How to Help Sick Wildlife: Birds

Out for a walk, you come across injured wildlife. What do you do?

First, determine if the animal is actually sick or injured. Obvious deformities or abnormal behaviour can be a clear sign of ill or injured wildlife. From a safe distance, look for the following:

  • bleeding
  • favouring a leg or wing
  • adult animal that is easily captured
  • trying to move but collapsing
  • unable to move
  • difficulty breathing
  • convulsing
  • obvious swelling
  • bird puffing its feathers
  • bird unable to fly

Not all babies are injured wildlife!

Sometimes, people come across a baby animal and think that it must be injured or abandoned. DO NOT touch the animal, try to feed it, or take the animal with you! It is normal for a fledgling to be on the ground while it learns to fly.   Found a baby bird? Here are BC SPCA’s tips.

It may be a baby bird if:

  • There are patches without feathers under the wings or on the belly
  • Downy feathers are present
  • The tail of the bird is small compared to its body size
  • The bird opens its mouth as if for food. See picture below.

injured wildlife

How to Help Sick or Injured Wildlife: Birds

The best way to help injured wildlife is to observe from a distance and wait. If the animal is truly injured, call the local authorities (links below) for further instructions. Birds may be transported by you to a licensed rehabilitation centre. Follow these steps before transport:

  • Wear gloves to protect from scratches, bites and disease.
  • Find an appropriate sized cardboard box with a lid. Punch holes into two sides of the box.
  • Place a cloth or paper towel in the bottom of the box.
  • Put a towel over the bird’s body and head, only if this can be done safely.
  • Pick up the bird using a towel and place it in the box.
  • Only handle the bird for a few seconds to avoid extra stress.
  • Keep box in a warm and quiet place until transport.
  • DO NOT put food or water in the box.
  • DO NOT put food, water, medication into the birds mouth.
  • DO NOT pet, cuddle, or take Instagram photos of the bird.

Birds of prey, herons, cormorants, swans and large gulls are likely too dangerous to handle. Call the BC SPCA or a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in your area for direction on what to do.

Find an Injured Wildlife Rehabilitator

It is illegal to care for wildlife at your home. If you need information and direction, contact:

BC SPCA to report animal cruelty, neglect, and animals in distress, including wildlife.    1-855-6BC-SPCA (1-855-622-7722). Available seven days per week.

Or visit Wildlife Rehabilitators Network of BC to contact local BC Rehabilitators directly.

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