Help! I Found An Injured Bird!

Our hospital is only permitted and equipped to take in raptors. This includes hawks, eagles, owls, falcons, osprey, and kites. If you think you have an injured raptor, call us at 314-337-8889. There are other organizations in the area that care for other bird species. If you have an injured songbird, please call Wild Bird Rehab at 314-426-6400. For injured waterfowl, contact Wildlife Rescue Center at 636-394-1880. If you are unsure of what type of bird you have, text us a picture of the bird at 314-337-8889.

It is important to get animals to a licensed rehabilitator as it is both illegal to keep wildlife in your home and these animals require specialized care in order to recover and return to the wild. Delays in getting help for an injured animal or trying to treat an injured animal yourself can cause additional problems for or irreparable damage to the animal. Open wounds or fractures that go too long untreated can become infected or have the bone dry out to the point of not being able to be repaired.

It is our goal to get new patients to us as quickly as possible to give them their best chance at survival. However, depending on time of year and patient load we may not always be able to send out a rescuer to get the bird. We have a volunteer transporter network to help get patients to us but we still receive over half of our patients from the caring members of the public who have found an injured bird. If you have found an injured bird and are willing to help contain and/or transport the bird to us use the following guide to keep both yourself and the bird safe.

1. Determine if the bird is injured. Not all birds that are on the ground are injured. Young raptors will often end up on the ground after their initial flight attempts and will spend quite a bit of time on or near the ground as they build up their flight muscles and begin learning to hunt. Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you see blood anywhere on the bird?
  • Do you see flies buzzing around the bird or see maggots or fly eggs on the bird?
  • Has the bird been caught by a cat or dog at any point?
  • Is one of the wings drooping or dragging on the ground?
  • Have you seen the bird unsuccessfully attempt to fly?
  • Is the bird holding its eyes closed?
  • Is the bird young enough that it doesn’t have flight feathers yet?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then the bird most likely needs help, please proceed to step 2. If the answer to all of them is no or you are not able to determine all of them, try approaching the bird. If able, get within 5 feet of the bird. Does the bird react to you? Does the bird attempt to get away from you and is unable to? If the bird does not react to you or is unable to fly away and is not a baby, it needs help. If you are still not sure if the bird needs help or not or if the bird is a baby, please send pictures of the bird to us at 314-337-8889 and then give us a call. Our team will help you determine if the bird needs help or not. Baby birds are often ‘rescued’ by a caring individual when they don’t actually need help but their best chance of survival is to be raised by their parents in the wild. It is our goal to ensure that these families stay together if the baby does not need help.

2. Prepare materials for containing the bird. You will need:

  • A box or pet carrier large enough to contain the bird. When possible, line the bottom of the box with a towel to keep the bird from sliding around. Make sure that there is airflow into whatever you are using and that you have a way to securely cover the box so the bird can’t jump out the top.
  • A sheet, towel, or drape that is large enough to throw over the bird and cover it.
  • A pair of thick work gloves. These are ideal to have for added protection but you can still safely contain the bird without them if you are careful.

3. Try to capture the bird. The more active the bird is the more difficult this will be. Put on your work gloves if using, put your box/pet carrier as close by as you can, and grab whatever drape you are using to cover the bird.

  • If the bird is not moving around much, slowly approach and throw your drape over the bird. Raptors are very visual and this will usually cause them to freeze. Keeping the drape over the bird, cradle the wings inwards and pick up the bird from behind with both hands like a large football. Be careful to keep the feet pointed away from you. Place the bird into your prepared carrier and remove the towel from it. Secure the lid of the box to keep the bird from escaping.
  • If the bird is more mobile and trying to run away from you, a second person and drape is helpful. Try cornering the bird so that it can’t get away and then throw the drape over the bird and contain as described above.
  • If you are unable to or uncomfortable trying the above, try at least getting a ventilated box or laundry basket over the bird and put a weight on it to keep the bird from escaping. Even injured, raptors can wander quite a distance in the time it takes us to get to your location and covering them with a box ensures that we will still be able to find them when we arrive.

4. Give us a call. If you haven’t already, send us a picture of the bird to 314-337-8889. This lets us know what species is on the way and can give us an idea of what type of injury the bird has. There are many species that people often confuse as raptors that are actually not and we would hate for you to waste your time bringing us a bird that we can’t care for rather than taking it to the facility that can. A photo also helps us prepare an appropriate space for the bird and have all the materials ready to treat any injuries we can see.

5. Keep the bird in a quiet, safe place until it is able to get to us. If you are able to transport the bird to us, great! This is the fastest way for a bird to get to us and start receiving care. We are located at 125 Bald Eagle Ridge Road in Valley Park Missouri. When you arrive at the World Bird Sanctuary, follow the parking loop until it starts to turn back. There you will see a building with a sign that says wildlife hospital. Ring the buzzer next to the central door on the porch and we will let you in as soon as possible. If we don’t answer, call us at 314-337-8889. If you are unable to transport, we will get someone out to you as soon as we can. Once you have safely contained the bird it is important to leave them alone as much as possible. Birds are very easily stressed and can die from that stress. Keep in mind that the bird has sustained an injury and could be in shock. It has then been caught by a much larger predator (you). Both of these are already very stressful events so minimizing further stress is critical. You can do this in several ways:

  • Minimize light. Use the drape that you caught the bird with earlier to cover the box or pet carrier and do not keep looking at the bird.
  • Minimize noise. Place the box in a quiet room away from other animals and children. If transporting in a vehicle, turn your radio off and keep your voices down when talking. Do not talk to the bird. The bird views you as a large scary predator and even using what we consider to be a soothing voice is actually very stressful and scary to them.
  • Do not give the bird food or water. In their injured state, food and water often do more harm than good. An injured or sick bird is often unable to process food and it can end up rotting in their digestive system if they consume it. Commercial food products are also not suitable for wild animals’ dietary needs. Our expertly trained hospital staff will see to the patient’s hydration and nutritional needs on intake to our facility.
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