Baby wild birds food
This Is What To Feed Baby Birds — And How To Feed Them
If you’re wondering how to feed a baby bird, there are a few important things you need to know. Baby birds usually eat what their parents eat for dinner, since the parent has to burp its food into the mouth of its offspring. Birds cannot break down food at birth, so their parents must first partially digest the food to make it safe for chicks. Since baby birds are dependent on their parents not only for food but also for instructions on how to be a bird, it is essential that it stays with them. So, if you find a baby bird on the ground, try to bring it back to the nest rather than looking after it yourself. If you cannot return the bird to its nest, contact a rehabilitation center that can take care of it.
- Consult the experts if you think a baby bird isn’t being fed
- What to feed a baby bird
- What not to offer when feeding baby birds:
- DIY baby bird food
- How to feed a baby bird
What You Need
Dog or cat food, boiled eggs, or raw unseasoned liver
Small pieces of fruit or veggies
If you’re raising domestic birds or are licensed to take care of wild animals, however, then it’s important to know how and what to feed baby birds — and sometimes, even learn how to DIY baby bird food.Maslov Dmitry/Shutterstock.com
Consult the experts if you think a baby bird isn’t being fed
If you find a baby bird that does not seem to be fed, look for an hour or two to see if its parents provide food for it again. Note that the mother bird only needs a few seconds to feed its baby, so inattentive observers could miss several feeding cycles. However, if one parent bird has to look after several baby birds in different places, parental visits could be irregular. When the baby bird is fed, you can be sure that its parents have provided its needs, and there is no unnecessary intervention if the baby bird does not appear injured or sick.
Step 1: If the baby bird does not appear to be fed and becomes increasingly weak and lazy, the first step should be to find a licensed rehabilitator to provide, or guide you through, the appropriate care.
Step 2: If you have found a baby bird that needs to be fed but does not have contact with its parents or an animal rehabilitator, it is essential to know what a baby bird needs a portion of food similar to its natural diet. While each wild bird has its own diet, different types of food can serve as an emergency ration if necessary.
What to feed a baby bird
In nature, baby birds eat the same things that their parents eat: Worms, insects, and seeds. However, chicks can eat different types of food if they are taken care of by whoever found them. You could use puppy food soaked in water until it’s like a sponge. Moist dog or cat food can also be used in a jam when at room temperature. You can also use finely chopped fruits and vegetables (such as corn or peas) and even small insects.
It is equally essential to recognize that baby birds have very different nutritional needs than adult birds. What an adult bird eats can harm its young. As a baby bird grows, its diet can be adapted to more raw meat, giving them the protein that’s needed. As for water, a baby bird gets what it needs from the food it eats.
Food suitable for baby birds:
- Boiled eggs
- Moist dog food
- Wet cat food
- Raw liver (without seasoning)
What not to offer when feeding baby birds:
- Bread and bakery products
- Kitchen waste
Unlike mammals, birds do not drink milk and their digestive systems won’t tolerate milk. Unfortunately, it’s a common misconception that mixing together bread and milk makes for an ideal feed for baby birds. Milk can be toxic to birds, so avoid feeding it entirely.
When a baby bird is older, it can consume ”adult” bird foods without harming itself and the longer it can stay between strokes.Cathy Hargreaves/Shutterstock.com
DIY baby bird food
One easy recipe for feeding baby birds involves just two ingredients: pet food and water.
- Soaking dog biscuits or kibble in water will create a mushy consistency that’s easy to take and digest for young birds. This mimics the texture of the food given by mama birds in the wild and is also a high-protein option, which is extra important for nestlings.
- A classic biscuit treat like Milk-Bone is ideal for recipes like these. To forgo the mixing and mashing, a canned pet food like the Cesar brand is another great option. You still might want to stir in a tiny bit of water if your bird is particularly young, though.
How to feed a baby bird
Step 1: If you need to feed a wild baby bird, remember to offer foods that have a spongy consistency instead of dripping with water, which can suffocate or drown it. All dry food should be softened before offering it.
Step 2: Food should only be offered at room temperature, never heated or refrigerated.
Step 3: Keep food pieces small and proportional to the size of the bird — tiny birds need tiny bites. Cut or crush food properly to fit the size of the bird.
Step 4: When feeding the bird, be as careful as possible to minimize the risk of additional stress or injury. Never force a bird to eat its food.
Lastly, remember that feeding a baby bird should be only an emergency measure. If one is abandoned and needs care, it should be taken by a bird-rescue organization or an experienced rehabilitator as soon as possible. They can not only feed baby birds with a diet suitable for its type, but they also teach it to live independently, avoid predators, and master other skills to live in nature successfully.
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What to Feed a Baby Bird
How to provide the right nutrition when wildlife rescues aren't an option
Melissa Mayntz is a bird expert, certified Master Naturalist, writer, and author with over three decades of experience. She's published in several national magazines, including National Wildlife Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and WildBird Magazine. Melissa has studied hundreds of bird species around the world, traveling to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, the central Pacific, the Middle East, and more on birding expeditions.
Learn more about The Spruce's Editorial Process
Updated on 08/26/22
Reviewed by Kathleen Miller
Kathleen Miller is a highly-regarded Master Gardener and Horticulturist who shares her knowledge of sustainable living, organic gardening, farming, and landscape design. She founded Gaia's Farm and Gardens, a working sustainable permaculture farm, and writes for Gaia Grows, a local newspaper column. She has over 30 years of experience in gardening and sustainable farming.
Learn more about The Spruce's Review Board
Fact checked by
Fact checked by Sarah Scott
Sarah Scott is a fact-checker and researcher who has worked in the custom home building industry in sales, marketing, and design.
Learn more about The Spruce's Editorial Process
The Spruce / Catherine Song
Every backyard birder has seen the "starving baby" act by fledgling birds, when they flutter their wings and call piteously for attention from seemingly hard-hearted, indifferent parents. The desire to nurture those fluffy balls of feathers can be strong, but it is important to understand the special needs of a fledgling's diet and know what to feed a baby bird for the best nutrition.
Do I Need to Feed This Baby Bird?
Baby birds have very demanding dietary needs. Depending on their age and species, baby birds may eat off and on for 12 to 14 hours per day, consuming a diet rich in insects for sufficient protein to ensure healthy growth. No human other than a licensed bird rehabilitator has the proper equipment, food supplements, or endurance to keep up that frantic feeding schedule. If you find a baby bird that appears to need feeding, the best thing to do is not to feed it, but to get it to an appropriate bird rescue organization. In many cases, the begging birds are not abandoned and the parent birds are nearby and tending to their babies as needed, even if they aren't seen.
If you find a baby bird that seems to be unfed, watch the bird closely for a while to see if the parents return to feed it within the hour. Bear in mind that it may take just seconds for a parent bird to deliver a bite to its chick, and inattentive observers may miss several feeding cycles. As the chicks grow, feeding may also be less frequent, and one parent bird may be tending to several offspring in different locations, so parental visits may be uneven. If the baby is being fed, rest assured that the parent bird is able to keep up with its demands, and no intervention is necessary if the baby does not appear injured or ill in any other way.
If the baby bird is not being fed and appears to be growing weaker and more lethargic, the first step should be to find a licensed rehabilitator to provide it proper care. When contacting the rehabilitator, ask for their evaluation of the bird in question before attempting any emergency feeding. If it is recommended that you feed the baby bird, he or she might have specific suggestions in mind as an emergency measure, and those suggestions should be meticulously followed.
If Feeding Is Necessary
If you find a baby bird that needs to be fed but you are unable to contact a bird or wildlife rehabilitator, it is important to know what to feed a baby bird that will provide similar nutrition to its natural diet. While every wild bird has a different diet, several types of food can serve as emergency rations when necessary. At the same time, it is critical to understand that baby birds have very different nutritional needs than adult birds, and foods you would normally feed to your backyard birds are not appropriate for young fledglings.
Good Foods for Baby Birds
- Moist dog food
- Raw liver (no seasoning)
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Dog biscuits (moistened)
- Dog or cat kibble (moistened)
The Spruce / K. Dave
What Not to Feed Baby Birds
- Bread or bread products
- Whole birdseed
- Pet bird food
- Kitchen scraps
The more mature a baby bird is, the more "adult" food it can consume without harm, and the longer it can go between feedings.
The Spruce / K. Dave
Tips for Feeding Baby Wild Birds
If it is necessary for you to feed a baby bird, remember:
- Offer food that is spongy in texture, not dripping with water that could cause choking or drowning. All dry food should be softened before being offered to a baby bird.
- Food should be offered at room temperature only, never warmed or heated, and also never refrigerated or chilled.
- Keep bits of food small and in proportion to the bird's size; very small birds need very tiny bites. Cut or crush food appropriately to suit the bird's size.
- While feeding the bird, handle it as little as possible to minimize the risk of additional stress or injury. Never force the bird's bill open to eat.
Caring for Baby Birds
Remember that feeding a baby bird should be an emergency measure only. If a baby bird is abandoned and needs care, it should be taken to a bird rescue organization or experienced rehabilitator as soon as possible. Rehabilitators can not only feed it an appropriate diet for its species but can help it learn how to find its own food, evade predators, and learn other skills necessary for a successful life in the wild.
If there is no rescue organization or experienced rehab specialist available in your area, keep these tips in mind:
- Identify if the bird is a nestling (few or no feathers) or a fledgling (a feathered bird approaching adulthood). Nestlings will require much attention for a longer period than fledglings, which may be nearly ready for independence quite soon. An older fledgling can sometimes be fine if you simply place it high on a branch where its parents can find it. Nestlings, on the other hand, may require several weeks of attention (assuming a bird rehab organization is not available) to give them a chance for survival.
- Protect it from predators—including family pets. Normally, a simple cardboard box lined with a towel, placed high enough to be out of reach of pets, will suffice. If using a lidded container, make sure it is well-ventilated. Ordinary room temperature is normally fine, though a gentle heat lamp can be used if the room is very cold at night. But take care not to overheat the young bird—in most cases, no heat source is necessary.
- Give it a "nest" by using a small towel or cloth diaper formed into a concave shape and placed in the bottom of the box. This will help support the bird's body until it grows stronger.
- Small nestlings are best fed with moist, well-softened food from a syringe, offered very gently, in small drops. Even a kitchen baster may be too large to be useful. As a nestling grows older, you can offer it food by dangling it from tweezers in front of its beak.
- Never try to feed water directly to a baby bird. Nestlings will get their water needs met through moisture in food. A fledgling can be offered water in a shallow dish—if it's ready to consume water this way, it will drink on its own.
- When a fledgling bird has fully feathered out and is beginning to exercise its wings by flapping, it can be given time outdoors and encouraged to begin flying. Often, it is enough to simply set the bird's containment box outside in a safe location, open the lid and wait for nature to take its course.
But remember that raising a featherless nestling bird through the fledgling stage and into a mature adult bird is no easy matter. It's always better to leave this to professionals who are experienced in the practice.
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Picking up baby birds can do more harm than good. Oregon State University.
Advice from a veterinarian on preparing food for bird chicks
If you have just rescued a chick, it is important to contact a veterinarian or bird sanctuary as soon as possible so they can determine if it is injured and return it to the nest. If you cannot do this right away, or if there is no veterinarian or animal rescue near you, he will need to be fed. Chicks have a delicate digestive system and can only tolerate certain types of food. This guide will help you learn what to feed your chick, how to encourage him to eat, and how often to feed him. nine0003
Part one of 3: Preparing food for emergencies
one Don't give baby birds water. The bird's larynx is poorly protected, so the bird can drown if water is poured into its mouth.
- Birds get plenty of water from food sources suitable for their species, so there is no need to supplement their diet with water. This could be fatal.
2 Determine the type of bird. Before you feed a chick, you need to find out what kind of bird it is. Different types of birds eat different foods. For example, some birds only eat seeds, while others only eat insects and worms. Other birds, such as vultures, are meat eaters. If you feed a devourer with worm seeds, it will die. It is very important to identify the species before attempting emergency feeding.
- To determine your bird species, visit http://www.babybirdid.com/ for a gallery of images of common chicks. nine0016
- If you have a large social network on Facebook or Twitter, you can also try posting a photo of the chick and asking for help identifying it. Once you get the answer, be sure to do a Google image search to make sure the identification is correct.
- Once you have identified a bird, you need to search the Internet or a trusted reference book for information on the species' diet. For example, if you find a baby chickadee, searching the Internet for "what chickadees eat" or "chickadee's diet" will reveal that they mostly eat insects, but also like some seeds. nine0016
3 Feed songbirds properly. Songbirds are the most typical bird species you may encounter. Most songbird chicks feed on insects, but some, such as house finches, do not.
- For insectivores: crushed mealworms (available at pet stores) or insects such as flies, crickets, grasshoppers and moths.
- Insects can be added with chopped, boiled and cooled to room temperature hard boiled eggs. nine0016
4 Feed the seed eaters the right food. Seed eaters are usually smaller birds (sparrows, tits, pigeons, etc.).
- Feed seed connoisseurs high-protein dry baby cereal mixed with water (eg Gerber baby oatmeal), wheat germ, corn, or blender-blended oatmeal.
5 Feed meat eaters the right food. nine0013 Meat-eating birds are usually the largest birds of prey like falcons and so on. They will need to be fed even more often than small birds and are more dangerous to handle, but they are also the ones you will encounter the least.
- Feed them high-protein dry kitten food or dog food soaked in water to make it soft, or canned mashed meats made for babies, such as chicken or beef.
- You can also feed them boiled chicken or live insects such as flies and mealworms. nine0016
6 Otherwise the food will spoil and injure or even kill the chick. Remember that chick care requires a lot of work and energy and you will be mixing many feeds.
- Mix the amount of bird food needed for one feeding - usually just a few teaspoons for a small bird.
- Remember that most chicks eat food digested and regurgitated by their parents, so keep the consistency moist but not runny. nine0016
Part 2 of 3: How to decide if a chick needs help
one Depending on the stage of development, the chick may need your help or may be practicing important life skills and your "help" will actually interfere with this natural process. A chick is a newborn pink bird that has not yet grown flight feathers, while a chick is more like a baby: the chicks grow back some of their adult feathers and begin to practice the skills needed to survive into adulthood, including foraging. for food and flights over short distances. nine0014
- If you see a chick on the ground, it has probably fallen or been kicked out of the nest by its parents. You will need to return it to the nest.
- On the other hand, the chick may have landed and is probably practicing important skills such as insect hunting. You should not attempt to rescue the chicks immediately, but instead observe from afar (in your home if possible) to see if the parents are nearby. In some cases, the chicks will practice life on the ground by jumping for days or even weeks! Keep children and pets out - so be it. nine0016
2 Return the chick to the nest. When you find a chick on the ground, look for trees or bushes right where it was found. Most likely, he fell or flew out of his nest. If you find a nest, look inside for other chicks of the same type to make sure you find a suitable nest.
- You may be worried that a mother bird will not take care of her baby if people have touched it, but this is actually a myth. Most birds have a poor sense of smell, so they don't pay much attention to your scent. nine0016
- Wear gloves and use a kitchen towel or baby blanket to gently handle the chick. This protects the bird from your germs, and also protects you from beaks and scratches, as well as ticks that live on wild birds.
3 Make a makeshift nest if it has fallen apart. If the nest has fallen out of a tree and is nearby on the ground, you should collect as much of it as possible and place it in a plastic container that is about the same size as the original nest. If nest material is not available or very little, crushed paper towels can be added. You will need to secure this new nest to the tree. nine0014
- Drill a couple of drainage holes in the bottom of the container, then nail the plastic container to a nearby tree. Very carefully place the chick into the new makeshift nest (using gloves, a small blanket or towel to lift the bird up).
4 Wait at least a day. Birds come and go from their nests, and the parents may have seen you fussing with their young and stayed away for fear that you would return. If you don't see the parent bird right away, it doesn't mean the parent bird won't come back. nine0014
- If the parents haven't seen him after a day, he may have been abandoned and you will need to hand him over to the appropriate authorities to take care of him.
5 Call a licensed wildlife rehabilitation professional immediately. Chicks require a very specific diet depending on their species, and most chicks that die have been taken in by well-meaning people who try to feed them, but instead effectively poison them by giving them the wrong diet. It is also illegal in the United States to attempt to breed a wild animal without a license. It is very important to contact someone who is trained to handle the chick. nine0014
- If there is no rehabilitator nearby (or they are closed, for example on weekends) and the parent birds have completely abandoned the chick, this is the only time you should try to feed and care for the chick. Think about this: if you get the species or dietary requirements of a bird wrong, you can kill it. Only risk feeding him if he definitely dies without your intervention. Remember that birds can go 24 hours without food, so do not feed them if absolutely is needed. Advertisement
Part 3 of 3: Bird Care
one Place the bird in a temporary home. You can use a shoe box stuffed with paper towels, or if you have tried a plastic nest, you can use it for temporary living by putting the entire nest in the box. Make sure the sides of the box are high enough so the bird can't jump out (they can jump higher than you think, so reevaluate to be safe!). nine0014
- Store the carton in a warm house, away from direct sunlight and in a quiet place away from noisy children and pets.
2 Keep the bird warm. The most important thing you can do when caring for a chick is keep it warm. As stated, a chick can go 24 hours without food, but is in desperate need of warmth, especially if it has been injured or injured.
- One way to keep the bird warm is to place a heating pad low at the end of the box. Never place a bird directly on a heating pad as this can overheat it. Instead, wrap the heating pad in a shirt or cloth and hold it under the bird. nine0016
- You can also use a hot water bottle wrapped in cloth and placed in the bird crate, but make sure the bottle does not leak as this will wet the bird and cause it to become cold.
3 Feed the bird constantly. Chicks need to be fed at roughly 30 minute intervals from dawn to dusk, and some require even more feedings, up to every ten minutes! You must put food in the bird's mouth; he won't eat it if it's just in a temporary nest. nine0014
- Do not open the bird's mouth. If he is hungry, he will open his mouth for you.
- Try to have only one person to care for and feed the bird, as this will limit its contact with people and help to feel safe.
4 Get out after the bird. After the bird has been collected by a rehabilitator or you have returned it to the wild, you need to disinfect the place where it was left (or better yet, throw away the whole box). nine0014
- Wild birds have mites that can infect your home, and bird droppings can spread disease.
- Also remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling birds. Advertisement
Search Add New Question
- Q: What can I give my baby bird to eat? Pippa Elliott, MRCVS
Veterinarian Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and the practice of pets. At 19She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at a veterinary clinic in her hometown for over 20 years. Pippa Elliott, MRCVS Veterinary Expert Response If possible, if the bird is indeed abandoned, take it to a wildlife rehabilitation specialist. If this is not possible and the bird is hungry, offer small pieces of wet dog food or a grated hard-boiled egg.
- Q: Why do we have to feed the birds every 30 minutes? In the wild, mother birds constantly feed their chicks, moving in and out of the nest up to a thousand times a day. Birds, especially babies, have a very high metabolism and need a lot of food to survive and maintain body heat. nine0016
- Question: My daughter found a chick on the tennis court, and next to it, another dead one and only bones. His eyes are not open. It has black down feathers with short spots. What do we feed him? We have it in a box with a heating pad, a T-shirt over the heating pad. It is most likely a European starling. Grind oatmeal or grits to a paste and feed the bird with a syringe every half hour. Good luck!
- Question: I found a baby sparrow that had fallen out of its nest. His eyes are not open and he is trembling. If a bird has feathers, it is a chick pushed out of its nest by its mother in an attempt to teach it to fly. Put on gloves before handling the bird. Warm the bird immediately and find its nest. If it has no or very few feathers and is pink, it is a baby. Try to return it to the nest and warm it up quickly. If you can't find its nest, talk to a licensed rehabilitator. nine0016
- Question: What to feed a red-winged blackbird chick? For the redbird, combine baby food, kitten food, and some organic applesauce. Be sure to heat the food first, but make sure it's not too hot, as it can scorch the bird's crop if it's hot.
- Question: What to feed the Blue Jays babies? Blue jays eat insects, small nuts, and seeds from trees and shrubs.
- Q: How can I take care of the little sparrow I saved? Mix dry baby food with a little water, being careful not to get it wet, and feed the bird with a sharp syringe. If it's late and you don't have dry baby food, you can use oatmeal. Simply grind it up, mix it with water, and feed your bird every half an hour from dawn to dusk. It will grow up in no time. nine0016
- Question: What to feed a blue robin, which is only 2 days old? Crushed oatmeal/seeds along with scrambled eggs and occasional mealworms as they mature.
- Question: What should I do if I know where the nestlings are, but the brothers and sisters are trying to harm the younger brother or sister? Take him for a while under supervision, and then, when he grows up, put him back in the nest.
- Question Can birds eat wheat? Yes, they can. However, it is easier to grind up oatmeal and give it to her. nine0016
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How to feed the found chick, how many times a day
If you find a chick, the first thing you need to do is determine its species. Feeding granivorous, insectivorous and predatory chicks have their own differences. But in the early stages of feeding, you can use the same feeding methods, and then, after finding out what kind of bird you found, transfer the chick to the appropriate feeding. nine0003
Here is one of the most common feeding options for granivorous and insectivorous chicks. This nutrient mixture is well used for feeding for chicks and fledglings from the passerine family. To prepare our mixture, we need the following products: Boiled egg, low-fat cottage cheese, raw carrots, meat (beef, chicken, turkey), greens (lettuce, dandelion leaves, wood lice), hamarus and daphnia, Calcium gluconate (shell from boiled eggs) glycerophosphate , children's dry dairy-free porridge or boiled millet (without salt and fat on the water). nine0003
Action one. Boil the egg, free from the shell. We free the shell from the shell film. Grind the egg as much as possible, you can use a grater with small holes.
Second step. Boiled meat, it is better to take the pulp from the breast of a turkey or chicken and also chop or divide into fibers. The mixture will require meat 40 (for granivorous) and 60 grams (for insectivorous).
Third step. Take washed carrots of a small size, grate them on a fine grater, then squeeze the juice and we will use the remaining pulp. nine0003
Fourth step. We take not sour and not fatty cottage cheese. Cottage cheese should have 0% fat content, anything above is considered fat for poultry. We need 90-110 grams of cottage cheese. Sour cottage cheese must be boiled twice changing the water and then it will be suitable.
Step five. You can use greens to add the mixture, but you can do without it for the chicks. And so you can take the greens listed above, chop and add 1.5 teaspoons to the mixture.
Action six. To the above ingredients, add 1.5 -2 tsp. dairy-free porridge or boiled millet (well boiled, without salt and fat in the water). nine0003
Step seven. To the mixture we add the shell from the boiled egg, which must first be ground in a coffee grinder, plus one fourth of the crushed tablet of glycerophosphate. If it is not possible to find glycerophosphate, then you can purchase bone meal and add one fourth tsp. in powder form. At the very least, the shells are enough for now.
Step eight. We take chopped hamarus and daphnia and add about 1 tsp to the resulting mixture. Then we mix everything, it turns out a very thick, crumbly porridge, it should not stick to the fingers. If the mixture is sticky, you can add dairy-free porridge or powdered cereals. nine0003
From the resulting mixture we roll small balls no larger than a small pea, focus on the size of the chick's beak. You can feed 2-5 balls at a time and after each feeding drink plain water from an insulin syringe with a removable needle (without a needle) 4-6 drops. A week-old chick should be fed every 1-1.5 hours, older than two weeks of age every 2-4 hours, at three and four weeks of age you can feed 3-4 times a day. Do not forget that the chick is growing and, accordingly, one-time portions of food are growing. A very important point, do not forget to warm the chicks, because at their age they themselves cannot maintain normal body temperature. Warming up promotes better assimilation of feed. Don't forget to control your chick's weight. If possible, show the chick to a specialist. To control the work of the intestines, you can take the litter from the chick for a coprogram, this is an analysis of the digestibility of the feed.