Don't know nuthin bout birthin no blue jay

My 11 year old daughter was out walking the dog Saturday when they stumbled on 2 tiny baby birds on the ground. One had been dead long enough to be invaded by ants, but one was still alive. She came running in to ask my permission to “save” the live baby. My rational mind knows that: A) the bird’s chances of survival with our intervention were slim at best, and B) technically we would need a wildlife license to even attempt to save the bird. My “daddy” brain, however, was finding it difficult to explain these facts to a soft hearted 11 year old who knew full well the bird would certainly die without help. So we adopted the baby. I did explain that, even with the best care we could offer, the bird would likely die. It’s just tough to raise a baby - any baby - that’s been abandoned. I didn’t want my daughter to get her hopes too high, only to be crushed when the little critter expired.

My daughter prepared a nest inside a small animal carrier, put the baby bird inside and hit the Net to find out how to care for it. Per the instructions she found, she warmed a bottle of water for the bird to snuggle against. It promptly snuggeled up to the warmth. She mixed some baby bird food (crushed dry dog food and water combined to a paste consistency), put the food into a syringe and tried to feed the bird. To my absolute amazement the bird ate. Not much, but it did eat. A few minutes later the bird ate again. It also began to move around a bit. Actually, flop around is probably a better description. But it was moving, which I took as another good sign. Later that evening my daughter yelled “Oh, gross!”. Turns out that baby birds make a pretty big show out of pooping. I’m no vet, but I figure that if food goes in one end and eventually comes out the other then at least some things are working properly. Another good sign. My daughter turned down an invite to spend the night with a friend so she could stay home and care for the baby. Yet another good sign.

The next morning my daughter was awakened at 7AM by a peeping fuzzball demanding to be fed. The birdie had made it through the night. Another day spent feeding, rewarming the watter bottle and watching poop shows. And the bird lives on. Its eating more at a time now and eating often. I can’t believe it, wouldn’t have bet a nickle on it, but yet it lives. This morning as I left for work I heard the now familiar “feed me, feed me” peeping coming from my daughter’s room. To be perfectly honest, with each passing day that the bird lives make even MY hopes go up.

I know that, In the grand scheme of things, one more Blue Jay or one less doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. But I’m proud of my daughter for the effort she put forth on behalf of a baby bird. That’s the best sign yet.

Oh … sniff sniff sniff your sweet daughter! Yay for the baby birdie!! I’ve never been able to save a baby bird I’ve found, or stolen away from a cat or dog. (There’s probably a reason for that: internal damage.)

But anyway, I’m so happy for the little jay! Hurray!

That’s great :slight_smile: Anytime I tried to save a birdie, they didn’t make it.

Since it looks like it will be raised in captivity, however, you may not be able to release it into the wild. I’m no expert, but it seems like that is how these things go.

Not always true - when I was about 12, my sister rescued a baby mockingbird from somewhat the same situation (I think it was slightly older than the jay in the OP) and left it with my parents and myself to raise. We did - and without the benefit of the internet to tell us how to do it right (we fed it ground beef). About six months later, we released it to the wild and it (apparently) thrived. For a couple of years we had possible sightings of it as one of the local mockingbirds was a lot less afraid of humans than all the others…

Anyway, we never found a mockingbird carcass near the house, so we’ll just continue to assume he/she survived and has filled the trees around my parents house with generation after generation of descendants. I like to think they’re a rare subspecies of carnivorous cow-eating mockingbirds thanks to us…

I volunteer for our local Wildlife Care center rehabbing baby birds and small mammals. Your little bird certainly can make it to become a thriving adult in the wild. What you daughter is doing is fine, however we have found that ground up kitten chow is better than dog or puppy chow. The kitten chow has certain amino acids that promote feather growth that the dog food lacks.

Good luck! :slight_smile:

I have raised many baby birds to adulthood. One of them was, in fact, a blue jay, and it was a great experience. Jays are very intelligent birds, and they get to be very funny (and a real handful) as they get older.

There is something else you should be mixing with the bird food: get some night crawlers, or earthworms, and mash them up, mixing the mash in with the food you are giving your little birdling. This is important, because the loam in the worm’s digestive system has bacteria and microbes that need to get into the bird’s gullet for it’s health as it grows. Normally, these are provided by the mother regurgitating food to her young, but since you daughter can’t do that, it has to be done another way. :slight_smile:

Your daughter is going to find that the bird will need to eat every couple of hours. Also, right after it eats, it’s going to poop. Don’t be surprised if it learns to back it’s butt up to the edge of the “nest” when it craps - my jay did that, starting at about four days old - they hate to soil their nest.

When the bird starts getting pinfeathers instead of down, you’ll be able to vary his diet a little. Crush fruit and mash hardboiled eggs and mix them with the kibble. Also, try to catch soft bodied insects and offer them (remember that at first, you’ll still have to “plant” them down it’s throat.) Jays are omnivorous, and if you can give the bird a wide and varied diet, it will learn from you what foods it can eat in the wild.

Your job isn’t over when the bird learns to fly, either. It will fly away from you and then keep coming back to be fed until it is fully “weaned” and ready to take off on it’s own. I think it was late August before my jay was completely ready to leave. By that time he was well acclimated to life in the wild. I saw him around for a couple years, but eventually he quit coming around the yard. I don’t know what eventually happened to him.

Anyway, if you need advice or tips or just want to chat about your bird, my email is in my user profile. Feel free to get in touch.

Sounds like she’s doing a good job. I’ve raised a few baby birds and it’s not an easy task. And UGLY! Boy, until they get their feathers they look a lot like miniature E.T.s. But it’s very rewarding when they grow up and sort of sad when they fly away.


Ha, we raised a baby bluejay. He had at least pinfeathers when we found him. My brother named him Stackalee from the song.

He had no problem once he could fly, switching between living the wild world and hitting us up for food and entertainment.

Someone in the family made the mistake of feeding him by pushing a piece of hard-boiled egg through the windowscreen once he reached the flying stage. Within a couple of days, he had not only us but my grandmother and great-aunt trained to wake up at 5:00am and feed him. He identified everyone’s bedroom in three houses without a hitch.

Survival rate for baby birds in the situation of the OP is 50% - even at experienced wildlife rehab places. So congrats to your daughter and the bird for beating the odds.

We’ve raised baby parrots at my house, and have done a few wild bird rescues. I’d say we’re running about 50/50 on survival rates for the wild foundlings. It’s quite a job! Of course, a lot depends on why the little thing wound up stranded in the first place - if it’s illness or injury the odds are against the bird. If it’s a matter of a healthy bird being knocked out of the nest that’s where you have the best chance of success.

Once they start eating, pooping, and peeping, though, it seems you’re over the biggest hump.

Update - Sweety (yes, baby now has a name) appears to be doing fine. Feeding is keeping all my kids busy, but that’s a good thing.

Can do! We have a cat as well, so cat food is readily available. Of course, the cat seems very interested in the little bird as well. It can’t undestand why we keep shoving food into something that is food. From the cat’s perspective it’s like shoving carrots into a Twinkie.

Another can do. We have tons of earthworms in the leafy soil around our house. Adding one to the cat food puree will be a breeze. I’ll have to remember to wash out the blender extra good before we make milkshakes, though.

Yipes! Another surprise. At least now we’ll be prepared.

Thanks for the great advice, folks! I was going to post a “how to” thread in GQ, but it looks like I can get my answers here. I do have a couple of questions:

  • How long, roughly, before the bird is ready for it’s maiden flight? Will there be “tell tale” signs of flight readiness?

Keep the info coming! I really rooting for this little guy.

Well, I can be the killjoy and point out that technically, you’re breaking the law. The migratory bird act states that just about everything that flies (with a few exceptions) may NEVER be held in capitivity, or even reared to be released later, unless by an approved wildlife rehabber. This is why you might have some trouble finding advice online–major wildlife organizations won’t provide it.

However, I can’t imagine someone “turning you in.” You’re saving a life, a life that would have died had you not intervened, which is a far cry from capturing birds out of the wild or doing this on a large scale basis. Obviously a number of others have done it. I once nursed an injured mourning dove back to health, so we could serve our jail time together.

With the mockingbird, it was real obvious when it was ready to fly - it kept trying to fly. It would do laps around the living room while we cleaned its cage. We gave it a few more weeks to get the hang of it, and let it try flying outside. Wasn’t much longer before it decided not to come back and became a normal wild (mostly wild, anyway) bird.

Yeah, that’s me - the Bird Man of Alcatraz. I can hear it now:

Me: So, what are you in for?
Cellmate: I killed a man just to watch him die. How 'bout you?
Me: I raised a baby Blue Jay without a license.
Cellmate: Guard! Guard! Get me outta here, this guy’s is insane!


Sweety died last evening. About 20 minutes after his last feeding he was dead. The only thing I can guess is that he choked on his food.

My daughter took the loss hard. She had invested a lot of time and emotion in this little creature and had become attached even more than she knew. It’s a tough, but valuable, life lesson to learn.

Thanks again for all the wonderful advise.

:frowning: That’s too bad, I was really hoping the little guy would pull through