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Young and Orphaned Birds


Every year, thousands are birds are hatched and begin the journey toward adulthood, until they’ve fully matured they are incredibly vulnerable. Knowing when to help, and more importantly, when not to help is an important part of being good wildlife stewards. 

WILDLIFE HOTLINE: 403-214-1312


Fast Facts


  • It is a myth that handling baby birds will transfer the scent of humans and will deter the animal’s mother from continuing to care for it. While handling animals should only be done under extraordinary circumstances, birds have a poor sense of smell and will resume caring for their young.

  • Cats and other domesticated animals cause the deaths of countless birds every year, especially juvenile birds that are less able to flee from danger. Cats are also responsible for hundreds of admissions to the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society annually

  • Most birds are not immediately able to fly once they leave the nest. They go through a fledging period on the ground where they develop their flight musculature and feathering

Nesting in Vents

Songbirds like robins, sparrows, finches, swallows, and the myriad of other small birds that populate our skies in the spring and summer nest in the spring to raise their young. They commonly nest in trees and shrubs, and sometimes in available spaces around houses like in vents and eavestroughs.


Most people opt to remove nests they’ve found that are in vents as they can sometimes pose a health and safety hazard. It is best to try to relocate the nest outside by placing the nest in a nearby tree or making a new nest out of berry container (with holes for drainage) and securely placing it in a tree. It is ideal to watch the nest from a distance to ensure that the mother can find the new nest and will continue to care for the young birds.


If relocation isn’t a possibility or if the mother appears to have abandoned the nest, contact a wildlife rehabilitation organization for advice on how to proceed. This will usually involve transporting the birds – in this case ensure that the nestlings are kept warm! Without their mother, they will lose body heat rapidly and their chances of survival will quickly diminish.


It is important to prevent future nests from being built in these inappropriate areas, and it is best to close them off to birds and other wildlife once they are cleared out.

Nestlings vs Fledglings


Birds go through several stages on their way to adulthood. The first is as an egg, then a hatchling, then as a nestling, a fledgling, a juvenile, and finally an adult. The most important stages to recognize are the nestling and fledgling stages.



Nestlings are naked or only partially feathered and are meant to still be in the nest receiving food regularly from the parents and requiring supplemental body heat from a brooding parent.


If you find one of these nestlings on the ground, something is wrong. They’ve either fallen or have been removed from the nest and dropped by a predator. Look the bird over, if you don’t see any obvious injuries try to find the nest and return it back to its parents. If no nest can be located, or if the nest is inaccessible, contact a wildlife rehabilitation organization for advice, remembering to keep the baby warm in the meantime.



Fledgling birds are birds that are almost fully feathered and are ready to leave the nest. They haven’t quite mastered flight, so they’ll spend a week to 10 days (depending on the species) developing their flight muscles and learning to find their own food.


Their parents will still be close-by keeping an eye on and protecting their young. They will also continue to come down and feed fledgling until it is independent. People often stumble upon these birds in their yards and suspect that the bird is injured since it cannot fly, this is usually not the case and the best thing to do is leave the bird be.


Some species have fledglings that are easily identifiable by their unique markings. For instance, fledgling robins are easily distinguished from adults by the prominent speckling on their chest. Crows have silvery-blue eyes rather than the black eyes that are typical of adults. Magpies have tails that are much shorter than the adults whose tails are typically 10-12 inches long, and many fledglings still have bits of downy feathers that give them a shabby and puffy appearance compared to their adult counterparts.


Unless the fledgling is obviously injured it is always a good idea to leave them alone. If they’re in an inappropriate location or in immediate danger, it can be gently moved to a tree or shrub but know that they will continue to hop around and won’t always stay put in the most ideal location. It is especially important to keep pets away from these animals during this time, as they are particularly vulnerable to attacks from dogs and cats.

Injured Birds


General Injuries: If you see a bird with a drooping wing, or one that is laying on its side or having difficulty breathing, the bird needs assistance. Contact our hotline (403-214-1312) for guidance.


Cat Attacks: If a bird has been attacked by cat it will have likely been exposed to the bacteria that lives in cat’s mouths and on their claws. It is critical that that bird receives medical attention promptly so that it does not succumb to infection.


Window Strikes: Juvenile birds that are just learning to fly will sometimes strike windows or other obstacles. Most birds will become stunned and will sit under the window in shock, but quite often will recover quite spontaneously and fly away with a matter of hours. They are quite vulnerable during this time, and it may be necessary to house them in a dark and ventilated box during their recovery to protect them from predatory cats or hovering magpies. Leave them alone completely and avoid handling during this time and try releasing them after a couple of hours. If the bird is not recovering or is showing overt signs of injury (bleeding wounds, respiratory distress, or drooping wings) it is best to contact a wildlife rehabilitation organization for advice.

If you have found an injured or orphaned bird please call our hotline:


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