Emergency Care for Birds

PLEASE NOTE: Detroit Audubon is not a wildlife rehabilitator and does not actively participate in bird rescues. We are happy to answer questions and provide guidance, but if you need immediate assistance, please contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator from the list below.

If you’ve found a baby bird that you think needs immediate help and don’t know what to do, call the Bird Center of Michigan at (734) 761-9640.

For a list of all the licensed Michigan wildlife rehabilitators click here: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/ or scroll to the bottom of the page for a list of local and trusted bird rehabilitators.

If you find an exotic bird, contact Second Chances Avian Sanctuary at 248-773-1198 or at second_chances_avian_sanctuary@yahoo.com

IMPORTANT: Do not try to force food, milk (they cannot tolerate it) or water into the bird’s beak, thinking that it will revive or strengthen a bird. You may cause more harm and possibly drown the bird because there is a direct route to the lungs at the back of its tongue.

To learn about what you can do to help birds, click here.

Baby bird, unknown species

Baby Birds

If you find a young bird that is completely or mostly bald, it is too young to be out of the nest. If the bird is feathered scroll down to fledglings.

If the baby bird’s nest is possible to reach, put the baby back in the nest. Contrary to popular belief, the parents will not reject the baby because you’ve touched it.

If the whole nest has fallen, but is still intact, you can put the nest back where it was. As long as the nest is within a couple feet of its original location the parents should return to it. If the nest does not seem stable enough, you can use some string or rope to secure the nest, but do not leave any extra string dandling (the birds can get tangled). If you want to watch the nest to see if the parents return, watch the nest constantly for at least one hour from as far away as possible (ideally 30 feet) to allow the parents to safely reconnect with the baby. The parents will show up for just a few seconds, feed it and take off until the next feeding. If you do not see any parents return, contact a wildlife rehabilitator.

If the whole nest has fallen, and is no longer intact, you can replace the original nest with an artificial nest. Make an artificial nest from a plastic berry box or other small plastic container with holes for drainage. If material from the original nest is available, place it in the berry box. If more nesting material is needed use facial tissue. Do not use cloth, shredded paper, cotton or grass as these may result in injury. The legs of the baby are not strong enough to support it, so rest the baby bird in a semi-upright position so that the edges provide support for the body and head. Do not let the bird sprawl on the bottom of the nest. You can use string or rope to secure the berry box to the limb of a tree or deep bush (a hidden location). Use only enough rope as necessary, do not leave any extra string dangling. You should make sure the parents birds find the nest. Watch the nest constantly for at least an hour from as far away as possible (ideally over 30 feet). The parents will show up for just a few seconds, feed the baby and take off until the next feeding. If you do not see this happening, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

If you find a baby bird and cannot locate its nest, the bird must be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator. Do not try to take care of the bird yourself. Baby birds need to be fed every half hour, require a specific diet, and can choke easily.  While contacting the wildlife rehabilitator, keep the baby bird warm. Young birds are vulnerable to chill and pneumonia. When you hold the baby bird in your hand, it should feel warmer than your hand. Warmth can be provided with a hot water bottle or heating pad turned on to low. Snuggle the bird in facial tissue directly against the source of warmth, but be sure it is not too hot.

American Robin Fledgling


If you find a young bird that is completely or mostly feathered, it is a fledgling and is old enough to be out of the nest. The fledgling period in a bird’s life is when the bird is old enough to leave the nest, but not able to fly. During this period the parents are still feeding the young bird around every 45 minutes. Fledglings usually take around four days to master flying.

If the young bird appears alert, it is being taken care of by the parents, and can be left alone. Signs that indicate a healthy normal fledgling would be open alert eyes, hopping around, or loud begging. If the bird begs when it sees you, this does not mean it is hungry. Begging is a natural reaction when baby birds see a moving object. If you find a fledgling, you can be sure the parent is nearby and you can leave the bird alone.

Baby Chipping Sparrow

If the young bird appears lethargic, it may need help. If a young bird is lying on its side, contact a wildlife rehabilitator.  If you are unsure, watch the bird constantly for an hour from at least 30 feet away, to see if parents feed it. The parents will feed the fledgling for a few seconds and then fly off to find more food. If you do not see any parents, contact a rehabilitator.

Note on Fledglings: During the fledgling period young birds are extremely vulnerable because they  are out of the nest, but still cannot fly. If you see fledglings around your yard and want to help them. The one thing you can do to help them is keep your pets inside. If you see a cat approach a fledgling you can scare it away with a spray bottle of water. This will not harm the cat, but should deter it from the area.

Stunned Ovenbird after hitting window

Adult Birds

If you find a bird that cannot fly, it might a be a fledgling (more information on fledglings above). Fledglings can look like adult birds except a little bit scruffier with mottled colors. If you are unsure contact a wildlife rehabilitator.

If a bird hits a window, sometimes they just need time to recover. If you find a bird on it’s side near a window, it probably flew into the window. If needed, move the bird to a safe area, such as hidden under a bush, and leave it alone for three hours. If the bird has not flown away after three hours, contact a licensed rehabilitator.

If a bird is caught by a cat or dog, it must go to a licensed rehabilitator. Cats and dogs have harmful bacteria in their saliva that can cause lethal infections.

If a bird is trapped in a house, block off all windows so they are not letting in light. Make sure an open door to the outside is the only light source. The bird should fly towards the light.

If you find a bird with any sort of injury, contact a licensed rehabilitator.

Southeast Michigan Bird Rehabilitators

CountyRehabilitatorCityNumberAccepted Animals
All of MichiganBird Center of MichiganSaline, MI 48106734-761-9640All song birds
Southeast Michigan/ LivingstonHowell Nature CenterHowell, MI 48843517-548-5530Mostly larger birds such as hawks and ducks
MacombSt. Francis Animal HospitalMacomb, MI 48044586-228-8387Can take injured birds
MonroeDavid HoganMonroe, MI 48162734-755-3952Only injured or orphaned raptors
Southeast MichiganMichigan Animal Transportation System734-905-7083Doesn't rehab animals but can help with transportation
GeneseeBruce BeattyFlint, MI 48532810-635-0408Only injured or orphaned raptors
Macomb/OaklandSpirit Filled WingsRochester Hills, MI 48307249-953-5690Only injured or orphaned raptors
MonroeWings Paws & PrayersTemperance, MI 48182419-346-7079Only injured or orphaned raptors
MonroeOut-Back Wildlife Rehabilitation CenterOttawa lake, MI 49267734-777-1613Can take baby ducks
OaklandRochester Hills Michigan Humane SocietyRochester Hills, MI 48309248-852-7420Mostly short-term rehabilitation, injured and orphaned birds
OaklandMargorie SappHazel Park, MI 48030248-701- 2523Most birds, minor injuries only
OaklandJudy WalzackWaterford, MI 48329248-613-4508Baby birds only
St. ClairBack 2 The Wild RehabFt. Gratiot, MI 48059810-966-9759All birds
WayneMorrison Animal HospitalGarden City, MI 48135734-425-6140Only injured and orphaned raptors

For a list of all the licensed Michigan wildlife rehabilitators click here: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/