injury worse.
Transporting the Injured Bird
Once you’ve captured the bird, you’ll need to know what to do next. Darkness does much to calm birds down, so depending on the size of the bird, you should find an appropriately sized box that allows the bird to move around. Then poke some breathing holes into the box and line it with tissue paper before placing the bird inside. Warmth helps with shock too, so placing the box near a radiator or hot water bottle could really help.
After you made the bird as comfortable as you can, you should contact your local vet or animal health professional and explain what has happened. They’ll provide you with some expert bird first aid advice and recommend the next course of action - whether that’s simply monitoring the bird’s condition or taking it into the clinic.
Be Careful, Be Gentle, Be Smart
If you ever find yourself in a position where you think you might need to provide bird first aid, you should always take a moment to consider your best course of action. It could be that it doesn’t need help or that you need to approach the situation in a particular way. Caution is very much the watchword when it comes to bird first aid, so for the bird’s sake, don’t just rush in. If you have any doubts at all, you should call a professional for advice as a bird’s life may well be at risk.