a bird in the hand

My cousin’s kids love to climb trees (as a kid, I managed to get to the lowest level of a big cherry… with a ladder).

Yesterday, I decided to launch a kayak, then spotted hugemongous thunderheads looming up and crawling over the sky in the precise direction I wanted to go.

So I turned and fled north, taking some freezer food I couldn’t use, some garden fresh tomatoes, and hoping for backyard chicken eggs.

Everyone was in the yard, Rus up a small tree with dark red leaves.

Thunderheads were sending the first pale outriders.

Then a shout. “Birds fell out of the tree!”

An entire nest of not quite fledgies had set sail and landed on the grass.

The good news was:

  • bebe birbs bounce (they are light and tough)
  • Finley the pibble was inside so he couldn’t view them as snacks or chew toys
  • mom is a vet tech
  • I volunteered with wildlife rehabbers and I can’t count the innumerable times we did the “put the ________ back” lecture. Fill that blank in with bunny, bebe birb or fawn.

Rus was appalled that he had accidentally sent bebe birbs to their doom.

Of course, the point of a nest is that it is hard to find, whether you’re a tree climbing grey fox, possum,  or a kid.

First, we check to see if anyone got broken… teeny feathers are coming in, soon they’ll be fledging.

There’s a mythology that needs to die right here: OMG DON’T TOUCH IT THE PARENTS WON’T EVER COME BACK!!!


  • most birds have a lousy to non existent sense of smell (which is why Great Horned Owls can eat skunks)(vultures, seabirds, kiwis and parrots are exceptions).
  • Mom and Dad are a few yards away shrieking at you, ready to either dive bomb you (Cooper’s Hawks and Great Horned Owls are good at this, wear a helmet) or return to their nestlings
  • even mammals like rabbits will wait till you are gone to return to care for their kids, they don’t care what they smell like, and they are better parents (for tiny animals) than you are…
  • game laws say you can’t raise these things… put it back or call a wildlife rehabber (check with your game commission or local parks)… wildlife rehabbers have to study, apprentice and pass a battery of tests to be allowed to help wildlife… it takes a lot of knowledge and the right facilities to properly care for wild animals… interfering at the wrong time takes a healthy bird out of the wild and potentially makes it impossible to return it to a normal life


We handled the birds carefully, some animals stress out and die with too much handling (baby bunnies are notorious for this). Watch their reactions; panting? Stressed. These guys hunkered down and stayed quiet.


Meanwhile, back on the powerlines…

Mom and Dad Mimus polyglottos are peeved.

That would be a Northern Mockingbird (Mockingjay was something totally different). They are quite intelligent, and sing complex songs that often sound like other birds. Family mimidae: thrashers, catbirds, tremblers, mockingbirds.



You don’t really need to identify your species to save it from your neighbor’s cat…

…just make a nest holder and stick it back in the tree. It doesn’t have to be in the same place if you can’t reach it, just some place that makes sense. You may need:

  • a strawberry box or
  • plastic container with drainage holes poked in it
  • ladder or
  • small child who can climb
  • rope, string, binder twine, duct tape, wire

There is a Force Luke, it binds the universe together, it’s name is duct tape… or maybe binder twine.

For the farm impaired, that’s the rough thin rope that holds hay bales together… it’s used in the binding/baling machine, so “binder” or “baler” twine.

most of the nest survived the fall, and is placed inside the box with birbs

Yaaaaaaaaaaas… that white fluffy stuff is dog bed stuffing… the birds put it there in the original nest.


tying the twine around and through the box

Yaaaaaaaaaaas, that shirt says “there is a place for all fish, right next to the fries and tartar sauce”. Jeb loves to fish. Mostly catch and release.


small wiry child helps tie box in tree


safely ensconced in tree


My cousin has backyard chickens and there is a thing called “Happy Hen Treats” … if you keep certain kinds of reptiles you may recognize freeze dried mealworms… some commercial chicken producers like to hype their “vegetarian diets”… chickens are descended from dinosaurs and are omnivores…which is why they happily spread all over the world, including Polynesia… they are easy to transport on boats, they eat anything…. I digress.

Image result for hei hei

Happy Hen Treats

We left some mealworms as an apologetic gift for the mockingbird parents. Just in time to run inside and watch the thunderstorm.



Another friend does this with mealworms and sets up a Go-Pro to see what birds are in the backyard. Most backyard birds appreciate some free bugs.



So, if you find a baby bird, or nest on the ground:

  • put it back
  • if nest is trashed or loose, make a new one using a container that will drain…
  • line nest with shredded paper towels… no cotton, it tends to tangle in birds’ feet
  • tie, wire or nail new box to safe place in tree (rope is easier on the tree)
  • handle gently and put back in tree as fast as possible
  • go away and view from a distance so parents can return
  • leave some food for parents

If you find a fluttering, feathered, non-flying baby bird on the ground:

  • this is a fledgling, it’s supposed to be there
  • its parents are looking out for it and feeding it, they are also, right now, shrieking at you from the shrubbery… PUT IT BACK!!!
  • it is learning to fly and is too big for the nest, it is “branching out” literally… out of the nest, onto the branches, get it?
  • if it ends up in your garage/porch/house banging at windows, catch with butterfly net or sheet, place on bush or branch, and get out of the way
  • keep pets away, and encourage kids to watch at a respectful distance (get some binoculars or a good zoom on your camera)


When handling critters, wash hands to avoid passing random germs to pets etc.


Here’s some more detailed info…



All photos by me, except video by Dave Tristan, and Hei Hei from Disney’s Moana.


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