Baby Bird Emergency! Please Advise!

My husband was planning on changing a burned-out light on our porch, and afterward, forgot to put the ladder away. Momma Robin built her nest on top of it, and has three little nestlings.

Disaster struck this afternoon. I just got home from work, and found that a storm had blown the ladder over. The nest lay on the porh, upside down, and the three nestlings were sitting there, soaked from the driving rain. I set the ladder upright, placed the nest back in its spot, and caught one of the nestlings. I tried to put him back in, but he jumped back out of the nest and fell down onto the brick porch. I placed him inside again, and held my hand over him until he stayed put. I found the other nestling, but when I put him in the nest, both jumped ship and fell to the ground.

Long story short, I finally managed to get both back into the nest, but I still can’t find the third. He’s hiding from me.

When I came home, Momma Bird was standing on the porch, not far from her babies. She swooped at me when I was picking them up, and as I type, I can still hear her calling from the trees. So, I’m relatively sure she hasn’t abandoned them.

Did I do the right thing in putting them back into the nest? I’m afraid they may have been hurt in the fall. I’m also concerned about not being able to find the third.

Will Momma Bird go back to taking care of them? If I can’t find the third, will it survive? (It’s big enough to hop, and its feathers are developed.) Will it try to hop back to an area near the nest? If so, I can keep watching for it, and possibly get it into the nest, too, when it comes out of hiding.

How much more stress can Momma Bird take before she abandons her young all together? I’m afraid that all of my well-intentioned activity has really spooked her, and if I go back out there, I might frighten her away for good.

What should I do??

Firstly, you’ll hear “if you touch a baby bird your human smell will make mom abandon them.” That is unfounded. I volunteered with a vet that had a wildlife program, and parents are much more protective of their babies to let “human touch” scare them off.

Don’t handle them if you can avoid it, because after momma might eventually think “oh, well, baby has been eaten.”

If they are fledglings, momma might take care of them on the ground. I’m not sure about robins, but starlings will kick the wee ones out of the nest when their adult feathers really start to develop. This is to protect their good flying feathers which otherwise get damaged in a crowded nest. (Nest is great when they are little fuzzballs, but too crowded as grown ups.)

So the parents will guard the non-flying youngsters on the ground and continue to feed them by shoving food down their gullets (often the babies hop along behind the foraging parents screaming until momma or poppa shoves some chow into their throats.)

The missing third baby will call out when it gets cold and miserable – momma birdies are good and rounding up their young.

Keep an eye on them. If they honestly truly look abandoned, you can try to call a wildlife center. Some have programs for orphaned babies.

Mom is around and will continue to feed the babies. If they are fully feathered they are almost ready to leave the nest anyway. Many birds spend at least part of a day on the ground after their first flight. Can you use another door for the next few days?

God, what a relief!

When I was driving home, I was shocked and horrified to see what had happened. I ran around like mad, trying to fix everything, and catch the babies. I was so distracted, I just now remembered my groceries that I had tossed on the bench as I came in. I’m sure my ice cream is a puddle of goo by now!

We’ve enjoyed watching them so much. It would have broken my heart to have them die before we even got to see them try to fly.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to use another door, but I’m going to try to be as quick as possible about it. The ladder is right next to the door, and it hasn’t seemed to bother Momma Bird much. She usually just flies away and screeches at me until I’m in my car.

If she’s growling at you in that “don’t you dare touch my babies!” kind of way, then she’s still caring for them. Phew!

They might have been dumped out of the nest a little ahead of schedule, but it sounds like momma is still doing her job.

You might want to invest in a super-soaker if your neighbourhood has cats though.