What to Feed a Baby Bird

Updated November 21, 2016

Spring is the time of year when hundreds of baby birds are found on the ground, seemingly in need of care. Some baby birds will be covered sparsely with feathers, while others will be naked with their eyes closed. Still others are rescued from cats and dogs. It is common to ask what it takes to feed and care for an abandoned baby bird.

Legal Information

It is against the law to raise a wild bird in your home. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was formed to stop the selling of birds and their feathers. It protects almost every species of bird found in the United States.

If bird rescue is something you'd like to do on a regular basis, apply for a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Get properly trained for wild bird rehabilitation.

This means that if you find a baby bird, first contact a local wildlife rescue organisation. They may not be able to take the bird into their care immediately, but you will be on the right track to getting the animal proper care. More important, you won't be breaking the law.


Before you try care for or feed the bird, assess whether it is truly abandoned. Most baby birds leave their nest before they can fly. They will land on the ground where they'll stay for days while learning to fly. It isn't always obvious that the parents are still nearby. Leave the bird alone and observe from inside for a couple of hours. Usually the parents will periodically come to feed the baby during the day.

Sometimes you'll find a bird whose eyes are still closed. If you can find its nest, simply place the baby back in it. Birds have a poor sense of smell, so don't worry about the parent rejecting it because you touched it.

The Basics

If your bird is truly abandoned, it probably needs nourishment right away. Do not give it water. The structure of a bird's mouth makes it easy for them to drown.

The best diet for the bird depends on its species. Some birds are insectivores, some are seed eaters and others eat primarily fruits or nectar.

While waiting for expert rehabilitators, you can offer mashed up dry cat or dog food mixed with water. It is important to understand you are only offering this food temporarily. If you try to continue caring for the bird, despite your good intentions, it will probably die.

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