We all love everything tiny because they are cute. Baby birds are no exemption. Truth is, it has become a fad to take care of this winged cuties at home, as pets. Sometimes, pet shops sell fledgling birds or young birds that have acquired initial flight feathers because of their readiness to leave the nest and possibly care for themselves.
Young birds that grew up in the wild carry the natural ability to find food. Fledgling birds are actually sent away by their bird parents to seek food on their own. When you see a fledgling abandoned somewhere, do not touch nor disturb it. Observe for an hour if the bird parent will not come and help. This is because their parents are observing fledglings from afar, while training the baby bird to survive on its own.
If you decide to keep pet birds, then you need to know that they are different. So what do we do to take care of them? Here are some tips:
Tip #1: Understand their special needs and their diet. Yes, you read it right. Baby birds, even the ones that have already left the nest but still fed by the parent bird, have very strict dietary needs. Their diet depends on what kind of bird it is. Feeding incorrect food can result to a serious illness and possibly death. Some species of bird eat mainly fruit and insects while others can eat raw meat such as raw liver. According to bird enthusiast Melissa Maynt, fledgling birds must eat protein-based diet every 20 minutes for the whole 12 to 14 hours a day. Natural protein sources include worms or insects for healthy growth. During this time, it is important that fledgling stays indoors.
Tip #2: Know when to feed them. If you received a fledgling from the pet shop owner, do not get too excited to feed the bird. In most countries, no one is allowed to keep a fledgling bird in captivity. However, if you got one or is helping one, know the rule on feeding the bird. Also, make sure the baby bird is warm. For the first 1 to 2 hours, watch it closely and see the pattern for feeding. Most pet stores also sell baby bird formula mix to make it easier for you to take good care of your bird.
Tip #3: Encourage bird to beg for food. That’s the cutest part–the baby bird eagerly calling for food with its mouth open. If you have been caring for the bird, then you know what time do you need to feed it. However, if you just received an orphaned bird, it is not advisable to feed it without observing it first. Orphaned birds, especially after a strong storm (they probably fell from their nest) should be turned over to the professionals of aviary or bird rehab specialists.
Tip #4: Never feed water to the fledgling. Most bird lovers or bird watchers automatically feed or let all bird they see drink water. This is not recommended as forcing water into their throat might result to death. Even the parent bird do not bring in water to her bird babies, they get their water ration from the worms and insects they eat. This is truly remarkable.
Tip #5: No milk for birds. Most pet owners will keep a carton of milk for their cats and dogs and that’s all right. But the anatomy of birds is different and because they can’t digest as fast as animals, it is not advisable to give them milk, even if the bird seems to be thirsty. Also, do not use milk or any form of dairy to soften foods for fledglings. Fledglings already face plenty of stress just being in the nest and not flying out, so adding digestive problems is already unnecessary.
Tip #6: Proteins. Proteins. Proteins. Baby birds are encouraged to leave their nest as soon as possible. This is why once they grow the feathers needed for flying, they need to leave the nest. Moving out of the nest will reduce the risk of predators attacking the whole nest. To be able to fly well, their bodies must be strong. According to Maynt, protein diet will help them grow at a fast rate. Meat can be given to them in small pieces using a pair of tweezers, and drop it in their mouth. Baby birds can also get protein from hard-boiled eggs cut into tiny pieces enough for the bird to digest. When feeding, always use small tongs or tweesers. Never hand feed the bird as it is unnatural to do so. Bird parents drop food from their beaks to the throat of the baby birds.
Tip #7: Never touch the bird when feeding. Touching the bird in anyway during feeding is not advisable, according to bird experts at Louisiana SPCA, a non-profit animal care group. If you just found a fledgling on the ground, chances that it is not in great danger unless it is in the middle of traffic or dogs are around. You can simply observe the bird from a distance and pay attention to bird noises or call. If you need to move a fledgling, wash your hands before and after you touch it. To be safe from possible H5N1 (or bird flu) contamiation, use a towel to lightly grab or carry the fledgling instead of your bare hands. Prop it up, help it perch and keep it in a warm place, with soft light bulb where it will not be disturbed. Feed the birds with the needed protein and natural diet until it can get on its feet and fly away. If you can make a nest to keep the fledgling propped up, then it is better.
Tip #8. Weaning fledgling birds. While their feathers are growing, food should be placed within their reach, and try to get them to eat it on their own. Natural or soft food can be introduced at this stage. Some foods include raw liver, moist biscuits and moist cat or dog kibbles. These choices should not be part of a regular diet. Baby birds have a swallowing reflex that is triggered when food is placed in the back of the mouth. When the fledgling is having a hard time nibbling on treats, call a bird expert to help you out. Do not force feed the bird.
Unlike animal pets, taking on the responsibility to take care of a fledgling is a big task. You will have to constantly feed the bird from daytime to dusk. Still, most birds are not supposed to be kept as pets for a long time as it imprints on you or sees you as a friend, which means that the bird may not be able to survive in the wild if you intend to release it one day. Still, it is hard to resist such feathery cuties as they create the best “Prrruurrpp!” “Prruurrpp! sound ever.