Backyard birding has become America’s favorite pastime. Americans have more bird feeders than cable television. In part, because of this, we meet our bird friends in every possible capacity.
Sometimes conflicts occur and we are left struggling to find humane options for a solution. Below you will find a list of our most common songbird questions from our callers at the hotline. As always, if these ideas are not sufficient in solving your conflict, please feel free to call the hotline at 1-855-WILD-HELP anytime.
Baby Birds – To Rescue or Not to Rescue
If you find a baby songbird on the ground, you’ll need to know two things to determine whether or not the baby bird needs help. First, you need to know if the bird is injured and second, you’ll need to know if it is a fledgling or nestling.
Signs of Injury Include:
Baby is cold to the touch
Makes no attempt to move, fly, open its mouth, or react when approached
Difficulty holding its head up
Baby is covered in bugs, ants, or what looks like pieces of rice grains (fly packets)
Baby is dehydrated – Run your finger up or down the skin on the bird’s breast. If the skin wrinkles and stays wrinkled, she is dehydrated. If the skin doesn’t react much to your touch, that is a good thing,
Baby is bleeding or has puncture wounds. Any round, hole shaped wounds on the bird is a sign of something very serious for a bird.
Baby is gasping or gurgling or making other noises when it tries to breathe. Birds will often scream and make a ton of noise when ‘rescued’ and that’s okay, but sticky sounding breathing, or gasping is not normal.
Baby is tilted to one side, falling over and not able to right itself. This behavior may be accompanied by seizures as well.
If you see any of the above signs, please give us a call at the Wildlife Hotline immediately @ 1-855-WILD-HELP and we will put you in touch with a local rehabber that can help.
If baby seems healthy and uninjured, please visit our Baby Bird Page to learn how to attempt to reunite babies with Mom.
Birds in the Chimney
Songbirds do not usually take up residence in the actual chimney stack in your home. Go outside and view your roof from afar. You may see a nest at the very top of the chimney cap. If so, give them a couple of weeks to finish raising the kids, and then remove the nesting material and install a mesh wire cap to protect your chimney for next year. If you do not see nesting at the roof level, or if you do but still think a bird is stuck in the chimney itself, it’s time to see for sure. Put your pets away in a back bedroom or securely outside, and grab a towel that you can catch the bird with – something light weight. SLOWLY open the flu of the chimney.
You should hear the bird scramble a bit to get out-of-the-way of the flu. Once the flu is open, patiently wait for the bird to drop down into the fireplace itself. Birds cannot fly straight up, they have to fly forward and up, making it impossible for them to escape a chimney once they are inside. When the bird does drop down, cover it with the towel, and carefully turn the towel into a sort of bag that you wrap the bird in. Do not squeeze or hold the bird too tightly. Take the bird wrapped in towel outside and release him back to the world. Congratulations! You’ve saved a life! Plus, you have saved yourself from the nasty task of removing a dead, rotting bird from your fireplace.
The Exception to the Chimney Rule
The exception is to this rule is with a certain bird – Chimney Swifts. Swifts do live inside a chimney stack, usually a stone or brick chimney, and raise their young there. Although the sound of Chimney Swifts is not music to everyone’s ears, Chimney Swifts are extremely beneficial. Two parents and their noisy offspring will consume over 12,000 flying insect pests every day. These include only small things like mosquitoes, gnats, termites and biting flies. Unfortunately Chimney Swift numbers are in decline due to loss of habitat — first large hollow trees, and now open masonry chimneys.
The very loudest sounds are made by the babies when they are being fed by the parents. Although it is quite loud, there will be only one active nest in any chimney at one time. Normally by the time the babies become loud enough to hear, they are less than a couple of weeks from being old enough to feed themselves. After that, most of the loud noise will be over.
Chimney Swifts are protected by Federal Law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Unfortunately, some chimney cleaning companies will still illegally remove active nests with young and discard them to die slowly in trash receptacles. When hiring a professional chimney cleaning company, be careful to select one that is reputable. There are many companies that now actively promote Chimney Swift conservation. Always keep in mind that “Bird Removal” is a blatant violation of the state and federal laws that protect Chimney Swifts and other migratory birds. Homeowners should ask about a company’s policy on Chimney Swifts. Any company that offers or advertises such a service should be avoided.
Songbirds Running Into Windows
Birds run into windows on a very regular basis. Sadly, often times they die when they hit the glass. However, if you saw a bird hit your window and the bird is still alive, you are probably looking at a stunned bird. It takes them some time to recover from the trauma and then they fly off into the sunset.
While the bird is still stunned, pick him up and place him inside cardboard box or even place a cardboard box over the top of the bird still sitting outside, if necessary. Wait one hour, then release the bird. If in 60 minutes the bird still hasn’t left, or you see blood, or the bird acts as though it is trying to fly but cannot, it is time to find a rehab facility for him.
Call us at 1-855-WILD-HELP to find a rehab near you.
Songbird Attacking Its Own Reflection
When a bird can see his own reflection, he will sometimes pick a fight with it. They don’t realize that the reflection they see is not another bird in competition for a mate. Tape a piece of paper to your window, or hang a sun catcher to break up the reflection and the bird will stop doing this. Cardinals are notorious for this behavior in Missouri. If you have a gazing ball in your yard, they will also try to attack that during mating season. Your best bet in warding off this behavior is to cover the gazing ball with a plastic bag or pillow case for a couple of weeks until mating season dies down a bit.
Songbird Nesting in Bad Places
Not only is it difficult to relocate a nest of birds, it is actually also illegal. Birds are federally protected, and nests should be left alone. Chances are, where ever the nest is, they will only be nesting there for a small period of time – two weeks or so, and if at all possible, try to be tolerant of their poor judgment in nesting place. If it is possible to ignore the nest for the duration of their nesting period, please do so. If you attempt to relocate the nest, the nestlings will die. Their best chance at life is with their parents, and if the nest is moved more than 3 or 4 inches, the mother will not return to the nest. So when at ALL possible, be tolerant, and be patient.
Barn swallows tend to generate plenty of calls to the hotline. These beautiful, tiny, bug eaters like to nest in the rafters of a barn, the awning of your place of business, ceiling of your boat dock, and sometimes the rafters of your local Wal-Mart or Home Depot. Nesting alone wouldn’t bother anyone, but these birds tend to be VERY overprotective of their nesting spot. When people walk anywhere near the nest these birds will swoop down and flay at the intruder. It SEEMS that they are going to hit you right in the head.
Most callers describe this as them being very aggressive, but really they do not wish to run into you, they just want to let you know to stay away. Nesting will only take a few weeks, so if at all possible, leave them be and keep your distance. If you need to go in the area, try carrying an umbrella to protect your head so that you won’t feel under attack. They’ll be gone before you know it.
Click here to learn more about how to prevent injuries to our songbirds and raptors.
Feel free to contact us at the hotline with any other questions or concerns you may have @ 1-855-WILD-HELP.