Finding a wild baby bird abandoned and alone on the ground spurs many people to action. The rescue instinct kicks in and people often feel compelled to step in and help the baby bird. Caring for wild baby birds for an extended time requires expertise and knowledge. Additionally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prohibits the possession of migratory birds without a permit---only sparrows, starlings and pigeons are exempt from this law. Proceed carefully if you decide to involve yourself in a wild baby bird's plight.
Observe the bird without interfering after you first notice it on the ground. The parents may be nearby but they may not want to tend to their baby with you in the area. Back away and observe from a distance to see if the parents take care of the baby. If you see the parents return to the baby, you will not need to help the baby bird. If the parents do not return after you leave the area for about 30 minutes, proceed to the next step.
Determine the age of the baby bird. Pick up the bird in your hands and see if it will perch on a finger. If the baby bird cannot hold onto your finger, it is a young nestling. Look up into nearby trees to see if you can find the bird nest and return this bird to its nest. If the baby bird can hold onto your finger, you have a fledgling in your hand and this bird will not require the same help as a nestling. Place the bird in a shrub or other sheltered location and expect that the parents will continue to help it.
Make a small makeshift nest for a nestling if you cannot find a nest. Use a small basket and line it with several layers of toilet paper to make it soft. Place the baby bird in the nest and hang the nest from a tree nearby. Expect the parents to resume care of the baby bird.
Call the local Humane Society or a local veterinarian if the parents seem to have abandoned the baby bird to inquire about wildlife rehabilitators in your area. Wildlife rehabilitators are people who possess the expertise to care for wildlife as well as the permits to do so. Different bird species have widely varied diets and if you do not possess expertise in this area, you may harm a baby bird by trying to feed it something it cannot tolerate eating. Additionally, without a permit you cannot legally possess a wild bird unless it is a species exempt from this law.
Follow the advice of the Humane Society or local veterinarian for how to proceed with the baby bird.
If the baby bird seems completely abandoned, you might take the makeshift nest into your home and place it in a quiet location while you call the Humane Society or veterinarian. While you speak on the telephone, inquire about feeding and hydrating the baby bird. Do not attempt any feeding and watering without expert advice, however, because you can inflict significant harm on the baby bird if you proceed without understanding the baby bird's needs.