Hatchling or Nestling

I Found a Hatchling or Nestling Bird

Hatchling birds


What do they look like?

Hatchlings have:

  • no feathers
  • eyes closed

Nestlings have:

  • pinning (sheathed) feathers
  • eyes open
  • down tufts on head tops

The very best help a person can give a hatchling is to return it to its nest. The hatchling has likely fallen from directly above. It is not uncommon for babies to fall from nests in high winds, heavy rain, or due to nest disturbance; check the ground for other fallen birds. If a dog or cat has come into contact with the bird, DO NOT attempt to renest. Call Greenwood Wildlife at (303) 823-8455.

Sometimes nestlings fall or jump or are pushed out of their nest too soon because they are starting to move around and their nest gets crowded. They need to be returned to their nest until they are fledglings, which may take only a few days.

Contrary to popular myth, touching or handling a baby bird will NOT discourage its parent from returning! In general, a bird’s sense of smell is about as poor as a human’s.

Can you find the nest or cavity the baby fell from?

If you see a nest in a tree or structure, return the baby to the nest after checking to see that the hatchling or nestling matches others in the nest. If you do not see a nest, check for a hole or cavity that the baby could have dropped out of. Many birds nest inside tree cavities. Make sure all the babies look alike before trying to return a baby to a nest or cavity.

Observe the nest quietly from a distance. If a parent visits the nest, the baby is fine and you have given it the best possible chance of survival!

What if the entire nest fell out of the tree, the nest cannot be found, or the nest is out of reach?

If it is apparent that an entire nest has fallen out of a tree with babies, gather the nest and babies together. If the nest is intact, place or wire it securely into the tree it appeared to fall from.

If the nest is not intact, find an appropriately sized vessel to contain the babies: for example, a plastic berry container without a lid. The container must be able to drain water out of it. Place all of the nest material in the container. If you cannot find any part of the nest, make one yourself by lining the container with grass or hay or straw. Then wire the new nest into a near-by tree and place the babies inside.

You will need to observe the nest quietly from a distance for at least two hours to see if the parents return to feed the babies. If a parent returns, the babies are fine.

If the parents do not return, or the bird is injured

If the parents do not return after two hours, if the baby’s parent is known to be dead, or if the baby is cold and listless, please call Greenwood Wildlife at (303) 823-8455 to discuss what you observe and to decide with a rehabilitator what to do next.

If you determine that an animal needs to be brought to our facility, please follow these instructions for capturing and transporting animals.