Beaverton Bird Watch: So, you’ve found a baby bird…

By Donna Wiench, Portland Audubon

It seems that nature has conspired to make babies of all kinds uniquely precious and appealing to us human types.  Seeing a vulnerable baby we oooh, aaah and if there’s a need, eagerly lend a hand.  But when seeing a baby bird, our instincts to “help” are typically not so helpful.

Spring is the height of baby bird season at the Audubon Society of Portland’s Wildlife Care Center.  Several times a day, caring people will bring in baby birds that seem to need human help.  It’s a good step if the bird is injured or we know for sure that it’s been orphaned.  But usually, the best thing people can do is observe at a distance and keep their cats inside.  Cat predation accounts for as many as 40% of injured animals brought to the WCC.

At Portland Audubon’s website ( we learn:  “Birds such as robins, scrub jays, crows and owls leave the nest and spend as many as 2-5 days on the ground before they can fly. This is a vital part of the young birds’ development. While on the ground, parents care for and protect their young and teach them vital life skills such as finding food, identifying predators and flying.

Taking these birds into captivity means they don’t learn how to survive in the wild. Unless a bird is injured, it is essential to leave them outside.”

If you are concerned that a bird fell to the ground, you may try to return it to its nest. If the nest is unreachable, you can line a small basket lined with tissue and suspend it from a branch near the nest.  Cautious adults may take a few hours to approach the nestlings, and it the meantime, humans should stay away.

Bottom line – when seeing a baby bird on the ground the very best thing to do may well be to leave it alone.  Raising wild birds in captivity is a last resort and birds raised away from their parents only have a minimal chance of survival when released.  Before taking any baby bird out of the wild, please contact the Wildlife Care Center at 503-292-0304.

Portland Audubon is the leading conservation organization in Oregon. Visit us at or call 503.292.6855.