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How to Feed a Baby Bird - Wildlife Rehabilitation

About How to Feed a Baby Bird

Previous Entry How to Feed a Baby Bird Jun. 12th, 2006 @ 03:32 pm Next Entry
I recieved a call today from a woman in Schenectady who was brought a little baby bird (Sparrow, we think) that was just hatching from its egg. Schenectady is quite a drive from where I live so she is going to try and feed the little guy until we can find time to get the bird to me.

This is a fantastic website that I used when I got my first little starling 4 years ago:


There they instruct you to prepare their food using dry dog/cat food that has been soaked in water until it is the consistancey of yogurt. The problem with that is the dry food needs to be ground first and I never had luck with grinding it in a blender (I got a food processer for christmas for the birds, though, and it works great). Before I had the food processer I always used canned dog food (with only a small amount of water added to keep it moist) and been successful with it. You don't need to add the other ingrediants- like apple sauce and baby rice cereal- for short-term feeding. The reason why ground and soaked dry food is recommended over wet canned food is that canned food only contains around 8-10% protein. Dry food contains about 20-25% protein. However, once again- the canned food is fine for short term feeding.

Though they say this dog/cat food is good for starlings and sparrows- it is actually good for ALL songbirds- except Doves.

There is a picture on that site of someone feeding an older starling with a drinking straw that has been cut at an angle. This is my favorite tool as they are incredibly cheap, easy to clean, and you can cut them for whatever size mouth you have. Here is a photo of the straws I am using now:

On the left is one I was using for a very tiny, just hatched, baby bird- in the middle is what I am using for the older Sparrows who are feathered and hopping around- and on the right is what I a using for the Grackle (type of blackbird, bigger than the other birds).

Its ok for the tip to be pointy, as long as it is rounded and has no sharp edges.
Here is a photo of about how much food is a good amount for a tiny baby. For a newly hatched baby I think 3 or 4 mouth fulls of this size should be enough for any one feeding.

When the bird gapes (opens its mouth to be fed) the food should be place into the birds throat to the right side of the birds mouth- the BIRDS right, thats YOUR LEFT. The reason for this is that is where the birds crop is located. The crop is like a food storage organ before the birds stomache. The bird will use its tongue to push the food all the way into the crop. The birds trachea is on the birds left and this is why it is important not to give water to a baby bird. It is very easy for a baby bird to accidently get the water in its lungs where bacteria will then grow and the bird will die of pneumonia. The bird will get enough water from the food you feed it.

When you can see a good amount of food in the crop, you can stop feeding. Many websites will tell you that the bird will stop gaping when its eaten enough, but this is not true for all birds. House sparrows will keep gaping for food and if you feed them too much their crops could get damaged.

Here is a photo of the tiny baby bird with a full crop:

Notice this is the right side of the birds neck. The crop is almost as big as the birds head in this photo because this baby had swallowed some air and there was an air bubble in the crop along with the food. Dont feel the need to feed a baby so that its crop looks like this. If your baby does develop an air bubble, its ok. The air bubble will come up eventually, just make sure you dont overfeed him in the meantime.

And here is the same bird with an empty crop (ignore the ear bubble, this baby had lots of problems and eventually passed away):

You dont have to wait until the crop is completely empty before feeding again, but it should be considerably smaller than the last time you fed the bird.

If you look at photos from past entries here, you will see the nests I make for the birds. I keep them in little plastic containers and line the bottom with tissues. I fold tissues into about 1"x2" rectangles and place them around the sides of the container so that when the bird poops, I can just remove that one peice of tissue and replace it. The bird will probably poop once everytime you feed it, but it may take a couple feedings before this routine gets established.
The birds are kept in their little containers on top of a heating pad thats on a low setting. The baby will have its mouth open and will be breathing hard if it is too hot, but the bird should remain warm to the touch. I have a heating pad that has 4 settings and the second notch is the one that works best for me.

Some photos of the growth of baby robins. Its amazing how fast baby birds can grow in one day!!

Good luck, Ana!
If you have any questions or need clarification, feel free to post here, email me, or call me :)
Date:May 6th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)

sparrows and starlings

I saw that you have both house sparrows and starlings. I'm hoping that you keep them all as pets instead of releasing them back into the wild. I really hope that is not the case!
Anyways, everything else you do seems to be great! Great job and keep it up. I too am a lover of the outdoors and wildlife (except non-native birds)!
Thanks, Bret
Date:June 1st, 2009 03:04 am (UTC)

baby sparrow

for some reason he is have a hard time pooping he was do fine earlier to day and for last few day ive been doing what u say to feed it i left a message with a wild life place out here but never got a call back can u answer me about the poop and should i worry..
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