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“Hello, TPWD? I’ve Got a bird Question.”


It’s not surprising that TPWD is the first place many Texans call with wildlife questions when they find a baby animal or something injured. Cliff Shackelford, the Texas state ornithologist, has heard it all. Here are a few of his most-answered questions.

Can I touch baby birds, or will the scent of my hands cause their mother to abandon them?

“That’s an old wives’ tale,” Cliff says. “Most birds have no sense of smell. That was just what moms told their kids to do so they would respect the baby bird and not pick it up.”

But just because you can pick up baby birds doesn’t mean you should. Which leads us to our next question.

What should I do if I find a baby bird on the ground? 

Believe it or not, some species of birds often leave the nest a couple of days early, and then learn to fly from the ground. This is especially common with blue jays, Cliff says.

“It’s kind of like teaching your child to swim by tossing them in the deep end — maybe not the safest or kindest method, but it sure gets the job done,” Cliff tells us. “You can bet the mother blue jay is watching from afar as her young hop around pitifully. Sometimes she swoops down to feed them protein-rich insects, but mostly she just watches silently as they test out their new and intimidating world on their own.”

People may find a bird such as a blue jay because a dog is barking at it or a cat’s got it in its mouth, “so it’s a human problem, not a wildlife problem,” he says. “What I tell them is, bring in the dog, the cats and the kids for a couple of days and let the blue jays strengthen up. They will fly on their own.”

What should I do if I find a nest with eggs that has fallen out of the tree?

In the wake of spring storms, it’s not uncommon to find bird nests blown right out of the trees. Sometimes, these nests have live baby birds or unharmed eggs, and the parents may continue to care for the young. It can be dangerous to leave the nest on the ground because of pets or other predators.

Take the bird’s nest and put the birds/eggs back in it, then get a hanging basket (like the ones for plants). Fill it with mulch, put the bird’s nest at the top, and then hang it as close to the original bird nest location as possible.

For a TPWD video tutorial on how to do this, click here.

 Eva Frederick  Everett Collection Inc | dreamstime.com

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