Is the bird injured (bleeding, broken bones, puncture wounds, been in a cat’s mouth, open wounds, etc.)?
If YES, take the bird to your nearestwildlife veterinarian or rehabilitator
If NO, see below.
Is the bird fully feathered?
If YES, any fully feathered baby bird found on the ground, seemingly unable to fly, is probably just fledging - a natural state of development in the bird’s life. If it appears to be uninjured, leave the area, and do your best to keep pets and children away from the bird. The parent(s) will not feed the youngster while people are around
If NO, attempt to find the nest. An uninjured bird found on the ground with few or no feathers needs to be returned to the nest. Look around in trees and bushes to see if you can locate the nest. Correct identification of the nestling or of the parents will help locate the nest (i.e., bluebirds are box or cavity nesters, morning doves build basket nests on horizontal branches or in a tree fork)
Can you find the nest?
If YES, simply put the bird back. However, make sure the young are warm to the touch. If the baby is not, you can simply warm the bird in your hands before returning it to the nest. Returning a young cold bird to the nest will sometimes encourage the parent to push the baby out of the nest, as it is trying to remove a cold object away from other warm eggs and/or young.
If the nest is unreachable, construct a substitute nest of a similar size and shape (small berry baskets, or margarine tubs with drain holes punched in the bottom, filled with grass make fine substitute nests) and securely attach it as close as possible to the original nest site. Contrary to popular belief, the parents will not be frightened off by your “scent” and will return to feed the baby if it calls for food. If you want to be sure the parent(s) will continue to feed the baby, watch the baby from a safe distance, preferably indoors. Do not be alarmed if you don’t see the parent return. Typically wild animals will not return to the nest if you are visible and/or in the area.
If NO, you can’t find the nest, construct a substitute nest in the place where the nestling was found. Watch from indoors to see if a parent returns (be patient, it may not happen immediately). If a parent does not visit the nest for more than half a day, contact a licensed songbird rehabilitator for advice.
Please give baby birds the best possible chance for survival and leave them in the wild where they belong! Never attempt to treat or raise a baby bird on your own. Despite your best efforts, most hand-raised birds will die.
The best baby bird rehabilitation is prevention. Educate your friends, family, neighbors and yourselves about the fledging process. It is normal for birds at fledging to be on the ground unable to fly! Birds need several days - up to four weeks, depending on their species - to learn how to fly and forage for food. One or more parent will feed them during this period. Know where nesting sites are located and keep cats and dogs indoors around the time you think the birds will fledge to avoid predation. Ask neighbors to take responsibility for their pets as well.
NOTE: Raising a wild animal in captivity is illegal unless you have both state and federal permits. For information on how you can become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, contact the Wildlife Center of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, or your state’s wildlife agency.