Wildlife Rehabilitation

Baby American Robins in the Nest by Katie Chapin

With spring and summer comes baby wildlife entering the world—taking their first steps and testing out their wings.

And throughout the year, birds and other wild animals may be injured in collisions with windows or vehicles, fights with domestic pets, or caught in fishing line.

If you see a baby bird, fawn, or other baby animal, it may appear to be unattended on first pass. However, the parents are usually close by, observing you and their offspring from a safe distance. Unlike humans, most wild animals grow and mature quickly—songbirds mature in less than a month’s time:

A hatchling is 0-3 days old, hasn’t opened its eyes, and may have wisps of down on its body. It’s not ready to leave the nest.

A nestling is usually 3-13 days old, with eyes are open, and its wing feathers may look like tubes because they’ve yet to break through their protective sheaths. It’s also not ready to leave the nest.

A fledgling is typically 13-14 days old or older. This bird is fully feathered. Its wings and tail may be short, and it may not be a great flyer, but it can walk, hop, or flutter. It has left the nest, though its parents may be nearby, taking good care of it.

What to do if you find a baby songbird out of the nest

If you find an injured or orphaned bird or other wild animal and you’re positive that it is too injured to survive on its own or abandoned, shelter it from the elements and from any potential predators, including cats and dogs.

Do not give it milk or other food. If it is hot out, you may leave a very shallow dish of water near the animal.

Make note of its exact location and call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. (Birds are protected by federal law, and it’s illegal to take a baby bird from the wild and try to raise it yourself!)

In New York State, wildlife rehabilitators must complete a mandatory training and are licensed by the Department of Environment Conservation.

Wildlife rehabilitators are volunteers, purchase their own supplies, and often use their homes to rehabilitate animals. Some wildlife rehabilitators will come and pick up the wild animal, and others will ask you to transport the animal to their home or will meet you in between.

When you call a rehabilitator, you may need to leave a voicemail—be sure to include your own name, your location, your cell phone number, as much information about the animal as possible, and thank them for their volunteerism. They may call your back themselves, or put a colleague in touch with you if they’re not able to take the animal you’ve found.

If the situation with the animal changes be sure to call the rehabilitator back and let them know in case they’re making calls on your behalf or are already in transit to your location.