First Aid for an injured bird

A wild bird’s life is full of dangers. Many get injured by flying against a window, after an encounter with a cat or falling out of a nest. It’s not uncommon to find an injured bird. Read about what to do if you encounter one.
Admittedly, the survival chances of a severely injured bird are unfortunately poor. Birds have a high metabolism and relatively little blood in their body, so they don’t resist open wounds in particular for long. There is also the danger from cats, martens or foxes. It’s even more important to look around and quickly help an injured bird.

We have put together for you the most important tips when you find an injured bird. The three following first aid steps already give you an overview of what is needed in an emergency:

Observing the bird
Before you set off looking for a cardboard box for the injured or severely debilitated bird, you should first be sure that it really does require medical attention. The situation is mostly clear with visible injuries like wounds, bites or broken bones. In this case, see securing an injured bird below

However, the situation is different without visible injuries. Understandably, telling a sick bird apart from a healthy one can be tricky. If you aren’t sure, you should initially leave the bird where it is and observe it for a time.
Can it walk? Does it sway or fall over? Birds are shy animals and generally look to make a quick escape if humans come too close to them. If they continue to perch or lie weakened on the floor, they most likely need help.

Craniocerebral trauma due to crashing against a window pane are one of the most common bird injuries. Ideally the bird will only have suffered from a mild cerebral concussion and can fly again after a short rest.

If you discover a bird lying on its back on the terrace or balcony, you shouldn’t touch it straight away and should first just observe it. This is because birds are not used to being touched. Picking them up in your hand or stroking them causes them unnecessary stress, which you should absolutely avoid in this situation.
However, you should take the bird to a vet for further examination if you notice at a closer glance injury on the body, beak, eyes or wings.

Securing an injured bird
If you find an injured bird or fledgling you must treat it carefully, trying not to hurt it and, of course, trying not to be injured by it, especially from its beak, sharp claws or large hooked talons.
The best solution will be to cover the bird with a towel and afterwards put it in a cardboard box lined with paper kitchen towel. Be sure to make several holes in the cardboard beforehand, so the bird can breathe. A pet transport case being the ideal option, the bird can be carried to a quiet, cool dark place, well away from pets. The bird will likely drink water if offered.

Special attention for

Open wounds or acute bleeding
Open wounds with severe bleeding should be immediately treated if possible. Gently dab with a soft, dry cloth and treat the area with an antiseptic if possible. Even a gently pressed cotton wool pad can help to staunch the wound.

Feeding injured birds
From the outset it will be better to not offer food, especially if the bird is injured. The ingestion of food may affect an emergency intervention by a vet at a later stage. Feeding will become necessary at some point in your rescue. Once you have established your particular set of circumstances from a professional source only then feeding can commence by offering the correct diet, quantity at the designated times.

Get help (see list of Rescue Centres in Andalucía)
If the bird needs medical treatment or to be taken to a foster home for wild birds, you should catch it gently and place it in a cardboard box lined with towels or kitchen roll.

To catch the bird, throw a towel or blanket over it. This makes it easier for you to lift it from the floor and at the same time avoid injuries. Injured birds can scratch or pinch with their beak when they are scared. Particular caution is advised when catching a bird of prey.

When catching the bird, you should make sure that you don’t squeeze the bird too tightly. If you squeeze its chest or stomach too tightly, it can result in life-threatening respiratory problems. Hence, you should really only touch the bird to place it inside the carry case – these shy animals can be frightened by being held for too long or handled in any way (even well-intentioned stroking).

A cardboard box is suitable for transport and initial care of the injured bird. Line it with towels, kitchen roll or several layers of newspaper. This absorbs the bird’s excretions and offers a warm, soft and secure environment for the injured bird. It’s important that the cardboard box has air holes and an appropriate size.

If the journey to the vet or rescue centre takes a very long time (more than an hour), it may be necessary for you to provide the sick bird with food and water under guidance. Dextrose solution is a good option if the bird cannot consume grain feed. Hard-boiled egg is a good emergency food for all bird species (even young birds).

Please note that keeping autochthonous birds in captivity for a prolonged period is not recommended and most probably against the law in most cases! 

Some special attention for Baby Birds
Especially in spring, it is common to discover young birds with very few feathers or none at all that have fallen out of their nest. In this case, the best option is to return them to their own nest, at least if the nestling is unharmed.
If you find the nest in a nearby tree, carefully pick up the young bird with your hand and gently put it back in the nest. Observe the nest for a while longer and wait to see if the parents come back to continue feeding their offspring. In this case, everything is OK and your rescue has been a success.
If the nest isn’t traceable, reachable or the parents don’t come back after an extended period of time, you should take the bird to a nearby rescue centre or a vet. Bear in mind that featherless or partially feathered birds get cold quickly and absolutely must be kept warm during the journey (you can use towels or the warmth of your hands).

Always place young birds in experienced hands and certainly don’t try to care for and raise them yourself! Rearing and releasing young orphan birds is a complex matter and absolutely has to be left to experts.

Did you know?
– You don’t need to worry that the parents will reject a young bird because you have touched it because birds don’t have a sensitive sense of smell.
–  Finding a nestling. If the bird you find is already a fully feathered young bird, it has presumably already left its nest. Returning it to the nest is not an option in this case.
– If the bird appears healthy, observe it for at least an hour from a distance so that the parents can approach it for feeding. If the bird is in a dangerous area, you can place it in a safe, green spot near where you found it.
–  Young birds call for their parents so they can find them more easily. If the bird has still not been fed by its parents after more than an hour, you should take it to an ornithological vet or the nearest bird rescue centre.