What do you feed orphaned baby birds

What to Feed a Baby Bird

How to provide the right nutrition when wildlife rescues aren't an option


Melissa Mayntz

Melissa Mayntz

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

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

Sarah Scott

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

  • Water
  • Bread or bread products
  • Whole birdseed
  • Milk
  • Pet bird food
  • Worms
  • 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.

Article Sources

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.

  1. Picking up baby birds can do more harm than good. Oregon State University.

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




15 minutes

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:

  • Water
  • Milk
  • 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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Mom for haircuts. How to help orphaned chicks to survive and take a wing? | SOCIETY

Marina Kutsina

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes


Weekly "Arguments and Facts" No. 34. AIF-Samara No. 34 25/08/2021

From personal archive

This year there is a real shear fall in the city. Because of the hot weather, the chicks of these amazing birds jump out of their nests. Often, adult swifts also get injured. How to help them?

A resident of Samara Alena Medvedeva shared her experience.

One chick eats from 70 to 120 medium-sized crickets per day. The baby needs to be patronized for 45 days until the chick fledges and flies. Photo: From the personal archive

How to hatch chicks?

Swifts fly quite high, so they often hit the windows of skyscrapers. Swifts also make nests mainly under the roofs of houses. But the summer is hot this year, and the chicks, escaping from the heat that comes from the hot roof, jump out of the nests.

Alena Medvedeva says she always gets sheared chicks: only one chick comes out, and on the same day she finds another. Over the summer, the girl fed and raised about a dozen haircuts. I learned from my own experience and mistakes, along the way I collected information on the Internet. Alena says that swifts need certain food and care. If the bird is injured, then professional advice and assistance from an ornithologist is required.

“You need to feed the chick every two hours. This takes approximately 10-15 minutes. In fact, you imitate feeding with a beak, only instead of it you have tweezers in your hands. Not everyone can afford such a pet. You need free time and a lot of patience. Be sure to feed only crickets, as well as Turkmen or marble cockroaches. You can flies, grasshoppers and dragonflies, but it is impossible to catch them in sufficient quantities. One chick eats from 70 to 120 medium-sized crickets per day. The baby needs to be patronized for a month and a half, until the chick fledges and takes to the wing. It’s easier with a teenage chick - I fed it for two weeks and can be sent flying, ”says the girl.

Alena Medvedeva notes that she has encountered some difficulties. The fact is that in Samara it is a whole problem to get food for swifts. It is difficult to find even in the Bird Market.

“In the group in the Swifts of Samara VC, wholesale purchases of food for chicks are carried out, but even this does not save. There are only three suppliers in Russia, and even then they constantly run out of feed. And where to get it when a haircut looks at you with its black eyes and asks for food? - says Alena. - I came to grow food for the chicks on my own. I now have a container of marble cockroaches and a similar container of crickets, which I am growing to medium size. Tell me a year ago what I would do - I would never have believed it!

There is a subtlety: it is better to feed the chicks with frozen insects, rather than live ones, in order to exclude infections. To do this, the chilled food is placed in warm water for 15-20 seconds and dried with a napkin. Swifts have their own taste preferences, some adore crickets, but are indifferent to cockroaches, or vice versa.

“Chicks, like people, are all different, with their own character and habits. The first haircut was constantly squeaking, there are silent people, there are chicks with very melodic voices, ”the girl shares.

By the way, a shallow plastic basin is best for keeping the chicks. This is due to the fact that older babies begin to train wings and can get hurt on the ribs of the box.

Photo: From the personal archive

We release the fledgling

As Alena Medvedeva admits, the most touching, emotional and crucial moment is to release the chick into the wild. This is best done in a stadium or any other open space without tall trees or buildings.

But first, check the readiness of the pet. First, pay attention to the quality of the pen. “The chick has no plumage, only tubes, when the scales dry out and fall off, the feather opens. Before you send a chick to adulthood, carefully review its plumage, especially in the wings and on the tail - because this is their steering wheel. You can check this if you carefully and very carefully push the feathers to the base. The length of the wings is also important, they should go beyond the length of the tail by at least 2-3 cm, ”explains Alena.

Secondly, a balanced weight is important for a flyer. While the chick is growing, it can gain up to 50 grams. But a few weeks before the start, the chicks begin to gradually eat less. Therefore, before the flight, its ideal weight is from 40 to 42 grams.

Swifts are more adapted to flight than other birds. On the fly, they feed, drink water, bathe, and possibly also sleep. Swifts build nests in hollows of trees, burrows, deep in caves, on rocks or under the roofs of houses, in the crevices of buildings. To reach the nest, some species of swifts use echolocation, others fly through the water column in a waterfall.

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How to feed a parrot | My pets

one Adoptive parents for a parrot

2 Artificial feeding of a parrot

Defenseless parrot chicks need your care

Those who breed parrots at home (read more about this here) sometimes face such a problem as the death of the mother of the chicks, or her refusal to feed her offspring. Why the latter happens, and the female parrot refuses to feed the chicks, is definitely quite difficult to answer. Perhaps she feels that the chicks are not viable, her maternal instincts did not wake up in her, or maybe you were too curious and rushed to take the parrot chick in your arms as soon as he was born ... Anyway, you have several or one feathered a baby who was left without a mother and who, if you do not try to save and feed him, will die without your help.

Today, in our publication, we will tell you how to feed a parrot chick from an early age and consider several possible solutions to this situation ...

Foster parents for a parrot

who are simply orphaned, you can try to put them in a nest with birds of the same species as them, which have their own chicks, which are the same age as your orphans. This is suitable for those who breed parrots and keep a single pair of birds. In case you no longer have a pair of caring parrot parents, you can put them with birds of a different species (although it is worth knowing that in this case the chances of success are reduced).

Japanese finches may be the best option for a “foster family” for orphaned chicks. There are also cases when necklace parrots took care of feeding nymphs and rosellas, and rosy-cheeked lovebirds raised nestlings of other species you won't have a problem. However, this does not always happen.

If you notice an aggressive attitude towards small parrots from their foster family, named brothers or sisters, it is better to take your parrots out of the cage, as aggression can result in bloodshed and the birds will simply peck the stranger. Parrot feeding did not die, you will have to feed them yourself, artificially. To say that the task is easy - we will not say, the success of this venture will depend on the will to live of the parrot, as well as on your diligence in terms of implementing our recommendations.

Parrot heating from the first days of life

First of all, you should know that if the parrot has not yet fledged, then it is more difficult to care for it than for already fledged chicks. These parrots need frequent feeding and additional heating. To heat the chicks, you can use the simplest version of the thermostat. To do this, put a vessel in a small box with a hinged lid - it can be a bottle with a wide neck, a cast iron or an earthenware container, with a volume of 3 to 5 liters. You will need to fill this container with hot water and lower an electric heater into it - you can use an ordinary boiler. After that, the vessel will need to be isolated with several layers of fabric or with dry grass, and the chick should be placed on top of this litter. In order for the water to cool more slowly on the lid of the box itself, you need to put a pillow that is stuffed with sawdust or hay. In order for air to circulate, it is necessary to make a number of small holes directly opposite the nest bed, the diameter of which will be 8-10 millimeters.

It is worth constantly monitoring the water temperature so that the chicks do not overheat and become cold. Since sharp temperature fluctuations and drops can cause their death.

As the parrot grows older, the temperature can be reduced. Below we give temperature regimes for a budgerigar chick, depending on its age. You will have to create such conditions in the "nest".

  • For parrots from the 1st to the 7th day the temperature should be 35-40 degrees above zero.
  • For parrots from 8 to 14 days old - from 30 to 35 degrees above zero.
  • For parrots aged 15 to 20 days - the temperature should be 20-25 degrees above zero.
  • From the 21st day of life, parrot chicks no longer need additional heating ...

Without heating, even with the best nutrition, the chicks will simply die.

Parrot feeding from the first days of life

It is noteworthy that the feeding of fledgling and fledgling is significantly different. So, fledgling chicks, until the 21st day of life, when they are hungry, they themselves give a voice and they should be fed on demand. But already fledged parrots give you even more trouble in terms of feeding. The fact is that even when they are hungry, they still do not let you know about it and do not open their mouths. Feeding them should be carried out according to the regimen, by the hour, and you should be prepared for the fact that the parrot will have to be force-fed.

It is worth feeding the chicks with millet porridge or semi-liquid semolina porridge, you can add a little soft-boiled chicken yolk and 1 drop of fish oil to such porridge, based on 1 teaspoon of porridge. As a rule, feeding is first carried out with a syringe, and then carried out with a spoon - at first the chicks do not understand what is required of them, but over time they get used to both the syringe and the spoon and even begin to instinctively open their mouths.

Once the chicks have started to sit on your finger, you can start switching them to grain feed. To do this, you can boil a thicker porridge, and when the parrots begin to fly around the cage, you can offer them a choice of both semi-liquid porridge and thick.

After the young parrot has acquired the ability to fly and eats on its own, you can switch it from artificial feeding to natural feeding. Learn more about what parrots eat.

Parrot Water

Parrot Nutrition Pyramid

While the chicks are at a young age and eat liquid porridge, water should only be given to them on hot days. But, when the parrot grows up and switches to independent nutrition, it should always have fresh and clean water in the cage in the drinking bowl.

Vitamins for parrots

In order for a parrot to develop normally, it needs vitamins and mineral complexes. So, for example, mineral feed will ensure that the bird's skeleton develops correctly and the parrot develops fully.

You can add finely grated eggshells or crushed chalk to the parrot's main food, and drip a few drops of natural freshly squeezed juices into such porridge.

At the same time, pay attention to the fact that mineral feed should be given to a parrot no more than 2-3 times a week, on the tip of a knife - this amount of supplement should be thoroughly mixed with bird food. More often, you should not add mineral top dressing. Since, An excess of minerals and vitamins, as well as their lack, can lead to irreversible consequences, disrupt the processes of growth and development, and the parrot can start to get sick and even die. Find out more about parrot diseases here.

Video about parrot chicks and their feeding

Today we talked about how to feed a parrot - a chick that was left without parents or abandoned by its family. We hope that by following our advice and recommendations, you can save the life of a small bird. By the way, birds that are artificially fed by humans are more tame, easier to train and start talking faster than those that grew up in the nest, in the company of their parents and other chicks ... your chicks? What was the reason for her behavior? Have you ever fed parrots from an early age? Share your experience with us.

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