How can you do your part to help baby wildlife in need? Lets start with trying to clear up some of the misconceptions. The best chance of survival for any juvenile bird or mammal is under the care of it’s mother. The first course of action is to return the animal to it’s mother when possible, call for help if needed. Despite wives tales, your “scent” on a baby bird or mammal will NOT cause its mother to reject it. Maternal instinct runs strong in the wildlife population, species would regularly become extinct, if mothers abandoned their young so readily. Further, birds have highly developed sigh and hearing, but very poorly developed sense of smell. Therefore unless she sees you return her young to the nest she would never know.
Sometimes human intervention, is the cause of an animal becoming an orphan. This happens very regularly with baby rabbits. There are a few things to know to avoid this. Rabbits dig a shallow nest, just inches, the young rest there and are covered with grass and fur from the mothers abdomen, they occasionally venture out near the nest and graze as their eyes open, and at the time they begin to venture they have little defense from predators, instinct causes them to remain motionless, so not to be noticed. In turn, many people scoop them up thinking they require help. And no, mom will not be in sight. baby rabbits have a huge stomach capacity. Mother feeds only dusk and dawn, and stays away from the nest all other times, so not to draw attention to her young. Survival rate for rabbits separated from their mother is extremely low, and they undergo extreme stress with human handling.
Baby birds require great care in feeding, properly. Doves, for instance, need to have a formula inserted into the crop (a pouch in the throat area). Feeding in the mouth will cause aspiration and pneumonia, and death. Song birds diets vary greatly by species, the correct diet requires a trained rehabilitator, improper diet may not cause immediate problems. However frequently, after it has been set free, it develops neurologic, or bone impairments. Birds were not meant to consume dog or cat food.
Another very common mistake us to put water into a baby birds mouth. It’s important to note, mother birds do not bring water to the nest, the young take their fluid requirements from the food they are fed. A birds mouth is not, in any way, like a mammals mouth, the tongue is attached at the front, enabling the pushing of food against the beak, and just behind the tongue on the bottom of the beak is the glottis, an opening leading to the respiratory system. Introducing water when a bird is not mature enough to drink will cause the water to fall into the glottis and cause aspiration.
These are the best and only things you should do. Return they juvenile to its nest, if possible. If that cannot be done or you have confirmed the mother has passed away, find a trained and licensed wildlife rehabilitator to take charge of the young ones care www.wildliferehabber.org. Until you find help keep the animal in a quiet dark place. As kind as you wish to be, handling is stressful to a frightened orphan. So limit handling. And thanks for caring