Each year, especially during springtime, we get many calls from well-meaning and caring individuals who assume they have found an orphaned baby bird. They may have come across a bird that is partially feathered sitting on the ground below a tree and automatically assume that they fell from the nest and need to be helped. At this stage in a birds development, such birds are considered “fledglings”. Fledglings normally will jump or fall out of the nest. This is their flight training stage. The mother bird will then continue feeding the bird on the ground until the bird is able to fly, which usually only takes a few days. Unless it is injured or nearly naked, in which case it may die from hypothermia, these birds should be left where they are. A young animal’s best chance for survival is to be raised by its natural mother. There are many critical survival skills we can never teach them, including the times and locations to hunt or forage for food, how to avoid natural predators, or flying skills that are impossible to learn in even the largest aviary.

General Bird Info

Many times it is the nesting habits of birds that get them in trouble or at least raise questions with homeowners. For instance, starlings and house sparrows (being cavity dwellers) are attracted to dryer and stove vents and sparrows to gutters. They may also nest high up in chimneys or even in attics. Starlings are able to slip under vent flaps and build nests inside the vent if the vent is not covered with screen. Most calls about birds trapped in vents are really birds that have built nests there and are not trapped. Occasionally a bird or nest may slip too far down in the vent and becomes trapped.

Back yard feeding can be both helpful and dangerous to birds. Many people feed in the winter and pull the feeders in the spring, but seed can be very helpful to birds in the spring and early summer when natural foods are still scarce and their babies are making great feeding demands on them.

Bird Stages

  • Altricial birds are hatched totally dependent – not feathered, unable to walk, and unable to feed themselves. Songbirds, crows, pigeons and birds of prey (raptors) are altricial.
  • Nestlings are young altricial birds who still cannot eat on their own; their beaks are not fully formed, and they cannot walk.
  • Fledglings are older birds who have fledged – that is, left the nest. They have feathers, short tails (1/4″-1/2″), and can walk, hop and fly a little.
  • Precocial Birds, goslings, ducklings, and killdeer are slightly more independent when born. They are down feathered, but not yet waterproof, able to walk, and are self-feeding.

Will it give me rabies? No. Birds do not carry rabies.

How can I catch it? It is almost impossible to catch a bird that can still fly. If it seems weak and you would like to try to catch it, use a pool net or a makeshift net such as a wire coat hanger bent into a circle and run through the hem of a pillowcase. This will provide adequate control.

A sick or weak bird that is on the ground can easily be caught by throwing a towel over it. If possible, approach the bird with the towel between you and the bird so that it does not see your face. Once it is in the dark, it will be easy to handle.

Why does it keep running into or attacking my window and how can I stop it? There are generally two possibilities for repeated window strikes:

  1. Territorial birds who see their reflection in a shiny surface (window, car windshield, even shiny car surface) will attack the reflection believing it to be an intruder. Generally, they do not seriously hurt themselves when they do this, and fly away immediately. This generally happens during the spring mating season. The solution is to eliminate the reflection for several days. Drawing drapes or putting paper inside the house is not good enough as there will still be a reflection. The paper must go on the outside of the window.
  2. Some birds seem to be particularly persistent, particularly when a car is involved. In that case, another alternative might be to hang a mirror from a nearby tree to distract the bird’s attention for a few days while covering or moving the car.
  3. Birds may also strike windows (with more force, frequently hurting themselves) because they can see through the window to green space and do not realize the window is there. Sheer blinds or closing doors to eliminate the view, strips of tinfoil, hawk silhouettes, stained glass decorations, tape strips and other tactics may be necessary to eliminate this risk. It may also help to plant bushes in front of the windows.

Bird trapped in house. Birds will always fly toward the light. Walk through the following rescue steps:

  1. Confine the bird to one room if possible. Cover mirrors and close curtains in that room.
  2. Open windows and doors and turn off the lights.
  3. Keep people and pets out of the room until the bird goes out.
  4. If there is no way the bird can get out, lead it toward a door or window by closing off or darkening the house, except for a path to the exit.
  5. If the bird is hurt and hiding in the room, give it an hour or so (staying out of the room) to come out in the open. Try putting out birdseed, water, or a piece of apple to tempt it. If it can’t be reached or cornered, call a licensed rehabilitator in your area. for advice.
  6. A healthy bird should be released in its own neighborhood. If the bird is obviously injured or won’t fly away, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Bird trapped in store. Occasionally large grocery or department stores call about birds (usually a starling or sparrow) is trapped. This is extremely difficult because frequently the suggestions you offer cannot be done (particularly in a 24-hour store). You can offer suggestions, but if they cannot turn out the lights and open a door to the outside, they may need to call a local wildlife company with proper equipment and pay a fee to have the bird caught and released.

Birds trapped in ductwork or tight spacesA bird that has fallen into a deep or tight place may climb out on a rough branch or knotted cloth rope carefully lowered to it and fastened at the top.

Birds do occasionally get trapped in oven and dryer vents, heating and cooling systems, walls, or between chimney and chimney flashing. Sometimes (as in the case of between the chimney and flashing or behind a built-in microwave) there is nothing that can be done to rescue it unless the homeowner is willing to have a handyman cut into the wall or vent, or remove a piece of the ductwork or equipment.

A bird behind an oven may be rescued by pulling the oven away from the wall. The bird, if not injured, will most likely fly into the room. It will then have to be moved to the outside. If nestlings are rescued uninjured, they can be renested outside using a milk jug near the opening that led to the nest. Fledglings can be put in a shrub nearby. Weak or injured birds must go to a licensed rehabilitator in your area.

After rescue, any nest debris should be cleaned out and the hole in screen or vent should be repaired using ½ – ¾” hardware cloth.

Bird with oil or sticky material on its body. Birds that have oil or sticky material on any parts of their body are severely hampered and may be unable to fly, eat, or breathe properly. Sometimes birds in their search for insects may become attached to insect or mouse pest strips; in their struggle to get free, they can become seriously injured. Although sometimes the manufacturer will recommend removal techniques, removal of any of these materials is a delicate, lengthy process and must not be attempted by anyone other than a federally licensed rehabilitator.After the material is removed, the removal process may actually destroy the bird’s waterproofing, and it may have to be re-waterproofed before it can be released.

Any large oil or chemical spill or a spill of any size in progress should be reported to 911 immediately. Established, non-active spills of any size should be reported to the local jurisdiction’s Fire Marshall Hazardous Materials section.

Late migrating birds. In general, birds follow their own timetable and will migrate when they feel the time is right. Many waterfowl no longer migrate. If the situation seems very unusual, such as an individual bird that did not migrate when others of its species did, refer to a licensed rehabilitator in your area.

Birds with eye problems. Sparrows and finches may be seen around the feeder with conjunctivitis, a crusty-looking eye condition that eventually closes the eyes and blinds them. This is highly contagious to other sparrows and finches. Although in the early stages of the disease the bird is not ill enough to be caught. At some point, however, an infected bird will no longer be able to fly and can be easily caught. Conjunctivitis is not known to be contagious to humans, but a towel or gloves should still be used to handle the bird. The bird can be successfully treated by a licensed rehabilitator. Remove the bird feeder for several weeks to stop the spread of the disease and follow a rigorous cleaning protocol.

Birds with fishing hook, twine, or other debris twisted around them. This is a potentially lethal situation, but in most cases the bird cannot be caught until it is too ill or weak to fly any longer. If it can be caught and is in poor condition, the bird needs to be examined carefully by a rehabilitator or veterinarian before it is released, and possibly receive supplemental feeding for a few days to regain its strength. Sometimes birds get caught in a tree, and tangled in string. This is usually because string has been used as a nest-building material, although sometimes kite string (frequently fishing line) is caught in the tree. If the bird can be safely reached with a ladder, try the following instructions to free the bird:

  1. Hold the bird or put a light towel or cloth around it so it can’t fly away, then cut the string.
  2. Immediately place the bird in a covered box in a warm, dark, quiet place until it has rested and is less stressed, about an hour.
  3. Take the box into a confined area (powder room is good) where the bird has no place to go if it escapes.
  4. Cover the bird with a towel and gently pull out the string-wrapped limb. Cut the string off with the smallest scissors (nail scissors are good) possible. If the flesh is broken or swollen, or the string will not come off, is imbedded or has a hook attached, contact a rehabilitator immediately.

If you cannot reach the bird with a ladder, there may be nothing that can be done unless you are willing to hire someone to reach the injured animal such as your local Animal Control agency. Anytime a raptor is in distress, it should be referred immediately to animal control and/or a raptor rehabilitator.

Escaped or released pet birds. We receive a lot of calls about pet birds, particularly in the fall. You may wish to find a local pet bird club who usually has someone specializing in retrieving pet birds. This is not something with which we are generally able to assist.

Nest appears to be abandoned
It is rare for a nest to be abandoned. The older and more feathered the baby bird becomes, the less often the parent is sighted, and the quieter the babies are. When approached, the babies will get down and remain still and quiet. The parents zip in and out very quickly to feed. Someone must watch the nest constantly (from a distance) for a least 45 minutes to see if the parents return. If you know that one or more parents have been killed, contact a licensed rehabilitator in your area.

Children disturbing a nest
Try to Replace babies and/or nest. Warn children to stay away. If problem persists, refer to rehabilitator as the parents may abandon the nest.

Predators disturbing nest
House sparrows often will go into a nest box and eject inhabitants to take possession of the box. Sometimes putting up a another nest box will solve the housing crisis.

Black snakes, raccoons, crows, blue jays and many other predators raid nests and eat nestlings and eggs. There is usually nothing that can be done and nature must take its course. If a nest box is being used, there may be alternatives or design modifications – suggest the caller contact a bird store.

Unhatched bird eggs found
If an egg has fallen from the nest it may be returned if it has not been out too long. In general, if the mother has disappeared or a nest has been down for a while, dispose of the eggs. Eggs can only be left at most a couple of hours without brooding. There are 3 factors to proper egg hatching, and there is not much known about the successful combination of these factors:

  1. Rotation: the mother turns the eggs several times a day
  2. Humidity: a proper range must be maintained
  3. Temperature: ???

If you are not convinced by above, know that even if the egg should hatch, the baby bird is not likely to live. Birds that are not raised by their mothers during the first three days have a very high mortality rate. This is because during the feeding process the saliva of the mother transmits natural immunities to the babies. Without this immunity transfer from the mother, it is unlikely the baby will live more than three days anyway.

Nest in an unsafe or undesirable place
In general, remember that bird nests may not be disturbed if there are eggs or babies in them (Federal law). The only exceptions are pigeons, European starlings, and English sparrows. If the eggs are not yet laid, it is fine to tear down the nest. The bird will attempt to rebuild it but eventually should give up and build elsewhere.

Nest in parking lot, on sidewalk, rooftop, etc.
Killdeer like pavement for nesting and will build nests in parking lots, construction sites, etc. Other birds which nest various places on the ground include quail, ducks, and geese. The nest must be left alone, but may be protected by barricades or signs.

Canadian geese in particular frequently build nests on top of parking structures, on balconies, or across busy streets from water. They will build where they can see water, but may have difficulty getting the unflighted goslings to the water after they hatch. Get a group together who will assist the family in getting to water (approximately 28 days after the mother begins to sit on the nest). See duck and goose information.

Birds in vents and gutters
Birds in vents and gutters are most likely to be starlings and house sparrows. Mothers build nests in these locations; they are rarely trapped. If possible, encourage people to wait approximately 3 weeks until babies leave the nest, clean out the debris, and screen the vent.

If the nest has to be moved, or falls out, they can make a new nest in a clean one gallon container (preferably with cap on) with a hole cut in the side for the mother to get in and drainage holes in the bottom, filled with the old nest or grass, etc. They should hang it near the entry hole outside of the house (out of direct sun), where the mother will pass by, and watch to make sure the parents return. If nest not accepted, refer to rehabilitator.

Birds in chimney
These occur in late July through mid August. They are chimney swifts, often mistaken for bats. Because they cannot perch like songbirds, chimney swifts must have deep shafts in which to raise their families and roost at night. They make a chattering or hissing noise which is sometimes mistaken for rats, bats or even snakes. Swifts eat mosquitoes and other flying-insect pests, and assure them that the noise will be gone within three weeks when the youngsters fly away. It is illegal to remove nesting swifts (even for chimney cleaning companies), but swifts migrate out in fall. Adults look like cigars with wings when flying.

Chimney swifts make a nest of saliva and sticks on one side of the chimney; the nest often falls down. The caller can make a nest from a basket and place it back up on the ledge above the flue, closing the damper. If the babies are cold, they must be warmed before replacing. The parents will come all the way down the chimney to feed. If babies can cling to side of chimney, they can stick the baby back up, close the damper, and the babies will work their way up the side of the chimney. If birds get into the house from the fireplace and can fly, follow instructions for birds trapped in the house, or corner the bird, pick it up and stick it back up the chimney.

Bird nests in hanging baskets
Water carefully around edges of basket, or allow ice cubes to melt around edge in hot weather.

If you do find a bird on the ground, every effort should be made to keep cats, dogs and children away from the animal so the parents can continue to feed it. Only after all efforts to reunite the bird with its parents have been exhausted, or it is clear that the baby is injured or orphaned, should the baby be removed from the wild. If you are unsure if the animal is a true orphan, look over the information below and contact a licensed rehabilitator in your area.Please do not try to raise the baby yourself:

  • It is illegal.
  • Proper care and nutrition are crucial to the survival of the baby and any deficiency will more than likely cost the animal its life. We frequently have people bring in babies they have been trying to raise themselves that are now having problems from an improper diet. What is good forone bird may kill another.
  • Baby animals easily imprint on whoever is feeding them and steps are needed to prevent this. An animal that is imprinted on people can never be released back into the wild.

Handling Wild Birds
The most common misconception about birds is that if babies are handled by humans the mother will 

abandon them. In fact, birds have a poor sense of smell and minimal handling of the babies will not cause a problem. Prolonged disturbing of the nest, however, may cause a parent to abandon it. The following information sections describe the most common type of bird rescue situations.

Adult or baby with any of the following conditions:

  • Injured
  • Infested with flies or maggots, fly eggs (maggots) are pale yellow and are laid in clumps on the flesh or in the feathers.They look like rice or grain. Maggots can quickly move into vital organs; birds with maggots must go to a rehabilitatorimmediately.
  • Caught by a cat or dog
  • Very cold, weak or non-responsive
  • Experiencing convulsions
  • Took a long fall onto hard surface
  • Baby raptor on ground
  • Visibly bleeding, wing droop
  • Head Tilt
  • Any adult bird that can be approached and picked up

Solution : All cases need rehabilitation

Capture the bird and place in a cat carrier, or box with holes punched for ventilation and place in a warm, dark,
quiet spot to reduce any further stress.

If it is a baby and feels cold to the touch you can fill a zip lock bag with
warm water (double bag it to prevent leaking) and wrap in a soft material and place the baby on or near it.

  1. Adult stunned by head strike against window or building, but no visible signs of injuries
  2. A bird, particularly fully feathered bird of prey, that looks funny or is hunched over
  3. Baby bird: mother/parents known dead or disappeared, or baby killdeer or geese/ducklings separated from parents and whose
    location is unknown
  4. Nestling: baby bird with a few or no feathers, that cannot walk, hop or fly whose whole nest came down
  5. Nest within reach
  6. Fledgling/juvenile birds who have left the nest but cannot yet fly. Feathered but with short tails; can walk, hop, and fly a
  1. Put in box in warm, dark, quiet place. Leave 2-3 hours. Try to release. If cannot fly away after 2-3 hours, call a licensed
    rehabilitator in your area.
  2. It may be guarding food by the side of the road or resting during the migration. Raptors are attracted to rats and mice that
    are attracted to garbage next to highways or median strips. If it is out of reach or flies away when approached, its fine.
  3. Note: baby birds and ducklings chill very easily (do not put ducklings in water) they must be kept warm until taken to a
    licensed rehabilitator in your area.
  4. See section on Nestlings & Renesting
  5. See section on Nestlings & Renesting
  6. See section on Fledgling Calls & Information

Renesting A Baby Bird When the Nest Is Intact

  • Unless the parents are known dead, an attempt should be made to re nest baby birds who have fallen out of the nest and are not injured or infested. They should be warmed carefully in the hands and then returned to the nest. You should then watch the nest from a distance. If the parents have not returned in two hours, or by dusk retrieve the babies, put them in a box set on a heating pad set o low in a warm, dark, quiet place, and call a licensed rehabilitator in your area.
  • Time and warmth can be critical, particularly with nestlings. If it is a cold, rainy day, or it is late in the afternoon, and if the parents do not return call a licensed rehabilitator in your area.
  • Never leave a nestling in a nest alone unless you know the mother can brood it. Do not put a nestling in a separate container from the main nest, because the mother cannot keep both nests warm. If the baby cannot be returned to the main nest, call a rehabilitator.

If the bird has feathers, a short tail (1/4-1/2″), and can walk, hop, and fly a little, it is probably a fledgling. It should be able to cling to a branch in a bush, and should be spirited enough to try to get away from a human. If the bird is lethargic, not standing erect, or approaches for help, it should be referred immediately.

If the bird seems to be acting normally:

  • Put it in a bush (not a tree) near where it was found, away from street.
  • Keep dogs, cats, and children away.
  • Watch from a distance for two hours to see if the parents return.
  • If the parents do not return call a licensed rehabilitator in your area.
Fledgling Specific Concerns
  • Neighbor’s dog or cat in the yard – Put the baby in a bush. If this is not possible, take the baby to a neighboring yard. The parents will hear its call.
  • It’s dark outside – Put the baby back as early as possible in the morning.
  • It’s cold and rainy outside – Birds need to be exposed to the elements to develop proper feathers. The mother will keep it warm.
  • It’s too hot – Put it in the shade. Birds need to be exposed to the sun (Vitamin D) to develop proper feathers.
  • There are no trees or bushes in my yard – Find a neighbor’s yard with a bush or tree. The parents will find him by his call.
  • The nest fell down – This is immaterial for a feathered baby – fledgling. He wouldn’t stay in the nest anyway. If the baby is featherless or naked, see information on nestlings.
  • I am incapacitated or in any way unable to assist – Ask a neighbor to help. Often teenagers are eager and competent.
  • Neighborhood children are bothering the bird – Take the baby inside until the children leave. Then put the baby in a bush.

Raptors are birds of prey and protected by federal law. If you do find a bird of prey in distress, keep in mind the following guidelines and contact your local wildlife rehabilitator immediately:

If the bird is approachable:Passive or subdued place a towel over it covering its head and body. Gently folding the wings into the body lift the wrapped bird keeping your hands away from his talons (feet) and put it in a cardboard box with holes punched for ventilation. Get it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible; the longer the delay, the less chance it has of surviving. Do not attempt to raise these birds on your own they require specialized diets and handling.If the bird is not approachable:Behaving aggressively and not able to fly off. Have someone watch the bird while you call a rehabilitator pick the bird up. If a large cardboard box can be safely placed over the bird, then do so. Your safety at this point is crucial.

Southern California Raptor Rehabilitation Contacts:

  • Simi Valley: 805-581-3911
  • South Bay: 310-378-9921
  • 805-649-6884
  • Santa Barbara: 805-966-9005

How to rescue a seagull, cormorant or other seabird:

If the bird is acting weak – a normal healthy pelican will not let you approach closely:

  • Grasp the bill with one hand. enough to keep it closed but not tightly. It’s very important to not hold the beak tightly closed as the bird does not have notrils, “nares” the pelican could suffocate.
  • Calming the bird is important. Cover the heads of pelican, seagulls, cormorants and grebes; they do bite so keep them away from your face and eyes.
  • With your other hand, scoop the bird up, holding the wings close to the body. Place in a box large enough for the bird and with air holes and transport to a wildlife care facility.
  • They will be frightened; talk softly, be gentle and keep dogs and if possible people away. Weakened pelicans may have avian lice – when a bird cannot or does not have the energy to preen the lice multiply. Lice are a nuisance to the rescuer, but they do not bite people.

If you see an injured pelican or sea bird, call a wildlife rehabilitation center immediately:

Regional Wildlife Care Facilities in Southern California

  • Santa Barbara: 805-966-9005
  • Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol: 805-564-5530
  • After business hours in Santa Barbara/ Ventura, call 805-967-1028
  • Pacific Wildlife Care, San Luis Obispo: 805-543-9453
  • Native Animal Rescue of Santa Cruz: 831-462-0726; 831-438-8380

International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC)

  • Northern California: 4369 Cordelia Road • Fairfield, CA 94534 • 707-207-0380
  • Southern California: 3601 South Gaffey St. • San Pedro, CA 90731 • 310-514-2573

S.B. Avian Wildlife Veterinarians and Emergency Care Facilities
Christine Sellers, DVM • 101 W. Mission St. • Santa Barbara, CA 93101 • 805-569-2287

CARE (California Animal Referral & Emergency Hospital)
301 E. Haley St. • Santa Barbara, CA 93101 • 805-899-CARE (2273)
24 hours emergency service

National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association for rehabilitation information

In the Crow species, the tail length is a determining factor in the age of the bird. You can place a bird with a tail length exceeding 4″ in a high bush, or in the branches of a tree with the thickest canopy. For crows with less than 4″ in tail lenght, refer to a rehabilitator. The information below will help you in determining the relative health and age of the bird. Rehabilitator contact information for crow rescue is also provided.

Baby Crows

1) Is the bird bald or feathered? If bald, blue eyed with a crimson mouth it is a nestling crow. Crows make their nest too high up to actually be able to place the baby back in the nest. Crow parents will not care for two nests at the same time, so making an alternate nest is not an option. This baby will need rehabilitation.

2) If developing sleek feathers, what is the tail length; very important to determine. In crows, if less than 4″ they need rehabilitation. If in doubt measure the tail.

3) Do not leave a nestling crow on the ground or put it back up in a bush or tree. If the bird is not within a few days of flying (refer to tail length), it will probably starve to death even if the parents are nearby.

4) Place the baby in a box that is lined with a soft material. If he is bald, he is not thermoregulating so he will need an external heat source. Double bag two ziplock bags and fill with warm water and place under the soft lining with in the box. Place box in a warm quiet area away from kids and pets.

5) If the baby is gaping (opens his mouth and begs) you may soak dog kibble until it is soft and moist and drop size appropriate pieces into his mouth until he stops. This may be offered every 30 minutes. Do not force open his mouth.

6) Do not offer water as he may aspirate (choke). He will get enough moisture from the soaked kibble. This will hold him temporarily until a rehabilitator gets back to you.

Fledgling Crows

Answering “yes” to any of the questions below will necessitate bird rehabilitation.

  • Is the tail less than 4″ in length?
  • Is the mouth color pale pink to white (indicates anemia) or is it a healthy red?
  • Is there any crusting, discharge, or white/yellow patches or warts in or around the eyes or mouth?
  • Does the breast bone feel sharp, like the breast bone of a chicken with out the meat? You need to put your fingers through the feathers to feel the bone. The breast should feel plump on either side of the bone. If too thin, could indicate parasites, illness, or spending too long a period on the ground.
  • Are there any sores or warts on the beak, eyes, joints or feet?
  • Is it missing any feathers ?
  • Do you feel mites on your hands when you handle the bird? Can you see mites in between his feathers on his skin? Mites will appear as very small red dots if they have already fed on the bird.
  • Is he lethargic and staying in one place or non-responsive?
  • Is he injured, limping,dragging a wing, stumbling?

Healthy Fledgling Crows

  • Tail length is a determining factor in the age of crows. You can place a bird with a tail length exceeding 4″ in a high bush, or the branches of a tree with a thick-set canopy.
  • Get the bird up off the ground and the parents will continue to care for him. In most situations the parents will not feed him on the ground, they will stay around making a lot of noise and may fly to the ground but generally will not feed him. If they do feed him, will not be able to feed enough to sustain him and he will starve.
  • Be certain that his parents are there. They will be the ones making all the noise.

Injured Adult Crows not able to fly or visibly injured require immediate rehabilitation.

Healthy Bird Observation
Birds found on the ground that pass all of the criteria below with a responsive of ‘No’ and have a tail length exceeding 4″ can be placed back up as high into the trees as possible, where they were found:

  • Is the bird attempting to fly up at least 3-4 feet or at least able to fly parallel to the ground?
  • Is it holding both wings equally to its body when it is standing? Does it use both wings equally when it tries to fly?
  • Does it use both legs equally when standing or walking?
  • Does he have a strong grip with his feet? The bird will need to hang on to a branch when put back into a tree.

Southern California Crow Rehabilitation Contacts:

  • Calabasas: 818-591-9453
  • Orange County: 714-637-8355
  • Santa Barbara: 805-966-9005
  • Simi Valley: 805-581-3911

Read more about Crow Behavior

Feeding Geese and Ducks
The feeding of ducks and geese is not recommended. However, it is fine to feed in special circumstances such as when a mother is brooding or when a bird is injured. Both geese and mallards will eat dry corn, whole or cracked (whole has less waste and is less messy). These products can be obtained at a bird store, pet store, or feed store. Although birds eat bread, it does not provide the nutrition that is needed, particularly during cold weather or when brooding.

Catching an Injured Canadian Goose
In most instances an injured Canadian goose that can still fly should be left alone, particularly if the injury is an old one and the goose is getting by. Just observe the goose for a while and if it seems to be getting along all right, leave it alone.

There are circumstances when catching it is more important. These circumstances include, a fresh injury (particularly one showing infection) or when it is entangled in constricting material, fish line, six-pack ring, etc.

There are many pitfalls surrounding catching a Canadian goose, including attack by the mate and possible injury. Please call licensed rehabilitator in your area to talk through the process and determine what action should be taken.

Non-migrating Wintering Individual Goose
Sometimes a goose with a broken wing or angel wing who is unable to fly will stay behind in the fall when other geese migrate. Winters in this area are not usually severe and the goose should survive; many geese in this area do not migrate. Its greatest problem could be inability to find food sources and attacks by predators if the water freezes over. This is a situation where supplemental handouts of nutritious food may be helpful.

Ducklings Fallen Through Grates 
If the mother and some of the babies are still around, they should be detained if possible (put them in a box) so they can be reunited after the rescue.

Anyone can make a makeshift tool quickly that will pull ducklings back up through grates or other areas where they have been trapped. Use two slim poles, broomsticks, golf clubs, PVC pipe, even fishing poles, and attach a hammock of netting between them with duct tape or, (less desirably, masking tape. The netting may be bird netting or even fabric, as long as the holes are small enough that a duckling won’t fall through. This can be gently lowered down and scooped under a duckling, then the duckling brought straight up through the opening in the grate. In a pinch, a scoop net can also be made using a pillow case on a long handle.

Family of Ducks/Geese Trying to Cross a Busy Highway
This situation is dangerous for the waterfowl and motorists alike. Be advised to contact the local law enforcement and have traffic stopped and the family herded across. If it is a local or residential road, several neighbors may be able to accomplish this. Ducks and geese will normally return to the nest for one or two days, so it may be necessary to do this more than once until they settle in at the water.

Nest of Ducks/Geese Hatched and is Trapped Away from Water Source
To relocate the family, several people should move quickly so as to stress the birds as little as possible. If there is water within walking distance but streets must be crossed, stop traffic and herd the family across, fanning out to keep them tightly bunched. Herd the chicks, and the parents will follow.

If necessary, such as when the babies must be taken down in an elevator, or if it is a farther walk, they should quickly put the babies in a cardboard box and carry it, lid open, so that the parents can hear the cheeping. The parents will stay with the chicks as long as they can hear them. They must go slowly so that the parents will follow. Rescuers should wear long sleeves and gloves, as the parents may start getting agitated when the babies are put in a box.

If it is impossible to walk to water and the family must be driven, frequently a mallard mother can be placed in the box with her chicks. If all precautions have been taken and the parents refuse to follow, or there are other complications, call a licensed rehabilitator in your area.

Rescue Phone Numbers in Southern California

Crows & Ravens:
Malibu: 818-222-2658
Simi Valley: 805-581-3911 / 805-428-7105
Orange County, Susan Doggett: 714-637-8355
Hummingbirds: Anne Stratton, Huntington Wetlands:
Mobile 1 (714) 454-7707
Cyndi John Gayley, Huntington Wetlands:
Mobile 1 (714) 580-1793
Christine Mih, Project Wildlife San Diego:
Mobile 1 (858) 610-3312
Vanessa Jones, Project Wildlife San Diego:
Mobile 1 (760) 889-9587
Anaheim: 714-635-3368
Chula Vista Hummingbird Rescue Center: 619-420-5156
Ventura: 805-320-2438
Teresa Micco, Redondo Beach: 703.307.8350
Temecula: 951.551.5208
Raptors & Birds of Prey:
Malibu: 818-222-2658
Ojai: 805-798-3600
Orange County: 714-637-8355
Orange County Bird of Prey Center: 949-837-0786
Simi Valley: 805-428-7105
Lake Forest (949) 837-0786
Ranch Palos Verde (310) 378-9921
Temecula 951.551.5208
Seabirds: Malibu: 818-222-2658
San Pedro: 310-514-2573 – International Bird Research and Rescue Center – IBRRC
Shore Birds and Wild Ducks:
San Pedro: 310-514-2573 – International Bird Research and Rescue Center – IBRRC
SMALL Songbirds (i.e. finches and wrens):

Vicky, Huntington Wetlands:
Mobile 1 (714) 222-6817

Camarillo: 805-482-4127
Fountain Valley (714) 964-0666
Laguna Niguel Pacific Wildlife Project: 949-831-1178
Malibu: 818-222-2658
San Dimas: 909-592-4900
Susie/Granada Hills 818-903-5467
Temecula 951.551.5208
Ventura: 805-320-2438
Chatsworth, Lindsey Brooks: 818-620-6061