• What to Do If You Find an Injured Adult or Baby Bird

    Injured Bird

If you have found an injured adult bird, follow these steps and contact your local wildlife rehabilitation facility immediately

An injured bird will have the best chance at recovery the faster you get help from a wildlife rehabilitation facility. FLAP Canada does not condone releasing injured wildlife back into the wild before first having the animal assessed by a wildlife rehabilitator. Follow these steps to safely help a small injured bird (crow-size or smaller). If the bird is larger than a crow, learn how to safely help larger birds (like ducks, geese, gulls, etc.), or birds of prey (like hawks or owls).

  1. If possible, assign someone to watch over the bird as you go to find something to contain it (step 2). Window collision victims are extremely vulnerable to predators and pedestrian traffic. A guardian can keep the bird safe until you return with a suitable container.
  2. Find an unwaxed paper bag or a small cardboard box. If using a cardboard box, poke a few small holes in it. There is no need to poke air holes in an unwaxed paper bag. Note that paper bags from fast food restaurants are often waxed and therefore not suitable. Scrunch up a clean, unscented tissue or a paper towel and place inside the bag or box to serve as something soft for the bird to grasp.
  3. Approaching the bird from behind, use both hands to gently cover the bird, being careful not to leave your fingers open so the bird can escape. The bird may vocalize or try to flutter once caught. Expect this and stay calm. Note that small birds are very fragile; you should never close your fingers or hand tightly around their body. It should feel like you are gently holding onto a cotton ball.
  4. Place the bird upright in the paper bag or box, being careful not to let it escape as you remove your hands. Make sure that the bag or box is securely closed.
  5. Put the bird in a dark, warm, quiet space, away from children and pets. Avoid interacting with, talking to, and handling the bird, as this will cause it additional stress. Never give a bird food or water.
  6. Immediately contact your local wildlife rehabilitation facility. Birds that have hit windows often have internal injuries that are not obvious from the outside, even if they just look stunned. Your local wildlife rehabilitation facility will be in the best position to advise you on next steps. Note: if you do not hear back from your local wildlife rehabilitation facility, try contacting another one in your area for advice. Some exotic veterinarians also accept wild birds for emergency care until they can be transported to a wildlife rehabilitation facility.
  7. If you are unable to transport the bird to a wildlife rehabilitation facility, please let the facility know to explore what other options may be available.
  8. If you have been instructed to try releasing the bird by the wildlife rehabilitation facility, take the bird to a wooded area far away from buildings. Before releasing the bird, keep a good distance away from any trees/vegetation so you can assess the bird’s flight. Point the bag/box in the direction of trees and slowly open the top and let the bird fly out. If the bird does not fly well, try to recapture the bird and reconnect with the wildlife rehabilitation facility.
  9. If you feel the bird collided with a window, we encourage you to enter the report (with a photo if possible) in the Global Bird Collision Mapper. If the bird collided with a window at your property, there are affordable and easy ways to prevent this from happening again.

If you need additional advice, please try our bird rescue hotline: 416-366-3527. Please do not email us or contact us on social media about an injured bird. Keep in mind that we only monitor our bird rescue hotline during bird migration seasons (mid-March to early June, and mid-August to early November) from 8 am to 5 pm, 7 days a week. Please note, FLAP Canada does not have a wildlife rehabilitation centre.

An unwaxed paper bag can be a good temporary carrier for a small injured bird.

unwaxed paper bags

Need help identifying the injured bird?

The Cornell Lab’s All About Birds site has everything you need to know about identifying North American bird species.

Is my health at risk from touching a wild bird?

Birds are much more likely to contract diseases from humans than the other way around. For this reason, and to protect yourself from any remote health risk, we suggest that you wear hand protection such as latex or vinyl gloves, and wash your hands before and after handling birds. This is simply good practice when handling any wildlife or unknown plant material or matter the bird may have been exposed to.

If you have found a baby bird, go to helpbabybirds.ca or use the following tips, and contact your local wildlife rehabilitation facility:

If you find an injured bird on the ground that seems unable to fly, and don’t know what to do, please call our hotline (416-366-3527) for the most expedient response. For assistance, we may need to know what kind of bird it is. If you can safely take a photo, please be prepared to share that as directed.

  1. If you find a featherless baby bird and you know where the nest is, place the baby bird back in the nest. The parent birds will not smell your scent and reject the bird.
  2. If you cannot find the nest, make one out of a small container or flowerpot lined with leaves or dry grass.
  3. Place the substitute nest close to the area where you found the baby bird, and watch for parents to come back to feed their baby.
  4. If the baby bird is fully feathered and has just left the nest, it may be a fledgling on the ground waiting for its parents. The best thing to do is leave the bird for the parents to care for and feed.
  5. If you believe the bird is in danger from roaming cats or other predators, place it in a tree or bush where it will be safe.
  6. If you are still concerned (perhaps the parents have not returned for a long time) contact your local wildlife rehabilitation facility for advice.
Baby Birds in a Nest

Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Centres

Toronto, Ontario torontowildlifecentre.com
Ontario listings of wildlife centres authorized by Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources ontariowildliferescue.ca/wildlifecentres
Canada listings of wildlife rescue & rehabilitation centres humanesociety.com/animalsandtheearth/wildliferescuerehabilitationcenters
United States listings of wildlife rehabilitators owra.org/find-a-wildlife-rehabilitator
International listings of wildlife rehabilitators theiwrc.org/resources/emergency

Please note, FLAP Canada is not a wildlife rehabilitation centre.