Spring is the revival time of the year, especially in the animal kingdom. This is the season for breeding, nest-building, and taking care of babies so they can grow to become independent of their parents at some point. At the moment of their ‘birth,’ which is the moment when they hatch their eggs, baby birds are 100% dependent on their parents. The adults take care of them by feeding, offering shelter, and protecting their babies against possible predators.
Furthermore, mainly recently hatched baby birds simply don’t have enough power to break down the food. Therefore, their parents partially digest it before feeding their nestlings.
But what exactly do baby birds eat? Should people feed baby birds if they find a helpless one?
Baby Birds Diet Into The Wild
When it comes to birds living in their natural wild habitats, the infants’ diet is not different from the ones eaten by adults. This means that they will eat the same type of food: worms, seeds, and insects.
Even so, the process of feeding the babies is actually extremely fascinating. The adult bird hunts for food. It catches the prey and eats it on the spot. Upon returning to the nest, the bird will regurgitate the recently ingested food, getting it ready for the babies. The reason why they do it is to make sure that the nestlings receive soft products which they can chew.
Should I Feed Baby Birds?
If you just found a wild baby bird with feathers already grown, which hop around and even fly a bit, they might already be fledged. What this means is that, at this stage, the little birds are probably out of the nest. The reason why they hop around on the ground is because they are making a lot of effort to reach even the shortest trees.
Now, you don’t have to worry too much if you find a bird at this stage as most probably it will be able to fly in just a few more days. But you should keep an eye on the ‘teenager’ bird until it reaches the proper weight and until its wings’ feathers fully grow.
As you’ve already read, baby birds have a special diet, which could be overwhelming for a human. Even if the bird is no longer at the point in which it needs soft food, the situation can still be a little bit too demanding. It all depends on different factors, such as age and type of bird; chicks may eat somewhere around 12 to 14 hours per day. Their diet is based on lots of protein, which they take from insects. Proteins help them stay healthy and grow strong.
Although it seems easy and convenient to feed baby birds, no human should take this responsibility unless licensed bird rehabbers. You need special skills, proper equipment, food supplements, or knowledge about chicks’ food schedules so you won’t hurt these little creatures.
First Things To Notice When Finding A Baby Bird
If you happen to stumble upon a baby bird, you should make sure you watch the bird closely for a couple of hours to see if their parents are close by or return to offer them food.
Keep in mind that watching the baby birds is an elaborate process, as you might miss the moment in which the parent comes to feed the chick. This process might take only seconds and therefore need all the attention you have. Keep observing the several feeding cycles so you won’t miss any details.
When the baby birds start growing, the feeding process from their parents will be less frequent. Adult birds can have several offspring at once in different locations. This way, the parental visits might become irregular.
If you have noticed that the baby has been fed, and the parents often come to them, you don’t need to intervene. Moreover, if the baby bird is not injured, you should let them stay there.
However, if the baby bird is not being fed and seems weak and lazy, then the very first step you should do is call for a licensed rehabber.
These specialists will provide the proper care for each type of baby bird. When talking to the rehabber, ask them for their opinion and evaluation of the bird. If they recommend you feed the baby chick, ask them for some food suggestions.
What You Need to Know If You Ever Stumble Upon a Baby Bird
If you come across a baby bird that needs help and think about feeding it, here is what you need to know and do:
- First thing’s first – as previously mentioned, contact a bird rescue organization and check their advice.
- If the baby bird is abandoned on the ground and cannot fly to move further, there are high chances of a predator attacking them.
- Pick up the little creature and gently place it into a box lined with paper towels, tissues, or other soft materials. If possible, take the little bird to a safe location.
- If a cat, a dog, or a fox stumbles upon the baby bird, they will consider it the ideal prey. This is when time becomes an enemy. So, you might be the main escape for the baby bird, and feeding them will simply save the poor animal. Always choose soft and spongy food, as marked below.
Here are some of the highest in protein foods you can offer to little birds:
- Soaked dry cat food
- Commercial finch food
- Soaked dry dog food
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Raw liver (but without seasoning it)
- Dog biscuits
- Cat or dog kibble (but carefully moistened)
Before offering them food, make sure you moisten or ground it up, so it will be easy for the baby birds to eat, swallow, then digest. Bear in mind that professional bird rehabbers mainly tube feed the baby birds.
So, if you have a food dropper, use it. If not, you can help the baby birds by cutting small pieces of wet food into a bag and slowly squeezing tiny amounts into their mouths.
Do not try to force the bird to eat. Be patient. With a bit of luck, the baby bird will start eating, and the chance of surviving will increase.
Do Not Feed Baby Birds With:
- Bread products
- Kitchen scraps
- Whole bird seeds
Unlike mammals, baby birds do not drink milk, as their digestive system cannot tolerate lactose. Forget about the misconception that mixing milk with bread will be a healthy meal for baby birds. Truth be told, milk can be toxic to little birds.
If Feeding Is Necessary
If you find a chick that needs help but cannot contact a bird expert, it is essential to know all the information above. Furthermore, you should make sure to feed the baby bird with food that contains enough nutrients. While the diet might be different from one bird species to another, several types of food will suit all of them. And the mentioned ones are perfectly safe.
After the baby reaches maturity, you can move to “adult” food without hesitation. Besides, you can increase the breaks between feeding times.
Best Tips For Feeding Baby Birds
If you need to feed a baby bird, keep in mind the following information:
- Make sure you offer the little creature only food with a spongy texture but not dripping with water, as the babies might choke. All the dry food should be softened first;
- Offer food at room temperature only. Do not warm or overheat it, neither chill it;
- Keep the food bits in tiny sizes, so the baby birds can bite and swallow them easily. Make sure you cut and crush the food according to the bird’s size.
Signs You Should Contact A Vet Or A Bird Rehabilitator
If you see any of the following symptoms, you should make sure that you talk to a specialist.
- If you see signs of blood
- If their belly is sucked in or wrinkled somehow
- If the bird is wet, although it does not rain at all
- If the bird is not able to hop and stand up normally.
Before you reach an expert, the best thing you can do is to keep the young bird as warm as possible. You can use a special heating pad, but set it at the lowest temperature so the little bird is safe and comfortable.
Spring is the most probable time of the year to find baby birds. Before you get too excited about helping them:
- Make sure you keep your focus and patience and apply the tips above.
- Keep in mind that if their parents return to their babies, you should leave them alone.
- Above all, avoid feeding the tiny creatures without an expert’s opinion.