Calling Colibri - Baby bird ID/advice needed

Colibri or any other birders:

This was brought into our clinic today. I learned the local bird rehab is currently not taking birds so I decided to try and raise this little guy. I have raised many baby birds and worked in wild bird rehab in the past but I have never seen a baby bird that looks like this. I suspect it is a baby kingfisher. We have Belted Kingfishers around here. It has feather fuzz that looks like it’s trying to be a crest on the head. The fuzz on the body looks bluish and the chest looks white, which fits with a kingfisher’s coloring. It’s very tiny though, less than 2 inches long. Its mouth opens really wide, even for a baby bird. It still has it’s egg tooth.

I also suspect that it would be very hard to hand raise. I have to make do with soaked kitten food tonight. I know kingfishers eat fish but also possibly insects. I can pick up some mealworms tomorrow and some little bait fishies.

I’m keeping it warm, it wakes up for me and tries to open up its mouth to grab the food off my fingers. Unfortunately, it moves like Ray Charles and often misses the food but eventually it’s gets some in the mouth.

If I do get the little guy to live I know I’ll have some issues when it comes time to release it, but for now I want to confirm its identity and get any tips on keeping it alive.
Sorry, about the pic, that was the best I could do it would not pose for me.

Offhand, I’m not sure of the ID. However, a kingfisher can be identified by its toes.

Kingfisher feet

Note that the outer two toes are united for about half their length. I can’t see from the photo what the toes of your bird are like.

However, kingfishers nest in burrows they make in steep banks. It would be very unusual for one to be found outside the nest, since it would be almost impossible for one to make it to the mouth of the nest burrow at that stage.

Any further info on where it was found?

What a sweet little birdbaby! I know very little about wild birds, although I have successfully raised a few.
Bless you for caring, Wile E.

I was sorely tempted to smart off and tell ya it was a roadrunner.

I did not know that about kingfisher toes, but I did know they nested in burrows. Unfortunately, I did not question the guy who brought it in because I was expecting just another blue jay or mockingbird. He did say he saw it as an egg the day before so the nest must have been low or ground level, unless he climbs trees daily. I didn’t open the box to peek at the bird until he left so I didn’t question him further. I’m in Pinellas county, Florida. There are many areas where people can live on canals or near the water so it is possible that a kingfisher or some other water bird could be nesting in or near someone’s back yard.

I checked the toes and they are not fused, they are all separate. Three in the front, one in the back.

By the coloring of the fuzz I feel it must be a blue bird with a white chest, but it could be gray and white. It’s definitely not a blue jay, I’ve seen a ton of those little buggers. I thought of a scrub jay but if they are anything like baby blue jays then it’s nothing like the many baby blue jays I’ve seen. This baby doesn’t strike me as similar to any of the usual baby birds we see. It makes a little peeping noise, not the typical baby jay noise. The way that it eats and opens it’s mouth reminds me a little of some night herons I raised but it is much smaller than the ones I’ve seen. Baby jays and mockers and the like, sit up straight and open their mouth and wait for food to be plopped in their mouths, this little guy opens his mouth but sways sideways and tries to grab it himself.

Do you think meal worms would be a safe bet?

Thanks for the help.

If it doesn’t have toes like that then it’s not a kingfisher.

I was thinking a very small heron myself. However, it seems small even for that. The most likely species would be Green Heron, but some googling seems to show the youngest chicks are white.

I would say mealworms would be a pretty reasonable thing to feed a chick like that.

Well, if I can keep him alive for a while maybe he’ll start to look like something identifiable later.

After checking around some more I found these images of Green Heron chicks. Look at the smallest chick in the 6th photo down. Note the dark back, white underparts, and green around the eyes. This would be several days older than your chick.

Based on this, my best guess at this point is a Green Heron chick.

Ooh, yeah. Cool! Thanks for looking around for me, I’m really rusty on my bird species and I was blanking on the small seabird possibilities. In those pics, the way the little one’s mouth opens and how he’s trying to grab the food remind me of my little guy. So I guess fish and bugs will be fine for him. If I can keep him alive my problem comes later when he’s older and I have to figure out how to wean and release him. Maybe the bird rehab place will be able to take him by then.

By the way, he keeps trying to eat his wing.

Yes, looks like a Green Heron chick. Their primary diet is fish. They can swallow virtually anything that fits into their mouths-- at this age, that probably means glass minnows or equivalent size fish. Supplemental vitamins (especially B complex) and calcium are required. Whole fish should be used, not filets or other “dressed” versions (like grocery store smelt). Local bait stores are your source of supply.

Also, it probably isn’t thermoregulating yet, so a brooder at about 85 F is needed.

Nests are a woven pile of branches. The babies need a similar substrate, not simply towels, for their feet to grip. Otherwise their legs and feet will not develop properly.

Imprinting is a problem for babies raised alone. A live imprint model is best (but that requires a Green Heron). At least protect him from human related sights and sounds. And feed him with a puppet (even a sock over your hand, and forceps to hold the fish) so he does not come to recognize humans as his conspecifics.

“Weaning” isn’t a problem, since their adult diet is the same as their diet as nestlings. Proper flight conditioning WILL be an issue. That requires a proper rehab facility.

In Florida, permitted wildlife rehabilitators can be found by calling Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and asking for rehabbers in your area. Visit for their 1-800 number. Also, our web site has links to a locator for wildlife rehabilitators in the US. (Not sure of SDMB etiquette so I won’t post the link-- but it is on my profile.)

Good luck!

Yeah, I was thinking of making a puppet to use to feed him. Ideally I would prefer to get him in the hands of someone who might be feeding other seabirds, but a co-worker told me the local bird rehab place was temporarily shutdown so I figured I could at least feed him for a couple days until I can find someone who can take him.

CannyDan: I’m sending you an email, I hope that’s okay? It will be from an email address that includes my board name here plus a couple additional letters.

Is it kosher to tack a similar / related question into a thread like this? The timing of this thread is perfect. Last night, we found this bird in a neighborhood near Cleveland, Ohio. It wouldn’t fly away, and seemed very comfortable with humans. I was able to reach down and pet it, and have it hop onto and over my hand if I put it out in front of him/her. It seemed, to me at least, that it was somebody’s pet that had gotten loose, but others disagreed… that is not the type of bird people normally keep for a pet.

It was fairly large, maybe slightly larger than a blue jay or robin, but not as big as say a crow. The only camera I had was a cell phone camera, so the pic is not very good, but it had the patch of rusty red on the back of its neck, a tan and black striped back, it’s underside was white with black spots almost like a dalmation, and when it spread its wings we could see bright yellow lines along their length.

We eventually just let it hop away through a fence and didn’t see him / her again.

Any ideas?

Looks like a Common Flicker (Colaptes auratus), a woodpecker. These are indeed not pets-- possession requires permits from US Fish & Wildlife Service.

That over-friendly attitude and the general squinty-eyed appearance suggest possible blunt trauma. Flew into a window, hit by a car, etc.

Medical treatment might have been helpful. It may or may not recover on its own.

What an adorable puffball! I hope he takes to those mealworms. Keep us updated.

Geez, you guys are good… we looked forever to find it online. A yellow-shafted northern flicker it was indeed. Thanks.

Holy crap. A woodpecker! I’m really glad the little fella was nice enough not to peck me while he was hopping across my hand. That would have hurt.

We decided not to interfere with it and just let nature take its course. Unfortunately, there are many cats in the area, so I hope she healed up quick. She was a very beautiful bird.

Update, PLEASE?!


I raised him for 18 days, he had most of his body feathers and was growing his flight and tail feathers. He’s definitely a green heron. I didn’t have a flight cage for him and he was going through the feeder fish awfully fast so I took him to a bird rehabilitation facility this week to finish raising him. As fast as he was growing I hope it won’t be long until he’s released.
Unfortunately, I kept forgetting to take his picture. I’m not used to having a camera. I didn’t realize I didn’t even get a last picture until after I dropped him off.:smack:

Did you take him to Suncoast Seabird? I love that place. I dropped off a blue jay there recently…went back and got an update; he’s doing just fine.

Oh, thank goodness. I was so sure you were going to say he died! I’m all relieved now.

Yeah, they had some recent troubles though so that’s why I waited until he was a little more feathered out, since I wasn’t sure if they had enough people to feed him as often as I fed him during his big growth spurt.