Wildlife Season: Much Ado About Baby Birds

Should you get involved with wildlife you come across? Most likely not. 

Spring means wildlife season, and with wildlife season comes talk about many incorrect, mistaken, and made-up myths about animals you see out in the world. But before we get into myths, let's start with a basic truth: In most cases, wildlife you'd encounter in your daily life is perfectly fine without human intervention. There are cases in which you can help or make a difference, but more often than not, doing nothing can be the best thing.

If you're unsure whether to get involved with any wildlife you come across, New Jersey's Wildlife Control hotline can be reached at 908-735-8793.

Myths and misunderstandings surrounding baby birds

The most widespread and commonly-repeated of these surround baby birds and what to do if you come across one on the ground or out of its nest. But don’t worry: we’re here to help set the record straight.

Will touching a baby bird cause its mother to reject it? 

Let’s tackle the big one right out of the gate: No, touching a baby bird will not “scent” it and will not cause its mother to reject it. However, this doesn’t mean you should go out of your way to touch any baby bird you come across.  

When should I handle a bird? 

If you see a small bird with defined feathers flapping its wings or hopping on the ground and it doesn’t appear to be in imminent danger, leave it alone. This is a normal part of birds growing up to their independence and maturity.  

If the bird you come across is a nestling (meaning it’s not mature enough to be flapping and fluttering its wings or hopping), it is perfectly okay to pick it up and return it to its nest if it is reachable. If it is not reachable, you can contact a local wildlife rehabilitator or animal control.  

What if the bird is visibly ill or sick? 

Coming across a baby bird that is bleeding, has clearly been attacked by another animal, or is in need of immediate intervention can be jarring, but thinking and acting quickly can make the biggest difference. Contacting a local wildlife rehabilitator or animal control is the best option. 

Still unsure? Use the decision tree below provided by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.