If you see a bird sitting quietly or lying next to a building, or repeatedly flying towards a window, IT NEEDS YOUR HELP. It has probably suffered a concussion and may have other injuries.
If you can approach a wild bird, it’s not because it likes you or trusts you. It is injured, helpless and terrified. Please treat it accordingly.
- Please act immediately. If you do not rescue the bird, it is very vulnerable to predators (e.g. gulls, crows, cats, foxes, even squirrels), or it may stepped on by an inattentive passerby, or killed by colliding again with the building as it regains its senses. Even if it can fly away, it may die slowly of head trauma or other internal injuries.
- Approach the bird from behind and pick it up by hand. Be very gentle but firm enough so the bird cannot escape. For small birds, cup both your hands around the bird to contain it.
- Alternatively you can use a soft, fine-mesh net, or place a box over it. For larger birds and Mourning Doves, drop a light towel or jacket over it first.
- Place the bird in an unwaxed paper bag with an unscented tissue or small paper towel crumpled in the bottom to give the bird something to perch on. Fold down the top of the bag and secure it with a paperclip. Do not punch holes in the bag.
- Alternatively, you can place it in a cardboard box that is not too much larger than the bird. First, poke some small air holes in the box.
- If you are in Ottawa, call Safe Wings immediately at 613-216-8999. We will provide advice and help you determine whether the bird needs to be brought to us in Ottawa’s Glebe neighbourhood or to the Wild Bird Care Centre at 734 Moodie Dr. in Nepean. If you are unable to drive the bird yourself, we may be able to arrange transportation by a volunteer.
- Even if a bird appears unhurt, it may be in shock or suffering internal injuries. Please do not release it, but call us for advice.
- In the meantime, keep the bag or box upright in a dark and quiet place
- Do not handle the bird more than absolutely necessary.
- Do not give the bird food or water.
- You can also drive injured birds straight to the Wild Bird Care Centre, but please still report the collision to us by completing this form. If you are outside the Ottawa area, bring the bird to your local rehabber.
- Handling birds injured or killed in a collision does not pose a significant health risk (in fact, we pose a greater health risk to them). Gloves are not required, but do wash your hands after touching a bird.
Nestlings and fledglings
Baby birds found on the ground should be should be returned to the nest if possible if they are not yet fully feathered. For more information, consult the Wild Bird Care Centre website.
Young birds that have left the nest may spend several days on or near the ground as they learn to fly. These fledglings may hop, take very short, fluttery flights or sit in the same spot for a long time. Watch from a distance to see if the parents are around and caring for them. If so, and there are no obvious signs of injury (see below), they should be left alone.
If you find a fledgling in an dangerous location, such as on or near a road or sidewalk, you can move it a short distance to a safer place.
Keep children and pets well away from young birds. During the nesting and fledging season, it’s a good idea to scan your yard before letting your dog out.
- Lying on its side and floppy
- Caught by cat or dog
- Hit by car
- Obviously injured (e.g. leg dangling, can’t stand up, drooping wing, broken beak)
- Trapped or caught (e.g. in fishing gear or garden netting), Do not cut free and release until fully assessed.
Birds found in dangerous locations — e.g. on the road, in water (unless it’s a water bird, of course), in a yard with cats, seabirds found inland — may also need help. Call the Wild Bird Care Centre, Safe Wings or your local rehabber for advice.
Some birds, once grounded, cannot take flight from solid ground and need help. These include loons, grebes, and swifts.
Safe Wings holds permits from the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry allowing our volunteers to rescue and provide treatment to injured birds. Without such permits, it is illegal to posses a live, wild bird; you must bring any injured bird to a rehabber within 24 hours.