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“I found a baby crow that must have fallen from the nest/been abandoned/is injured!”

“What should I do with it?”

If in doubt, LEAVE IT ALONE.

Ask the following questions:

Why do you think it has fallen from the nest?

Do you see a damaged nest? Birds almost never fall from their nests unless the structure has been damaged.One of the most frequent problems with "rescuing" wildlife is that the youngsters are doing fine and do not need help. Instead of being orphaned, they are being watched attentively by concerned parents, who often are making quite a ruckus while their babies are kidnapped.Many people seem to expect birds to be able to fly on their own when they leave the nest. Most cannot, but rather leave the nest a week to 10 days before they can fly. People who see them assume that they have fallen from their nest. Here is the reality: birds just don't fall from their nests! The parents usually build nice sturdy nests.

Only infrequently will the nest be disturbed enough that a nestling will fall out. In some species, however, and crows are one of these species, nestling birds may be THROWN out of the nest. That is, it is in the best interests of the parent birds to get rid of some of their own offspring, and they accomplish this by tossing a couple of kids. But, such things happen only relatively infrequently!In these cases putting the young back in the nest will probably result in them getting tossed again.

Fledgling and a nestling?

A nestling could use the help; a fledgling needs to be left alone. For most songbirds, there is a good rule of thumb: the rule of the thumb!Can the bird sit up on your thumb (or finger) on its own? If it can, then it is a FLEDGLING and should be left alone! Nestling songbirds cannot balance on their own or grip a perch until right at fledging. If the bird can balance ok, then it is SUPPOSED to be out of the nest. It may not look like it, but it is. It will have some feathers over much (but not all) of its body, and the wing and sometimes the head feathers will be sticking out of little tubes (the feather sheathes). It might still have tufts of down on its head or on other parts of the body.

So, if it seems ok, not injured, just unable to fly, and it can perch on its own, you should PUT IT BACK WHERE YOU FOUND IT. Even if the parents weren't right there yelling at you, chances are that they know where the baby was and were doing all they could to take care of it. Don't worry about them abandoning it because you touched it; birds don't do that. (They might, however, abandon nests if you get too close, especially if they have eggs and not nestlings.) Just get it back to where they can find it and where it will be safe. Don't put it in an enclosed area that the parents will be afraid to go into. Get it somewhere it can eventually move off on its own.

Why do you think it is abandoned? Do you see a dead parent nearby?

Most animal parents leave their young for long periods of time while they forage for food. Unless you know for a fact that the parents are dead, assume they are nearby watching worriedly.

Why do you think it is injured? Do you see blood or other signs of trauma?

Not being able to fly or being uncoordinated is often misleading.What makes you think it is injured? Is it bloody? Or is it just that it cannot fly? It is difficult to realize that baby crows are in fact babies. When a young crow leaves the nest it will be somewhere around 80 to 100% adult body weight, have legs that will never grow any further, and wings that are nearly full size. The eyes of a fledgling are a bluish gray unlike the black eyes of the adult. This is a large bird, to be sure, up to 300 to 450 g in weight. But they still cannot fly! We have hada number of fledgling crows picked up off the ground because people thought they were injured and in fact they were fine just fledglings learning to fly.The inevitable response from concerned citizens was "But it's so BIG."

Is the fledgling is in harms way?

If an animal is in immediate harm's way, it should be moved into a safer area. This would be a bird in the middle of the street, or on the ground in the middle of a yard with a cat in it, or something similar. A bird on the ground can be put up in a bush or low tree that would keep it out of the reach of dogs or children. Ideally the cover location would have dense foliage that would conceal the bird and would be connected to more shrubs and trees that the bird could climb to. Moving the fledglings to an area near Eucalyptus is also an ideal location.

Also, if the fledgling is in a residential yard, keep the pet inside until the bird is gone. This helpless stage is temporary, and the bird will be gone in a couple of days.

When to have Animal Services respond.

If it really is injured, if one wing looks substantially droopier than the other, if it has blood on its body, or it cannot grip with one foot, then it is time to for professional assistance. Do not try to fix it on your own.Caring for wild animals is difficult, and requires specialized knowledge.

Be aware that IT IS ILLEGAL TO POSSESS WILD ANIMALS, and that there are very good reasons for these laws. The main reason is to ensure that both the animal and the people remain safe.

For more information, contact Irvine Animal Services at (949) 724-7092.