Injured and Orphaned Wildlife

There is a baby bird on your lawn – what do you do?

When most birds fledge (leave the nest), there is a period of a few days to a few weeks during which they might be unable to fly strongly.  During this period they will spend a lot of time on the ground.  They might even be calling loudly for their parents (who don’t seem to be around). This is completely normal.  The parents are likely keeping watch nearby and will feed the baby eventually.  It might also be the case that the parents are intentionally ignoring the baby to encourage it to begin finding food on its own.  Your best course of action (assuming that you are already keeping your cats indoors) is to leave the bird alone.  Give it the chance to learn how to fend for itself. This is especially important for owls that routinely leave the nest and might be on the ground for several weeks before they can fly.  They might look like orphans, but they are still under their parents’ care.

Sometimes, however, a nestling really will fall from its nest, and you know the nest from whence it came. Young birds with closed eyes or feathers that have not yet fully developed can safely be returned to the nest (assuming you can safely reach the nest). There is no scent on you that will cause a mother bird to abandon her nest.


If, however, you know that a bird has truly been injured or that both parents have died and are unable to care for their nestlings, you can make the choice (or not) to intervene.  The following sources can provide advice, assistance, and/or medical care:

OSU Veterinary Hospital – Department of Avian, Exotics and Zoo Medicine

  • Appointments & Office Hours: Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
  • Patient visits are by appointment only; emergency cases will be seen if referred by your veterinarian.
  • For an appointment, call (405) 744-7000

This hospital ward is under the direction of Dr. Joao Brandao and he and his staff have abundant experience and technology available to provide care for wild animals.  Check out their work and see them in action with the care of an injured Barred Owl in May 2015.

Other resources:

City of Stillwater Police Department – Animal Welfare Division

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