A bird with a broken wing cannot fly; and until its wing is healed, a wild bird is extremely vulnerable to predators and likely unable to procure its own food to survive. A broken wing will appear lopsided compared to the other wing and will hang at an awkward angle. Sometimes the wing will even drag on the ground while the bird walks. Large birds with broken wings, such as hawks and owls, should be taken to a vet for proper care. Small birds, including pet birds, doves and pigeons, can be cared for by amateurs with the correct tools and knowledge to set and heal the broken wing.
Catch the bird and transport it inside. Domestic birds will be easy to catch, while livestock and wild birds may pose a challenge. Set out a box and herd the bird into the box. Be careful not to cause further injury or jar the bird's broken wing during this process. Take the bird to a quiet, closed-off room.
Wash any open wounds. You can use plain lukewarm water or a diluted iodine solution. Dab gently at the wound with a damp cloth or gauze pad and be careful not to hurt the bird further.
Get scissors and veterinary tape or other gauze that will stick to itself. Cut about a foot of the tape or gauze.
Place and gently hold the broken wing in its natural position against the bird's body; then wrap the tape or gauze around the bird. The tape or gauze should be wrapped completely around the body, over the broken wing and under the functional wing with the intention of holding down the broken wing but allowing movement of the unbroken wing. Wrap the gauze or tape securely enough to immobilise the broken wing, but not tightly enough to restrict breathing.
Let the wing heal. A broken wing takes about two to four weeks to heal. During this time, confine the bird to a small cage. Provide plenty of food and water. Change the tape or gauze once weekly, or more often if it becomes soiled.
Take the tape off after about a month, or earlier if the bird seems to be able to use the injured wing during your weekly tape change. Before releasing a non-pet bird into the wild, place it in a larger space and let it learn to fly again. If it cannot fly properly, do not release it into the wild; take it to a vet, rehabilitator or individual willing to care for it for the rest of its life.
Recruiting a friend to help you wrap the broken wing will make the process easier. Have your friend hold the bird by the feet and lift the unbroken wing.
If the bird has medical issues besides its broken wings -- for example, if it also appears to be sick, has an infection or is bleeding from a wound -- take it to a veterinarian as soon as possible rather than trying to heal the wing by yourself.
Tips and warnings
- Recruiting a friend to help you wrap the broken wing will make the process easier. Have your friend hold the bird by the feet and lift the unbroken wing.
- If the bird has medical issues besides its broken wings -- for example, if it also appears to be sick, has an infection or is bleeding from a wound -- take it to a veterinarian as soon as possible rather than trying to heal the wing by yourself.
Things you need
- Diluted iodine solution
- Cloth or gauze pad
- Veterinary tape or self-sticking gauze
- Bird cage
- Bird food