Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What To Do With a Baby Bird

Baby birds, we see them out of the nest, shudder at their vulnerability and immediately think they need our help. But STOP! 

Before you do anything with that baby bird, stand back, watch and listen. 

CA towhee chick, fuzzy grey in the center in the grass
There is a baby bird, all fluff and down, in some tall grass in my backyard right now. It doesn't have flight feathers and its little legs are wobbly. But this little bird did not fall out of a nest. It's parents pushed it.

California towhees are ground-feeding birds. They like their chicks up and on the move ASAP. Amid a flutter of brown wings and successive chirps, I watched this morning as the pair of California towhees were leading this tiny youngster out of the chaparral and into our yard.

Once the little one was in the yard and accidentally sheltered in the grass, the parents took turns guarding it and occasionally bringing food. I say it was accidentally sheltered in the grass because it took a tumble off a short block wall and into the grass. Don't worry, it's fine.

The towhees however are having a stressful day. Without the protection of the nest, their chick is vulnerable and they are working together to protect it. When a Bewick's wren and an Allen's hummingbird both stopped to glance at the youngster, the towhee pair tolerated their presence. But when a fox squirrel was passing too close, the towhees acted as a team to drive the squirrel off. They chased that rodent completely out of the yard. 

I've looked a few times to make sure that the tiny chick is OK. At first glance it appears to be a lone, distressed nestling on the ground. But the parents are close-by. If I don't see them, I hear them. Bird parents are devoted. This pair seems to be putting all of their efforts into this lone offspring. Do they sometimes need help? Yes. But most of the time they need us to stand back, watch, listen and let them do their job.

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