What to do if you find an injured bird?


I am particularly interested in garden wildlife which is why I did my Master's degree with a focus on "animal ecology". I am convinced that beneficial insects and wildlife are a sustainable and effective alternative to many of the products we use on our plants. I am also a passionate birdwatcher and rarely go for a walk without my binoculars.

Favourite fruit: kiwi, apple and redcurrant
Favourite vegetables: tomatoes and green beans

If you find an injured bird, it is important to know how best to help the bird. In our article, we tell you when to leave him alone, take care of him or get professional help.

An injured bird held in hands
Sometimes birds depend on human help [Photo: Gregory Johnston/ Shutterstock.com]

Anyone who finds an injured bird should always remain calm and proceed with caution, because the care of injured wild birds is not an easy undertaking and in most cases is a matter for experts. Some birds also just give the appearance of needing human help and are often better off left to their own devices. In this article, we explain how you can recognise a bird that really needs your help and how you should best act in such a case.

Injured bird: recognize and assess condition

If you find a bird on the ground that does not appear to move and does not take flight even when approached further, this is usually a sign of injury. In such a case, you should first closely observe the affected bird from a safe distance.

If the animal appears merely apathetic and has no external injuries, it is often a collision victim that has flown into a pane of glass, for example. The bird is then probably dazed and must recover from the shock of the impact. Therefore, if the animal is not in immediate danger at the site where it was found – from cats or other predators – it is best to leave it alone and observe whether the bird recovers on its own and flies away. However, if you find a bird with external injuries, broken wings or legs, or an obvious medical condition, for example, breathing problems or severe plumage damage, please do not hesitate to act and actively help the animal.

Tip: Bird strike is a common cause of injury and even death to birds. But there are ways to help prevent bird strikes. In our dedicated article you can also find out how to protect birds from cats.

An injured pigeon by a wall
Dislocated legs or wings indicate a more serious injury [Photo: Npvancheng/ Shutterstock.com]

Note: If you find sick or dead birds that appear to be affected by an infectious disease, report them to the district veterinary office or the RSPCA. In addition, if you have found the affected birds in your own garden, clean all feeding and watering areas thoroughly and stop feeding if necessary to prevent the spread of bird disease.

How to help an injured bird?

Try to capture the bird without harming it. Gently but firmly grasp it around the midsection of its body to prevent it from flapping its wings wildly and injuring itself even more. If the animal is very frantic, you can also throw a jacket or blanket over it to catch it that way. It is best to wear gloves in this case to protect yourself against the animal’s sharp beak and claws. Then place the bird in a cardboard box with air holes, pad it with a towel if necessary, and put it in a quiet, dark place until you have made further decisions about the animal’s care.

The same is true for collision victims that are in immediate danger, as the shocked animals are often initially unable to flee, making them easy prey for predators. Place the bird in a dark, air-permeable cardboard box or put one over the bird at the place where it was found. The animals can calm down in the dark and often recover. Observe the bird for some time and release it if there are signs of activity at the site.

Caution: Do not offer food or water to the bird – injured animals may not be able to eat or drink on their own and could choke or drown in the water dish.

Professional help for injured bird

If a collision victim has not recovered even after several hours – and overnight at the latest – or in the event that you find an obviously injured or sick bird from the start, it is time to seek professional help. Cleaning up an injured bird is a matter for experts and usually goes wrong in the hands of laymen – even if it is well-intentioned. Instead, contact a vet, a bird rescue centre or the RSPCA.

An injured falcon in a towel
Injured birds need professional help [Photo: Wirestock Creators/ Shutterstock.com]

Note: You can also report injured birds to Facebook groups if you cannot find a foster home. The members will usually give you the names of suitable veterinarians or grooming stations in your area within a short time.

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