Overnight care of orphaned songbirds
- Safe environment — Place the animal(s) in a small cardboard box or plastic container with plenty of small air holes for ventilation. Use soft bedding such as towels or old t-shirts. A mock nest can be set with up with a small Tupperware container with paper towels inside. Do not use grass clippings or wood chips/shavings. Change the bedding immediately if it gets soiled. Keep the box inside in a quiet, dark area away from pets and people. Handle the animal as little as possible — even young wild animals can get stressed by captivity and over handling.
- Provide a heat source — Infant birds cannot regulate their own body temperatures adequately and are susceptible to hypothermia. Place a heating pad set to LOW under half of the box/nest. If you do not have a heating pad you can fill a bottle with hot water, cover it with a barrier (towel) and place it inside the box and next to the nest. Water bottles will need to be checked frequently for loss of heat over time. It is important for the animal to be able to move close to or away from the heat source.
- We prefer animals to be assessed by a wildlife professional first before any oral fluids are offered but we understand this recommendation is difficult to follow overnight. Songbirds have a higher metabolism than other species and need nutrients more frequently, about every half to one hour, however the bird(s) must be rehydrated first before complex nutrients are offered. The first few feedings should consist only of warmed water or Pedialyte. Afterwards diluted commercially available baby bird formulas, lactose-free protein drinks (such as vanilla Muscle Milk) or canned dog or cat food (or dry food soaked in water to soften) may be offered. Do not feed seeds/nuts, bread, milk, or any other homemade recipes. Infant songbirds have tiny digestive tracts that can easily get blocked if they are fed inappropriate things. In birds the risk of aspiration (getting fluid into the lungs) is very high and we recommend only attempting to feed if you have a small 1cc or less syringe (no needle) or eyedropper. The opening to a bird’s airway is on the bottom of their mouth behind the tongue (visible if bird has mouth open wide). It is very important that nothing gets into that opening and into their lungs or respiratory tract which can cause life threatening complications. Only one drop at a time should be offered and the animal must be warm before feeding — the body cannot function properly in a state of hypothermia. You can also drip water off the end of your finger if you do not have any supplies available to you.
- Get the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or facility as soon as possible in the morning. It is against the law and not in the animal’s best interest to keep or raise wildlife without the proper permits and education.
- Always wash hands thoroughly after handling any wild animal.