What to feed a stranded baby bird

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

What to feed a baby bird: A vet's guide to caring for a fledgling

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’ve found a young fledgling, it's likely that your immediate reaction is to wonder what to feed a baby bird, followed by if and how you can care for the chick vs returning them back to its parents. 

These are surprisingly common queries that many vets hear; baby birds are regular ‘wildlife rescues’ and knowing what to do if you’ve found a nestling, a fledgling, or an injured baby bird is important. Afterall, you can't reach for the nearest premium bird feeder and satisfy their hunger the usual way!

This article will outline what you need to know about rescuing a baby bird, including answering questions around what do baby birds eat, whether you should attempt to care for a bird yourself and how to take care of an abandoned bird if the need arises.

  • Amazon: Save on bird food including up to 45% off Kaytee

What to do with a baby bird 

If you’ve found a baby bird on the floor, or one has been brought in by your cat, the first thing to do is get it to a safe place. Gently pick it up – you can use a tea towel if you’d rather not touch it – and put it into a box. Any sort of box with a lid that’s large enough will work – you don’t need to make it perfect, just get it contained and in the dark whilst you work out what to do next. Try to have a peek at it as you lift it. Is it injured? Is there any blood? 

Now, you need to decide if you’ve rescued a nestling or a fledgling. By far the most common rescues are fledglings. These young birds are just learning to fly, so they spend a lot of time on the ground. This means you’re more likely to spot them, and they’re more at risk of being caught by the cat!

Fledglings have most or all of their feathers, but might not look as neat as an adult bird. If the baby bird is a fledgling, you can leave him where you found him if it’s safe, or place the box, open and on its side, under a bush, or hanging from a branch so he can hide until he’s ready to try flying again. His parents will be nearby, waiting to feed him. Keep pets inside if possible to give him a fair chance!

A nestling, on the other hand, will have no feathers. He’ll likely have fallen out of his nest, and you may find more than one baby bird, or even a whole nest on the ground. Have a look for the nest – if you can see it, pop him back in there and leave him – his parents will carry on feeding him. If the nest is on the ground, prop it up high or – even better – wire it into the bush or tree it fell from so that it’s safe from predators. If you can’t see it, or it’s damaged, try using a plant pot with some nest material, and wire it to a bush.

If you can’t return the baby bird to his parents, or you’ve tried but have seen no sign of them after continuous watching of two or more hours, you may have to consider hand-rearing the bird. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Should I look after this baby bird? 

Hopefully you’ve tried to return the bird to his parents – hand rearing is hard work, and nowhere near as rewarding as they make it sound in books. Feeding needs to happen frequently – as often as every 20 minutes – during daylight hours, so this is a big responsibility. Most people don’t have the equipment and experience necessary, so taking in a bird should be a last resort.

Hand reared birds struggle to survive in the wild and are unlikely to ever live a normal life unless they’ve been reared by a professional. It’s also extremely common for baby birds to die from stress, incorrect diet, or undiagnosed injury or illness – so be prepared. Lastly, you’ll need to check your local law. In some areas, it’s illegal to keep wildlife captive unless you have a license, or it may be illegal to release the bird again once you’ve brought it into the house.

If you’re sure the bird has been abandoned, the best option is to see if there’s a nearby wildlife rescue or shelter that will take the bird, as this will give the bird the best chance of being safely released. If this isn’t possible, see if they can tell you what species of bird it is and give you any advice or equipment.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How do you take care of an abandoned baby bird? 

If you can’t find anybody else to take the bird and you really want to give it a shot, it’s time to find out how to take care of an abandoned baby bird. Here’s all you need to know: 

Housing an abandoned baby bird 

You’ll need to find somewhere suitable for the baby bird to live until it’s old enough to be released. For a fledgling, this is easy – they’re already out of the nest so you just need to provide a safe space in the garden that they can escape when they’re ready.

For a nestling, you’ll need a box lined with something non-slip easy to clean – birds are messy! Don’t forget that the box should be pet-proof! They’ll also need a ‘nest’, as this supports their weight and allows normal development of their bones. Place the box in a quiet place. It’s best not to use a heat lamp unless it’s very cold, as a nestling will be unable to move away if they’re too hot.

What do baby birds eat? How to feed a baby bird that fell out of its nest

If your bird is a nestling, you’ll need to feed from a syringe or pipette. These birds would be being fed regurgitated food from mum and dad, so they’ll need a soft food. A common option is a mix of cat/dog food, hardboiled eggs, and crushed mealworms, but your wildlife rehabber will be able to give you a more exact recipe designed for the age and species of the bird. You’ll need to find out how to make the baby bird food, how long it can stay in the fridge for, and how often to feed the baby bird.

If you’re wondering what to feed a fledgling baby bird, don’t worry – this is much easier! Fledglings will still be being fed by their parents, but they’re picking up many of the skills they need to feed themselves. First, try offering a bird food mix of seeds and mealworms, and see if the bird helps himself. If he does, great! If not, you’ll need to find out what sort of bird he is, and feed him his preferred food – often softened mealworms – from a pair of tweezers until he’s a little older. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Can you give baby birds water? 

It’s very important that birds don’t get dehydrated, but it’s difficult to safely give water to a baby bird. Nestlings should not be given water – they won’t know what to do with it and might drown in it. Both nestlings and fledglings that are not yet feeding themselves will get their water from their diet – so they’ll need access to moist foods. Fledglings that can feed themselves can be given a shallow dish of water until they recover from their shock and fly away.  


Knowing what to do with a baby bird that’s been abandoned is tough. Whilst our instinct is to rescue and look after them, it’s generally not in the bird’s best interests – they’re better off outside and rarely do well when hand reared. 

If you do end up feeding a baby bird, take as much advice as possible from an experienced bird rehabilitation centre to maximise the chances of a successful release. 

After graduating as a veterinarian from the University of Nottingham, Dr Joanna Woodnutt went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands. She quickly developed a love of consulting and helping clients with medical problems such as dermatology, behaviour and nutrition - anything that involved helping clients understand their pets better. Jo started writing about pet health in 2017, realising that it meant she could help even more pet parents. Since then, she has written for countless online and print publications and is a regular contributor for Edition Dog Magazine. Jo now lives in the Channel Islands with her husband Ian and terrier Pixie, and they are expecting their first child very soon.

Question: How to feed a chick? - Miscellaneous

Contents of the article:

How to prepare formula for chicks from day one. What to feed the chicks. What do chicks eat? How can he open his mouth? How to feed the swift?

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Video taken from channel: Skull

The chick fell out of the nest and miraculously survived. This is who he turned into after 36 days!

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Saving the robin chick.

How to feed a chick? Feeding the chicks. Robin. Robin.

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Video taken from the channel: Hedgehog Fufik TV

WHAT TO FEED THE CHICKEN OF THE SPARROW and other trifles. Do you need to save fledglings.

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Video taken from the channel: Pernatik’s life

Sparrow chick / Bird rescue / What to feed the sparrow chick?

Show Description

#sparrow #chick #what to do?
Let's try to feed the baby and let him go to the flock. Stay with us and watch the baby grow up..
What would you do?
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HOW AND WHAT TO FEED THE CHICKING SPARROW and chicks of other small birds.

Part 2. When to feed, water, warm.

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How to feed a chick. Chicks that have fallen out of the nest are quite a common occurrence in spring. Their unfortunate squeak awakens the maternal instinct even in the most callous hearts.

It is natural that you want to pick up a chick and. How to feed wild chicks. Most people forget that the chicks they find are wild animals. It is best for a wild bird to stay in its natural habitat, especially if it is in your area.

How to feed a sparrow chick? How to feed a chick? What can you give a sparrow chick?

How to save the chicks if the nest is destroyed? Is it possible to release a reared chick into the wild? What should not be given to a chick?

How to feed a pigeon chick Pigeons are considered caring parents who diligently feed and care for their cubs. How to properly feed chicks. If you find a nest full of small and yellow-mouthed babies, and you are sure that their parents will not fly again, and you really want to help poor orphans, you can try to feed them. How to prepare a mixture for parrot chicks from the first day and the next day. What to feed cockatiel chicks and.

Only by knowing how to feed chicks at home, you can go out and feed both a newborn and a fledgling. They eat the same as in nature. During outdoor recreation, helpless chicks are often found. Naturally, there is a desire to save the life of a baby, but not everyone knows how to save a chick that has fallen out of the nest. What to feed the chicks depends on the type of birds to which they belong.

It is possible to feed a swallow chick at home. If a chick has come to you, and his wings and plumage are in order, then your mission is only to feed him until the moment when he becomes ready to fly. How to feed a pigeon chick at home? Female and male pigeons have a good parental instinct, so when breeding chicks, human participation is usually not required.

How to feed a tit chick? It is best, of course, that the diet of the bird is the food that it would eat in wildlife. The best option is insects.

How to feed a chick that has fallen out of the nest

Tying materials (7)


Happiness fell on your head?


How not to harm?


How to create all conditions for survival?


Where to settle?


What difficulties will you face?


How to feed a chick?


Chick formula formula

Happiness fell on your head?

Have you suddenly found a chick that has fallen out of the nest in the dacha, near the house or even on the balcony? Is there anything you can do to help this kid? Or is he already doomed? Help the chick, most often you can. And we will tell you how to do it.

How not to harm?

When you find a chick that has fallen out of the nest, do not rush to grab it in your hands. Perhaps there is a chance to return the baby to the nest. But if you take it with "bare" hands, your parents will not accept it back.

Pay attention to how the chick looks. If he is active, mobile and he already has feathers, then most likely you have the so-called “fledgling”. And if you find a fledgling in the park, in the garden, in the country - where he can hide and predators will not find him, then just do not touch. Parents continue to feed the fledglings! He will not be abandoned, he will simply hide, and he will be fed in the same way as the chicks left in the nest. The chick's parents have a much better chance of saving the chick than you.

If you see a nest from which the baby has fallen out, you can carefully take the chick with a handkerchief and put it back into the nest.

If you didn't find the nest, the chick is very small and leaving it where it is found is very dangerous, you will have to take it with you. For such cases - our following instructions.

How to create all conditions for survival?

There are two main factors that determine whether your chick will survive or not. The first factor is age. Chicks under the age of 4 - 5 days, having fallen out of the nest, almost never survive. Do you know how old the chick is? If the baby is still “naked”, without plumage, then he is definitely not yet 8-12 days old. It is very simple to calculate: if at the time of falling out of the nest the chick was 5 days old, then by the 8th day it should already have feathers. It is at the age of 8 - 12 days that the chicks are called "fledglings" - during this period they are very active and often fall out.

The second circumstance is metabolism. Chicks have an incredibly active metabolism. Left without food during daylight hours for 3-4 hours, they literally burn their internal resources. That is, if the baby was on the ground without food before you found him for more than 3 hours, his metabolism is probably already disturbed. You can start feeding him and he will look like everything is fine. But the metabolic disorder will not “pass away”, irreversible processes are already underway inside the small organism, and within 3 days (maximum) the chick will die quite suddenly.

The main conclusion is that the critical period is 3 days. If within 3 days the chick suddenly dies - it's not your fault, and you really could not do anything. It's all about age and metabolism. If the baby has lived with you for more than 3 days, then everything depends only on your efforts. This is especially important if the bird was picked up by children. Explain to them right away that during the first 3 days you should not give the chick a name and place high hopes on its survival.

Where to settle?

Place the chick in a box lined with a soft, lint-free cloth or dry grass. Do not keep the box in the open sun or in a draft. Keeping a box on the floor is a bad idea. If it's cold outside, place a plastic bottle of warm water under the fabric.

What difficulties will you face?

Deciding to take a chick and feed it, you take responsibility for its life and a huge number of worries. Firstly, the chick squeaks almost all the time during daylight hours. Secondly, the chick needs to be fed every 20 minutes. And don't just give him food. And feed enough. When the chick is full, he stops opening his mouth. When hungry, it stretches its neck and opens its huge mouth.

As soon as the chick has eaten, it begins to move backwards. The reflex makes him go all the way to the edge of the nest to stick his butt out and poop. Usually, adult birds pick up the "capsule" and carry it away from the nest. If the nest is soiled with droppings, predators will quickly find it by smell.

By the way, by the litter you can tell if you feed the chick too often. If too often, a protein film - a shell - does not have time to form on the litter. If the litter spreads, and does not resemble a capsule, it is time to feed the bird less often.

How to feed a chick?

Birds feed their young mainly on insects. So, if you have somewhere in the far corner of the kitchen cabinet a bag of cereals in which moths are wound up, the chick is lucky. For the first time, you are provided with worms. Meal worms, ant cocoons, fly larvae are also suitable.

Older chicks can be given boiled egg yolk, cottage cheese and carrots. The yolk should be grated on a fine grater, the cottage cheese should be washed in a sieve under running water, the carrots should be grated on a fine grater. Don't forget about vitamins and minerals. Remember: only insects can feed a chick. Only "regular" products without additives - no.

Food can be given with tweezers. Touch his head, wait for the chick to open its mouth, give it food. The younger the chick, the easier it is to develop a reflex for begging for food. At an older age, he will begin to hide from you with tweezers, and then generally run away. This is fine. Fledgling you will most likely have to force-feed the first few times.

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