3 Tips On What To Feed An Injured Bird

human hand feeding an injured bird

We all love watching our bird feeders.  The bird show is one of the best out there when it comes to nature’s home grown entertainment.  But every now and again, one of our feathered friends will fly straight into a window or otherwise wind up on the ground.  What do you do when you witness this?  What is the best way to care for an injured bird?  You also are probably wondering what to feed an injured bird.

How Do Bird Injuries Occur?  

Birds tend to fly into windows.  You can help prevent this by putting up drapes or window treatments on the window they tend to hit, or a window on the opposite side of the room.  Oftentimes a bird will see through both windows and assume it’s a fly through pathway. Unfortunately for the bird, they’ll just fly straight into the glass and then it’s lights out for a bit.

The biggest risk to a bird on the ground is arguably a house cat.  The most important thing you can do whenever you encounter a bird on the ground is to keep the cat away.  Before you even consider what to feed an injured bird, think about keeping those feline bird murderers away as best you can.  Cats kill billions of birds every year in North America alone, and one of their favorite snacks are injured birds and fledgelings trying to figure out flight.  

What To Feed An Injured Bird

An injured bird needs a healthy diet to repair properly. A simple diet is best, consisting of fruits and traditional bird foods. Raw bananas, oranges and apples are easily digestible for birds. Additionally, bird seed, millet and suet can help a bird regain muscle mass.

In addition to helping an injured bird through nutrition, there are other considerations. Investing in a bird feeder with a dome can help shield injured birds from predators. The dome will help disguise the bird’s injury if its able to make its way to the feeder. There are other items on the market such as animal injury tape. We are skeptical on whether or not this has a positive impact on birds in the wild.

How To Help An Injured Bird

First and foremost, identify the bird if you can.  If it is a bird of prey (hawk, owl, eagle, etc.), immediately call your local avian rescue organization and do not go near the bird.  These are dangerous birds and require professionals to handle them.  An injured bird may feel threatened by you, and can easily break the skin with their beaks and talons.  These birds feast on living creatures and would gladly eat you if you weren’t so large.  Be careful!  This advice also applies to song birds, but generally they are less dangerous.

If you see a bird on the ground, it’s natural to immediately assume the bird is injured.  However, take a good look and you might notice it’s simply a fledgeling.  Birds learning to fly can be found on the ground from time to time, and they need to figure this out on their own.  Don’t get too aggressive when it comes to handling birds.  Give them some time to solve this on their own.  Birds are amazing creatures, and even if you saw the bird smack your window at full speed, don’t immediately rush to handle the bird.

small human showing what to feed an injured bird in its hand with a newspaper

What Happens When A Bird Flies Into Something?

Immediately after impact, there is generally one of four results.  One, they’ll shake it off and start walking around and eventually fly off.  Two, they will be knocked out for a bit, then regain consciousness and fly off.   Three, they will regain consciousness and seem injured an unable to fly.  And finally four, they will have broke their neck or otherwise severely injured themselves and they die.

The last is a sad result, and the best thing to do is to bury the bird, say a few words and move on.  But give it some time!  Birds can stay knocked out for 15 to 30 minutes sometimes, so don’t jump immediately into care taking or god forbid burying a live bird.  

How To Know When A Bird Is Injured

When a bird has been on the ground for 30 – 45 minutes and hasn’t been able to fly, or you notice obvious wing damage, you may have an injured bird on your hands.  At this point it’s time to consider how you want to move forward.  If you want to become this birds caretaker, you can invest in a box. Then you can consider how you are going to keep this bird alive.  Every 30 minutes you will want to take the box outdoors and open the lid. This is to see if the bird is ready to fly off.  If this goes on for hours, it’s time to call your local avian rescue organization to see if there’s another option.

What To Feed An Injured Bird Summary

So, what do you do while you wait for your bird to fly out of the box?  What to feed an injured bird?  You can start with an assortment of seeds, millet, suet, an apple, orange, banana, and a bowl of water for the bird.  Do not at any time do anything related to force feeding the bird however.

However, leaving some food is a good idea as birds feed often, and getting injured can suck the energy out of our avian friends.  Maybe your bird doesn’t fly off after a few hours. In that case, call your local avian rescue organization and find out what they suggest are good next steps.  They may have a center you can bring the bird to, or they may give you a small lecture about the circle of life.