Help Give “Survival of the Fittest” a Right Proper Kick in the Arse

Our own RQ sent me pictures that will make you squee.

Bebbe chickadee! Too young to walk or fly.
Bebbe chickadee! Too young to walk or fly.

Isn’t that precious? But wait! There’s more!

Handful o' bebbe chickadees!
Handful o’ bebbe chickadees!

Now, before you start howling that it’s not right and proper for humans to pick up baby birdies, keep this in mind: these poor little buggers somehow ended up out of their nest and on the ground. RQ says, “It is humanly impossible to replace them in their nest and they need to be relocated due to lots of cats in the area, so the chances of their parents finding them are small, and two of them have already been run over because they fell onto a driveway (there are four left, and they’re practically fledglings).” This is a rescue. Are you ready to give natural selection the finger and do some human-assisted selection instead?

Will you respond when a baby cries?

Crying baby chickadee.
Crying baby chickadee.

If any of you know the proper care and feeding for baby chickadees, let RQ know in the comments here. She’d like to give the survivors a chance to continue surviving. What should they eat? How do you encourage them to fly? That sorta thing.

Food? Did someone say food?!
Food? Did someone say food?!

Right. So let’s get to saving a precious handful of chickadee bebes.

Sweet handful
Sweet handful
Help Give “Survival of the Fittest” a Right Proper Kick in the Arse
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16 thoughts on “Help Give “Survival of the Fittest” a Right Proper Kick in the Arse

  1. 1

    I would suggest looking up local native wildlife rescues first. Barring that, go to the pet store and get some food designed for baby birds, and an eye dropper.

  2. 3

    OH WOW SO CUTE. Yes those birds look like they’re still a couple of days away from fledging (the “pins” on their growing-in flight feathers should be mostly gone by the time they fledge), though sometimes nests will be force-fledged early if something disturbs it.

    This flowchart is some good general advice for what to do with a baby bird. (Spread the word, please – wildlife rehab centres get calls about birds that don’t actually need human intervention all the time.) (Also, this flowchart says “a baby’s best chance for survival is its mother”, but in most songbirds both parents feed nestlings and fledglings.

    If a wildlife rehab centre isn’t available, you could crush up some dry cat food, mix it with warm water (body temperature-ish) to make a paste, and feed it to the chicks using an eye dropper.

    Also, since you’re in Europe, RQ, feel free to call them tits and snigger like a 10 year old! Though I’m sure you already knew that.

  3. 4

    When their mouths gape wide, the parents regurgitate some partially digested insects down their throats.(They will be voracious eaters.) The flying part is mostly instinctive, but many are lost to predators before they get the world figured out.
    No need to thank me for the information. :-)

  4. 6

    Its not necessarily much fun as I’ve tried to save many wild birds as a kid… All of them died of stress or me feeding them the wrong thing. Or more likely infection as I usually saved them from the cat. Only ones that survived were a very grumpy seagull we called Keehar, for obvious reasons. Second was a sparrow whose mother had been killed by the cat and was alone… I fed it outside by digging up worms as it was already out of the nest. Being woken up at dawn by the bird pecking on my window to dig up worms for it was tiring! Eventually it developed a fear of me and wouldn’t fly down to my hand anymore, not that long after disappeared completely.

    That was a lot of work, yours will be more. They’ll hang around on the ground when grown as they usually do this at first using their mothers warnings to tell them when danger is about. How you manage to train them and get them to fly I don’t know as my only success was when mum had done some of this for me.

    I’d make a serious attempt to find a local wildlife refuge and either hand them over or get some professional advice.

  5. 7

    I’ve had good luck with saving injured birds by getting some chicken ‘starter’ feed – 24% protein and advertised as for ducks, pheasants, and quail. Mix it with water to make a bit of a paste and feed it to them via eyedropper or even using a coffee-stirrer.

    Older birds, I just set them in a box and toss some dandelion greens and mealworms in with them and otherwise just leave them alone – either they recover in a day or so and fly away, or they don’t, but I’ve never found my handling them helped their chance of recovery.

  6. 8

    I’ve mixed feelings about this. First, the mother may have still been around to feed them on the ground. They’re pretty big and the nest may have gotten too small.

    I guess I’d govern my actions according to the conservation status of the species. LC (Least Concern) — leave them be. (Too late for that, of course.) Exotic/Invasive — humanely dispose of them. Endangered/Threatened — call up the local experts.

    An all too common problem in this area is people who find “abandoned” seal pups on the beach and “rescue” them. In reality, their mothers leave them there while going off to hunt, when the babies have insufficient speed and stamina to keep up. The results of the “rescues” are commonly fatal for the pups.

    Sorry for being a downer.

  7. rq

    Trebuchet, it’s ok, and I understand. I have no doubt the parents were nearby, but these things couldn’t move across the ground, much less escape from a cat (and there’s lots around), and the mother couldn’t protect them all at once. I know, nature red in tooth and claw and all that deliciously evolutionary stuff, but we can at least give them a chance.

    Since they’re under shared custody with the family on whose driveway they fell, I’ll be checking in later with them with advice and recommendations, and we’ll see how the situation is. Personally, I don’t give them much of a chance, either (stress, mostly), and if they do adjust, I know it won’t be easy. But it’s a chance they have, so we’ll see.

    re: wildlife rehab
    One of those official and highly useful organizations that don’t exist here – at least not in a form conducive to help fallen birds.
    Thanks all for the advice. I understand their chances are rather poor, but they’ll be relocated close to their original location, so maaaybe their parents will find them.

  8. rq

    Update: It appears as if they’re in safe hands. I came with all your advice, including looking up a (hopefully) local ornithologists’ association, but it turns out the mother of the other family has experience in feeding (chicken) chicks with pipettes and everything. I explained about possibly using catfood if babybird food is expensive (you never know), so I feel somewhat useful.
    Also, the nest appears to be kept outside in a reasonably safe space, but I don’t know if the parents have found their younglings yet or not. Still, they’re about as safe as they can be, off the ground, at any rate, and under supervision! Thanks to all again.

    Oh and heliconia thanks for mentioning about the pin feathers, and I’m bookmarking that flowchart. I’d had a hunch they were this close to actually being flyers themselves, so you confirmed that. They had completely bare backs under the wings, though, so obviously not quite ready (although they certainly seemed brave enough, what with randomly jumping out of hands and stuff – which means they’ll probably try escaping from any replacement nest they may be in right now). Another week would probably have seen them more or less independent.
    But I’m curious about the beaks (if you can answer): do their baby beaks just slowly solidify (calcify?) into adult beaks? Because they looked about half-way there, with ‘real’ beaks but with remaining baby beaks on the sides remaining. (Just curious.)

  9. 11

    The recommended procedure for this age fledgling is to put them in a bush or tree, off the ground, as close as possible to where you found them.

    The parents will locate and feed them, and probaly lure them to a spot the parents prefer.

  10. 12

    Not only are they Tits, they are Great Tits (Parus major).

    Have you tried chopped up or mashed mealworms, rq? I think these are readily available in most pet shops.

    At last I’ve managed to comment on FTB by disabling my pop-up blocker, however I will now have to remove all the pop-ups!

  11. 13

    As a wildlife rehab and veterinarian, I see these birds way too often – the very best place for baby birds is with their parents. Even if you don’t have an official wildlife rehab organization, there is likely to be an individual or veterinary clinic that does rehab work – contact the Fish and Game department in your area for a list of local rehabilitators for future need.
    Baby birds very frequently hit the ground a few days before they succeed in flying – this is normal, and the parents will find them and tend them on ground. In this case, since you were worried about cats/predation, returning them to the nest would be better than leaving them on the ground, but be aware that they’ll probably be back on the ground again tomorrow. If you cannot find the original nest, or cannot reach it to return the babies, then get a basket or box, put them in it, and put it up the tree as close to the nest as you can. Then move away – if you’re standing around staring at them, the adults won’t return, for fear of leading you (a predator) back to the babies.
    Don’t worry about making them “smell like humans”, birds identify babies by sound, not smell.
    Unless you know the adult birds are dead, or the fledgling is injured, it is not recommended to remove the babies.

    The “baby beak” goes away as they mature – it’s basically a target for mom to hit with food, and as they get older they grow out of it.

  12. 14

    Being cute in human eyes is a great evolutionary advantage – nobody cares that sharks are going extinct but lap dogs that couldn’t catch a mouse are thriving

  13. rq

    It looks like everything was done just about right. They’re near the home-tree, with emergency food in case, and nobody’s standing beside them but they are visible from a distance.

  14. rq

    Unfortunately, I don’t live in an area where shark rescue is possible, but I do try to avoid the frogs and toads in the grass when I mow the lawn. Or at least give them a chance to escape.

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