Please...please...please contact Spirit Filled Wings before removing a baby or young bird of prey. Survey the area, look and listen for parents, and use the photos below as a guide to help you in your decision . Every year branchers and fledglings are removed and they do not need to be. However, any hatchling or nestling absolutely needs to be removed. (if on the ground). Locating the nest and putting the bird back is always our first choice, however, please do not attempt to do this on your own. There are many criteria involved in re-nesting.
If you have already removed a young bird, take special care in not letting it look at you, do not handle it, keep it in a small cardboard box that is closed or covered and contact Spirit Filled Wings immediately or another federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
It is not unusual for raptor babies to end up on the ground. It can be for many reasons:
nest could have been raided, birds are moving around as they grow and simply fall. This bird is much too young to simply fall. His nest came down with a tree that was being cut down. Another hazard to spring born babies.
NOTE: This is a 1-2 day old Eastern Screech Owl (ESO) hatchling. A bird this young will not survive on the ground even if parents continue to feed it. This bird would need to be picked up (and re-nested by a professional) or put with foster parents.
This bird is also an ESO (baby) from the same nest as the photo on the left. Also, too young to be left on the ground. NOTE: ESOs can have 5-7 eggs, which are laid 1-2 days apart. So you can have various sizes in one nest.
NOTE: Birds of prey are excellent parents! They do not kick sick or deformed birds out of the nest! If they fall from the next, parents will continue to feed and protect the young birds. The birds are at risk on the ground from: humans, cats, dogs, raccoons, and exposure to the elements, such as, temperatures, rain, snow, etc. We re-nest as many young as we can. If we cannot renest, foster birds are used both in the wild and captivity.
Same 2 birds, older now. Still downy, still depending on parents, getting ready to fledge (leave) the nest, but still vulnerable if on the ground. Feral and outside house cats injure and kill hundreds of these birds yearly.
At this age, the birds are learning to use their wings, referred to as, 'branchers' as they bounce around from branch to branch, exercising and learning as they go. Too young to be on their own, parents will continue to feed them if they fall to the ground. ESOs often end up clinging to a window or door screen, as they can climb very well! Parents will often be seen nearby, coaxing birds back to nest site.
Nestling Cooper's Hawks and nestling Red Tail Hawks look very similar at this age.
3 week old Red Tailed Hawks with Foster mom. Foster mom will raise the young birds teaching them important communication skills, and how to hunt.
Most people equate baby bird with size. However, birds of prey come in all sizes. This is a juvenile, but full size Sawhet Owl. Smaller than an ESO. Not a baby.