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What to do if you find a baby bird on the ground

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SALT LAKE CITY — Have you ever wondered what to do if you find a baby bird while out for a walk or working in the yard?

According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, it’s not uncommon to find a baby bird lying on the ground near a tree trunk. Many birds often leave their nests before they are able to fly, and some may also be blown out of nests during thunderstorms.

“They usually chirp and call from the nest, waiting for their parents to bring food to them,” Blair Stringham, migratory game bird program coordinator with the division, said in a statement. “Sometimes, that results in them falling from their perch.”

If you find a baby bird that doesn’t have any feathers, put it back in the nest. If you can’t find the nest, put it on a branch safely out of reach of dogs and cats.

“The baby will squawk, and its parents will find it,” Stringham said.

Don’t be concerned about leaving your scent on the bird. Stringham said most birds do not have a good sense of smell, so if you pick a baby bird up, its parents won’t even know you’ve handled it.

If the baby bird has feathers and hopping around, leave it alone. It’s a fledgling, meaning it has its flight feathers and is close to taking its first flight.

If the bird isn’t in danger, leave it be. This awkward “hopping” stage typically lasts two to five days. It’s part of the natural process a baby bird goes through before taking its first flight. Its parents are watching the baby bird and are still feeding it.

If you think the fledgling is in immediate danger, then move it carefully to a safer spot nearby.

Stringham said people should never take a baby bird home, as most birds are protected by state and federal laws. And never feed a baby bird. Stringham said birds have a very specific diet and feeding them something that’s not part of their diet can kill them.

“For example, many people are surprised to learn that robins are among only a handful of birds that can safely eat worms. Most birds can’t,” Stringham said.

Additional information about how to help baby birds is also available on the Wild Aware Utah website at wildawareutah.org.