Ontario has a vast number of bird species – over 470! There is breathtaking variety in their plumage, natural abilities, breeding habits, and habitats. We sometimes see less common species due to the Great Lakes, which some birds use as rest stop during migration.
If the bird isn’t cold, injured, or lethargic, she can be replaced in the nest. She must be placed back into the right nest, however, or the parents will reject her. Contrary to a popular myth, birds have a very limited sense of smell and cannot detect the human scent if a baby bird is handled by people.
If the nest has been destroyed
A substitute nest can be made from a small woven basket or plastic berry basket lined with dry grass (the container must have drainage). Wire the basket back to the tree in an area as close to the original nest site as possible and the parent bird should continue to care for her offspring. Watch the nest carefully over the next few hours to make sure the parent bird has found the new nest. If the baby bird is cold, injured, or cannot be returned to its nest, it must be rescued.
If you find a young bird (a fledgling)
Fledglings are older baby birds who are starting to leave the nest and learning to fly. They wind up on the ground and don’t have the capability to get back into the tree. Fledglings can usually “flutter fly” and hide in bushes and ground cover. If conditions are suited to their survival (there is ground cover, bushes, or other places to hide, and there are no obvious predators such as cats, dogs, or curious children in the area) the bird should be watched to make sure the parent bird is nearby. Parent birds do the best job of raising their offspring, so it is desirable to keep the feathered families together. However, fledglings who are injured, orphaned, or in obvious danger from predators need to be rescued.
The younger the bird, the more important it is to keep him warm. Featherless and down covered babies need an external source of heat such as a heating pad set on low or a hot water bottle filled with warm (not hot) water. Do not try to feed the baby bird, even though he may be demanding to be fed.
If a bird is trapped in your house
Birds will generally fly towards natural light, so the best thing to do is open a door or window where it can fly back outside. Close all other doors and windows, and turn off lights in the room. The bird may fly out right away or it may take a few hours. To encourage him to leave, you can put some bird seed outside the doorway.
If a bird is trapped in your vent or chimney
If you hear birds in a vent or chimney, it is probably because there is a nest inside. This is dangerous for birds, since as baby birds grow they can become too crowded and some may die as a result. To prevent birds from building a nest in the first place, ensure there are no birds in the chimney and then place a cap or wire mesh over the entrance. If the nest is not in a dangerous place, it is recommended to wait until the young are able to leave the nest. Do not attempt to remove the nest.
Waterfowl includes birds who live primarily around bodies of water, such as the Mallard Duck, Canada Goose, or Loon. Typically, female waterfowl lay one egg a day (for a total of 4 to 24 eggs) and sits on them until she has finished laying. This way all the eggs will be incubated at the same time and hatch within a 24 hour period. Hatching is a stressful ordeal for a new little duckling, and time is needed afterwards to dry off and regain strength. By the time the last ducklings hatch, their older siblings are active and anxious to find water.
Ducklings who hatch last may not have enough time to recover; they may not keep up with the family and fall behind. For this reason, ducklings stray from the group and get lost. A mother duck may also abandon eggs that are slow to hatch, concentrating instead on getting active ducklings to food, water, and safety. If abandoned eggs hatch after she leaves the nest, the ducklings are left to fend for themselves.
If you see a lone, dry duckling, with duck families nearby
Try to carefully catch the duckling and cup him in your hands. Walk around the area, including the shores of lakes or streams with the duckling. Let him peep loudly. Only his mother will respond to his cries, and she should do so in a frantic, angry manner. Put him down in a safe place nearby for her to fetch him (without risking injury to yourself!)
Never put lost ducklings back into the water unless you’re confident you’ve located his particular family; he is not likely to survive without his mother, and another mother duck will reject him. If you find a cold and wet duckling, or an abandoned duckling with no duck families in the area, he is not likely to survive on his own and must be rescued. In this case, keep him in a safe, warm place while you contact the SPWC, the Humane Society, or the local SPCA Centre.
If there is a duck/goose nesting on your property or in a parking lot
Unless the birds are in immediate danger, they must be left alone. Under the federal Migratory Bird Convention Act, it is illegal to harass, move, harm, or kill any migratory bird or bird eggs. It is also illegal to disturb the nest site of a migratory bird. If you can offer the birds any protection, such as fencing off a portion of the parking lot so that cars are not driving through the nesting area, please do so.