Jul 9, 2005


Helping some of Mother Nature's most frequently orphaned baby birds
With spring comes baby birds, and for many a few short weeks is a long life. Predators raid the nest, storms blow the nest out of trees, too active babies fall from the nest, and an assortment of other tragedies take lives. Sometimes humans can and do make a big difference in whether or not a baby bird survives.

Why bother? Because it makes a difference of life and death to the little one in trouble; because songbirds are on the decline nationwide and saving one of any species seems to be important, and in this violent world of ours, saving something more fragile than ourselves brings out the best in us. Of that, we cannot get or have enough!

It is against the law in most states to pick-up a baby bird and keep it for more than 24 hours. Unless you are a licensed rehabilitator, you may not have the knowledge and expertise to raise a baby bird, and you probably do not have the time. Baby birds require almost constant attention, feeding, and cleaning from sun-up to sun-down for a minimum of two weeks and usually longer. Finding a rehabilitator is as close as your closest nature center, natural museum, humane society or animal control.

There are various techniques that have proven successful in raising orphaned baby birds of different species. If you are sincerely interested in raising even a few songbirds each season, volunteer to help a local rehabilitator who is overrun at this time every year with hungry mouths, get a rehabilitation license and enroll in a course of two to learn the basics so you can make a real difference in the wildlife in your backyard. Check with continuing education course offerings at your local community college or university, or nature center. Work with an experienced wildlife rehabilitator and or veterinarian who treats injured and orphaned wild creatures or better yet work with both of them to get "hands-on" experience.

Formulas are not listed in order of effectiveness. All have been used, tested, and proven successful.

These are by no means the only nutritionally sound feeding formulas. These are just some of those that the North American Wildlife's Health Care Center's rehabilitation network have used repeatedly.

Baby mourning dove feeding formula
North American Wildlife Health Care Center's dove formula

Wild doves nest up to five and six times yearly. During each nesting period, babies blow out of nests during storms, perch perilously on the nest's edge, and fall to the ground before their wings will carry them into flight.

If the young dove is too young to eat grass seeds and grain off the ground, it will have to have human help to survive.

A successful feeding formula includes

1/2 cup soaked chicken starter or turkey starter, or wild game bird starter and grower,
1/4 cup Hi-Protein baby cereal
1 tsp. Brewers' yeast (supplies Vitamin-B complex)
1 tsp. Vionate (vitamins)
1 jar baby egg yolk or 4 oz. egg yolk (hard-boiled)
1 tsp unflavored gelatin
1/4 tsp. wheat germ flakes
1/4 tsp. powder
1 tsp. dyne (stat) balances electrolytes, and supplies needed vitamins and minerals. Check with your "vet". Many refer to the product as STAT.

Baby doves need to be fed no more than five to six times in a 24 hour period. They have a large crop that stores food.

Warm only what is to be fed each feeding, and keep the remaining refrigerated.

Feed until the crop feels like a soft balloon inflated. Do not feed until the crop feels stretched and tight.

Baby dove feeding formula #2
The Brukner Nature Center Primer of Wildlife Care and Rehabilitation by Patti L. Raley 2nd edition.

1 cup High Protein dog food softened in water
1/2 cup turkey starter
2 hard-boiled eggs, crumbled
2/3 cooked Roman Meal cereal
1 teaspoon dolomite vitamin/mineral mix berries
Combine ingredients thoroughly. Separate into individual portions and freeze until needed. Thawed mix will keep up to three days in refrigerator. Moisten with water or fruit juice to feed with a syringe. Give small amounts of water after each feeding.

Baby dove feeding formula #3
From Wild Animal Care and Rehabilitation, Kalamazoo Nature Center, Fourth edition.

2 tbs. fine ground 8-in-1 Mynah Bird Food
1 tbs high protein baby cereal
1 tbs. wheat germ
1 tbs. corn meal
1 teaspoon hard-boiled or baby food egg yolk
2 to 3 drops balanced avian vitamins.
Grind 8-in-1 Mynah Bird Food or you may use unmedicated chick started in a blender. Combine this with high protein baby cereal, wheat germ, corn meal, egg yolk and vitamins. Mix with water until mixture is thick and soupy. As baby matures add sees such as millet or parakeet seeds. Doves need to be fed only four to five times during daylight hours. Do not overfeed. The crop need to have some food in it always. The crop deflates at night.

MacLeod baby dove feeding formula #4
Leslie MacLeod is the wildlife coordinator for the North American Wildlife Health Care Center, a state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator with some 10 years experience.

1 jar baby beef (baby food)
1 tbs. finely (yellow or white)
1 hard-boiled eggs, crumbled (white and yolk),
1/4 tsp. wheat germ flakes, 1/4 tsp. brewers yeast (supplies B-complex vitamins)
1/2 inch ribbon of nutrical squeezed from tube.
Mix with pedialyte until mixture is a medium consistency syrup.
When the baby is at least half feathered, add just a pinch of fine grit to formula to keep the crop working well.

By the time the baby is about 10 days old, feathers are beginning to unfurl in the wings, the diet should be about 80 percent of the above formula with 20 percent made up of very small polished finch seed.

Feed at room temperature. Stores well in freezer for individual portions. Thaw one feeding at a time.

Feed baby no more than five to six times in a 24 hour period. Pigeons and doves beg even when not hungry.