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Caring for Injured Birds

By Amy Renfranz (

Article Published: Feb. 7, 2013 | Modified: Feb. 7, 2013
Caring for Injured Birds

Blue jays make North Carolina home year round. Do not give up hope, dear reader. You may be able to save the next one.

Photo submitted

A great number of questions have been coming in via email, and I have just one request: Please send more.

It is wonderful to see so many people interested in this big beautiful world. Teachers, have your students write in. Or, better yet, take them for a hike on the parkway.

Kids, have your parents write in. Or, better yet, share with them your curiosity of the natural world. Grown-ups have a way of forgetting how amazing it is.

If there is one thing that a person can grow to be good at, it is being a naturalist. No matter who you are or where you live, being a naturalist comes naturally if you allow yourself to be intrigued by the world around you.

In fact, there is only one criterion to being a naturalist. You must ask questions.

One such naturalist experienced great sadness this week when she tried to save a bird that flew into a window and did not recover. She did not stop with that sadness, however. Instead, she questioned.

What is the best way to care for a bird that has been injured by flying into a window or being hit by a car? – K.B., online reader from Shelby, N.C.

A bird that has experienced this kind of blunt trauma will possibly suffer from broken bones, internal injuries, brain concussion and most definitely shock. Consequently, I would recommend handling the bird as little as possible.

Actually, you should only touch the bird once and that is when you gently place it upright into a small cardboard box that has been lined with a soft material. Close the box but make sure that it is not airtight.

Put the box into a cool, safe and quiet place for about an hour. If the bird is going to recover, it will need to remain calm, and they generally tend to sit still in quiet darkness.

This period of dark quiet will keep the bird from dying of shock and also allow time for blood to drain away from its brain.

At the end of this rest time, kindly take the box to a shaded natural area for the bird that is, of course, away from windows or cars, but not too far from where you found it. Open the box and step away.

If the bird does not fly away in a short period of time, you may need to take it immediately to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Federal law prohibits the care of wild birds in a private home or keeping them as pets. In fact, it is against the law to even possess one feather of a native bird unless you have a special permit. This law is in place to protect birds from being hunted for their feathers (see Victorian Era Headwear).

It is important to know that many injured birds do not survive, but do not give up hope. There will come the day that you find a bird and it recovers as it sits in the boxed home that you made for it. And as you watch it fly away, your heart will swell with gladness.

If you have a question concerning flora and fauna, please email ( All of your questions will be answered. One or two will be featured next week. See you on the trails!

Amy Renfranz is an interpretive park guide on the Blue Ridge Parkway. She is a certified naturalist through the Yellowstone Institute and a certified environmental educator in the state of North Carolina. Her comments are made independently and do not reflect the views of the National Park Service.

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