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Spring dilemma: Handling baby birds or nests found on the ground

PARK CITY, Utah. — It’s that time of year again: the trails are muddy, potguts are planning Park City domination, the birds are chirping and hatching. There are plenty of myths and old wives’ tales about what to do and not do regarding fallen nests or hatchlings, but the Department of Wildlife Resources and Wild Aware Utah has the definitive answers on proper protocols for animal health and safety.

According to the DWR, robins and swallows are the most common hatchlings to find out of their nests. Sometimes the babies leave the nest before they are ready. They may fall out accidentally when chirping for food, or high winds and storms can blow them or their nests to the ground.

If babies don’t have feathers and are quite small, simply put them back in their nest. If there is no nest to be seen, find a branch and put the birds there where its parents could hear the chirps and come get it.

Don’t worry about transferring human scents to babies, because birds’ sense of smell is not developed enough to catch them.

Do not give baby birds any food. Different birds digest specific foods at different ages. Although it is a natural thought, it may end up killing babies in the long run.

If birds found away from their nest are small but do have feathers, then leave it be. These youngsters, called fledglings, will most likely be hopping around. This hopping is a crucial step in learning to fly. The birds’ parents are still watching and feeding them, and they’re most likely not in immediate danger.

Removing or tampering with birds’ nests is a citable offense during nesting season when eggs or baby birds are present. If removal is wanted from an area, simply remove before or after nesting season to avoid future nests.

Ducklings are different from other birds. They should not be handled or removed from their current location unless it is dangerous, like a storm drain or swimming pool. If a duckling is found in a storm drain, then contact the DWR.

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