That old adage is true – first impressions can be deceiving. For instance, you see what appears to be a tiny baby bird out of the nest on the ground and your first thought is “Oh no, he fell out of the nest! I have to rescue this helpless creature;” but try to resist that impulse. You may be doing more harm than good because things are not always what they seem.
More than likely, the parents are nearby watching their little fledgling learn to fly. Baby birds spend a lot of time on the ground when they are trying to master this important milestone. If indeed a chick does happen to accidentally fall out of the nest, it doesn’t mean the little guy is doomed. It is an important stage in honing survival skills as he learns to look for food and stay away from predators – and again, the parents are often nearby keeping a watchful eye.
In reality, baby birds don’t stay in the nest for very long anyway as the nest is not always a safe place. You can imagine all the noise baby birds make once they hatch and start crying for food making them easy for predators to locate. So, mom and dad try very hard to get them out of the nest as soon as possible. In fact, the parents may move their young separately to different locations once they are old enough in the hopes of keeping them safe. Additionally, birds’ nests are home to many parasites like mites, ticks, and fleas that can pose health risks to all but the most hardy of the new hatchlings.
On the rare occasion when moving a grounded baby bird is in its best interest – to protect it from the neighbor’s cat, a busy street or sidewalk, or some other imminent threat – rest assured the parents will return to feed and watch over their young. We have all heard, “Don’t touch it up or the mom will smell your scent and abandon the baby,” but that is simply not true. Fledglings are banded frequently for research purposes and as soon as they are returned to their home area the parents always welcome them back into the fold. However, while it is okay to put a vulnerable bird in a safer place like a quiet spot near a bush, you definitely do not want to bring it home and try to raise it on your own.
Humans are not the best parents for a baby bird and the chances of you being able to provide it with all the nutritional requirements and survival skills it needs are slim to none. So, if you truly believe a little chick is lost or injured, the best recommendation is to find a licensed wildlife facility or individual that specializes in bird rehabilitation to take it in. Always keep in mind though, that what appears at first to be a lost and helpless little baby could indeed turn out to be just the opposite. Sometimes it is best to trust Mother Nature to take care of her own.