Mockingbird Baby

You have landed on the page of the

Marathon Wild Bird Center, located in the Middle Florida Keys.

This page will give you information about what to do if you find a wild baby bird.

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You must find a wild bird or wild life rehabber - you can not raise a wild baby bird without prior experience. When you find a wild life/bird center - then, volunteer with them to get these lessons first hand - it will be a great joy for you, we promise.

This website can not give you a 10 minute chat regarding the "how-to's" for a successful raise and release of an orphaned baby bird. We have 15 years of hard work and experience. Do the right thing by finding an organization that specializes in helping orphaned wild baby birds. This website is here to give you information while you search your state and county for the right people.

Read this website page, it answers almost ALL of your questions if you find a baby bird.

1.) Here is a website to help you find a licensed rehabilitation center in your area:

2.) If you find a fully feathered on the ground - that is a fledgling on their first flight. They just need to be picked up off the ground and put in a bush or on a tree branch. Do not worry about the "scent of man" on the baby - it is an old wives' tale. The parents will not reject the baby from a human handling the bird. Be sure to leave the area and don't look out a window to watch - the parents will see you and will be afraid, causing them to stay away from the baby. Fledglings are terrible flyers and landings are also bad. After a couple of days of practise, the fledglings will be able to get off the ground. The parents follow them during this ground period and feed them. After the ground period, the fledglings then fly and follow the parents for at least a month to receive food.

The parents will hear - 2 block radius - their fledgling baby's calls for food. If the area you first found the baby has too much traffic - cars, cats, people - put the baby in a more secluded place on a tree branch or in a bush, in that 2 block radius.

3.) If you find a whole nest with featherless baby birds, place the nest in an Easter basket and hang it in the area you found the nest or out of the elements but still accessible to the parents so they can feed and keep the babies warm. Try to place the basket in a low traffic area.

If you find one or two featherless wild baby birds, it is usually pretty hard to place the baby back into the nest. You will need to follow the instructions below:

A website to help you find a licensed rehabilitation center in your area is: If you still can not find anyone, your area's veterinarians, pet store, animal shelter usually knows a person that cares for wild animals.

4.) If you find a featherless baby bird, first thing is to keep it warm. Place it on a towel covered heating pad on the lowest setting - keep it in a quiet safe place, then call your local rehabilitator, your local SPCA, your local veterinarian. The information below should be enough until you can contact the right person.

It is illegal to keep a wild bird. Here at the MWBC we all love the baby wild birds because they are so cute and sweet but it will be in the baby's best interest to take it to a facility that raises and cares for wild birds.

General information when the baby is in your custody, while you are looking for a wild bird rehabilitation center:

Do not give the baby water. Make sure the food is not dripping with water. If liquids get into the bird's lungs, it will cause pulmonary aspiration and death.

Do not give bread to baby birds. There is no nutritional value in bread and it causes internal blockage.

Different types of birds eat different types of food.

If the baby is NOT a dove or pigeon - we feed the baby Pedigree Puppy Chow that has been soaked in water making it spongy and moist - make sure the nugget is not dripping with water (too wet) or too dry. It must be like a sponge. (It takes one hour to absorb the water - 1 part food to 2 parts water). If the nugget is too large for the baby, tear it in half. Also, mealworms after pinching the head and crickets are good. If you don't have puppy chow, use what you have in the house - wet cat or dog food, forming a ball the size of a pea and place in its mouth. Dry cat food is also okay to use, after soaking it in water.

Feed the baby room temperature food and throw out the soaked dog/cat food after 12 hours because it will sour.

Doves and pigeons eat seeds. The mother digests the seeds in her crop turning the food into a "soup". We prepare a seed formula and tube the "soup" past the glottis. This formula can be purchased from a pet store because it is the same food that baby parrots are given. Pet stores hand raise many parrots and they can show you how to feed the baby.

Any baby that is found without feathers must be kept warm. Also, if parent birds make their nests in boxes or tree trunks - a dark environment - you must also make your habitat dark. That way you will not injure the baby's eyes.

Feeding a baby bird the wrong food can be deadly. We have heard of people soaking bread in milk to give a baby - remember birds do not nurse their young. Milk is not a natural diet for them and it does more harm than good.

If this information has been helpful, please send a donation, just one dollar will add up to many dollars for us to continue our great work in the Florida Keys and to give information to people who have found a wild baby bird! Thank you!

This organization is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization


A Foster Mother's Story by Susie Ward:

When the Wild Bird Center receives a call of rescue for a baby bird, we first try to put the baby back into the nest, if it is not injured. Passerines do not have a good sense of smell, it is an "old wives' tale" about the human scent on a baby. You can put the baby back in or near the nest. There are several reasons for the baby to be on the ground. The baby could have fallen out of the nest; or on its first flight and landed on the ground; or the mother tossed it out of the nest due to sickness, injury, or disease.

If it is not possible to get the baby back into the nest or the mother is gone, that is when I become a foster mother. I use a small cardboard box and add straw. Susie Ward with two babiesI make the nest so the baby can get low and feel safe. I've noticed that the baby will poop outside its sleeping area by lifting its butt up over the straw, so I make a space between the straw and the box. I also use paper towels to line the bottom of the box so I can keep the "nest" clean.

I have found soaking Pedigree Puppy Chow in water for one hour - making sure it is quite moist - is a good substitute for the protein and grain that the real mother would give her babies. After making sure the baby is warm and comfortable, I give it the moist chow. The first couple of feedings I may have to gently hold the bird with one hand - opening its mouth with the other hand - to get a piece of chow in. Yes, it is very hard, but the bird usually catches on after 1-3 feedings. Another trick I have found is to gently tap on the side of the box, imitating a parents movements in the nest after flying in and landing on the nest with food. Also, I'll tap gently on the baby's beak, again imitating the parents wanting the baby to open its mouth. I start with half a piece of chow and make sure I get it past the glottis - the part that leads to the trachea and lungs. When the baby opens its mouth it's a signal for me to pop the food into its mouth. Every time I am near the baby I am sure to talk to it so it will recognize my voice. I try to feed a baby 1-3 pieces of food every half hour. I don't have to feed the baby during the night. I start in the morning about 1/2 hour after sunrise and stop 1/2 hour before sunset. The mother does not feed her babies at night - everyone gets a full nights sleep! I add some tiny pieces of fruit - watermelon, blueberries, apple, grapes and native fruit from my own backyard. Also I add corn and peas but take the thin skin off first.

Okay, now the baby is beginning to jump around and sitting on the side of the box. Outside, in the trees, I have a large cage that is predator proof . I add a variety of branches so the baby can perch. I continuously talk to the baby when I am feeding it. I always say "hello" and "come here". At this point, I place food on the floor of the cage for it to pick up on its own. I put leaves and grass in the cage for it to move around to find the food. Next, I add mealworms and a shallow 8 x 8 sturdy bowl with water. Gently, I place the baby in the water for a bath. It thinks the water is fire the first time I do this and jumps out very quickly! I repeat this a couple of times until the baby decides a bath is fun after all. It is hysterical to watch a baby bird take its first bath - I try not to miss this!

Now my baby is about 6-7 weeks old. It is time to open the door to the cage. The baby will either rocket out or wonder what to do. If it stays in, I place it on top of the cage. My cage is surrounded by trees, so it is easy for the baby to hop on the overhead branches. When it is time to feed the baby and it is in the tree above, this is when I can call it down to me with the "hello" or "come here". If the baby is having too much fun with this freedom - I don't worry, it will come to me after a half day for that food. I am sure to catch the baby and put it back in the cage before sunset, I always put the baby back in the cage at night. Predators go hunting at sunset and dawn - this includes the cat next door. At some point I am not able to catch it because it has matured enough to know that it does not want to go into the cage anymore.

A new problem will arise. The baby will want to stay on the ground for about a week to see what's there. In the wild, the mother is able to alert the baby with a cry of "flee". As the foster mother, I can't provide that information to my babies. There is nothing I can do but keep cats and dogs away from my yard and am sure to watch where I step. This ground period is the worst time for me as a foster mother and I know I will loose some babies because of things I cannot control. I hate this week.

Notes from my rehab experience for a successful release:

  • A cage that is predator proof requires 1/4" hardwire.
  • Puppy Chow sours after 24 hours- I soak a new batch each morning.
  • Before feeding the baby I warm all food to room temperature.
  • Babies need small pieces of food through-out the day.
  • When I am raising several species, for example mockingbird, blue jay, cardinal, and grackle - I make sure to feed the grackles last. Grackles have a higher rate of pox and I do not want to infect the other species.
  • I wash my hands A LOT!
  • I constantly strive to keep cages clean.
  • I can keep the baby in the outside cage all night after it is fully feathered. I put palm fronds on top of the cage to protect the baby from too much sun and rain. If my baby is not fully feathered, I place it in the shed at night where it will stay warm and dry.

Last note: I enjoy and have fun raising orphaned baby wild birds, but I am the correct foster mother and let these healthy babies fly away. When a wild bird becomes sexually mature it will become afraid of humans - it will never be a pet - it is a WILD BIRD.

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