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. From the moment they hatch out of the egg, 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, recently hatched baby birds don’t have enough power to break down the food themselves. Therefore, their parents partially digest food before feeding their nestlings.
But what exactly do baby birds eat? Should people feed baby birds if they find a helpless one without a parent?
Baby Bird Diet In The Wild
When it comes to wild birds, the babies’ diets are no different from the adults’ diets. This means that they will eat the same type of food: worms, seeds, and insects.
The process of feeding the babies is 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 easily swallow.
Should I Feed Baby Birds?
If you just found a wild baby bird with feathers already grown, hopping around and even flying a bit, it might already be fledged. 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 practice flying, trying to reach nearby bushes or trees.
Now, you don’t have to worry too much if you find a bird at this stage it will probably be able to fly in just a few days or even hours. But you should keep an eye on the ‘teenager’ bird if you find it in your area until it reaches the proper weight and until its wings feathers are fully grow.
Baby birds have a special diet, which could be difficult for a human to achieve. Even if the bird is no longer at the point in which it needs soft food, the diet can be demanding. It depends on different factors such as age and type of bird; chicks may eat for around 12 to 14 hours per day. Their diet is based on lots of protein which they get mostly from insects. Proteins help them stay healthy and grow strong.
Although it may be tempting to try and feed baby birds youself, you need special skills, proper equipment, food supplements, and knowledge about chicks’ food schedules so you won’t harm these little creatures. This is best done by a qualified or experienced wildlife rehabilitation expert.
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 requires patience and time investment or you might miss the moment in which the parent comes to feed the chick which may last for only a few seconds. Keep observing the feeding cycles until you are sure the baby is being taken care of.
When the baby birds start growing, the feeding from their parents will be less frequent. Adult birds can have several offspring at once in different locations, so parental visits might become irregular.
If you have noticed that the baby has been fed, and the parents return to them often, you don’t need to intervene. If the baby bird is not injured, you should leave it where it is.
However, if the baby bird is not being fed and seems weak or injured, then the first step you should take is to call for a licensed wildlife rehabilitation organisation.
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 yourself, ask them for some detailed food suggestions.
What You Need to Know If You 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:
- 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, 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, dog, or fox stumbles upon the baby bird, they will consider it the ideal prey. So, you might be the main escape chance for the baby bird, and feeding them will save their life. Always choose soft and appropriate food detailed below.
Here are some of the highest-protein foods you can offer to little birds:
- Commercial finch food
- Soaked dry dog food
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Raw liver (but without seasoning)
- Dog biscuits (soaked)
- Cat or dog kibble (but carefully moistened)
Before offering them food, make sure you moisten or grind it up, so it will be easy for the baby birds to swallow and 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 putting small pieces of wet food into a plastic bag, cut a very small hole in the corner, and slowly squeeze 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 survival will increase.
Do Not Feed Baby Birds With:
- Bread products
- Worms (other than those listed above)
- Kitchen scraps
- Whole bird seeds
Unlike mammals, baby birds do not drink milk, as their digestive system cannot tolerate lactose. Forget the misconception that mixing milk with bread will be a healthy meal for baby birds. Truth be told, milk can be toxic to birds.
If Feeding Is Necessary
If you find a chick that needs help but cannot contact a bird expert, it is essential to take note of all the information above. 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.
After the baby reaches maturity, you can move to “adult” food. You can also 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 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 tiny so the baby birds can swallow them easily. Make sure you 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 appears wet, although it is not raining
- If the bird is not able to hop and stand up normally.
Before you reach out to 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 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.