What to Do About Sick/Injured/Orphaned Bird

People frequently contact SFVAS concerning oiled, wounded and sick birds — and “seemingly” abandoned baby birds (see below). Below are the bird rescue operations in our area of which we are aware.  If you know of others, please let us know and we will add them to this list.   All of these organizations are non-profit, need donations, and frequently solicit volunteers, with the exception of the two organizations listed at the end. If no one answers it is because clinic personnel are currently busy with feeding or emergency procedures. Please leave a message – they will return your call as soon as possible.

Please, always call these organizations before you attempt to deliver an animal to their Center.  You may waste valuable time.

Please note: The rehabilitation organizations listed below are not bird sanctuaries or bird boarding facilities, and with the exception of the two organizations at the end of the list, are not nuisance wildlife removal agencies. They are not permitted (by law) to admit domestic animals or birds. It is always illegal for non-permitted parties, including Veterinarians, to keep or care for wildlife.

If you have any questions not covered below, please call Dave Weeshoff, SFVAS Conservation Chair, at (818) 618-1652 or email Dave.Weeshoff@SFVAudubon.org.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act: Most wild birds are federally protected. They must not be chased, harassed, captured or harmed in any way. Their eggs and nests are also protected.

Occasionally, it may be necessary to move a bird or its nest. We are permitted through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to handle protected migratory birds on a case by case basis.

California Wildlife Center
Phone: 310) 458-WILD [9453]

PO Box 2022
Malibu, CA 90265
Email: admin@cawildlife.org

International Bird Rescue:
(Wild, aquatic birds only)

Website:  http://www.bird-rescue.org/
Phone:   310-514-2573
3601 So. Gaffey Street Box 3
San Pedro, CA. 90731

Ojai Raptor Center

Website: http://www.OjaiRaptorCenter.org
Phone: (805) 649-6884
Email: ojairaptorcenter@gmail.com

Wild neighbors too close for comfort? Wildlife problems can and should be resolved with compassion and humanity – with respect for life and the environment. Where traditional pest control companies focus on trapping and killing animals, HAC focuses on the cause, for lasting results.  Fees may apply.

South Bay Wildlife Rehab
Website: http://www.sbwr.org/
26363 Silver Spur Rd.

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
Phone:   310-378-9921
Email:  info@sbwr.org


City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Services

Small Animal Rescue Team (SmART)
Los Angeles Wildlife Program
(323) 225-WILD (9453)

The fastest way to reach a Los Angeles City Animal shelter is:

  • Dial 888-452-7381
  • Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish
  • Press 4
  • Connect directly to any of our shelters

Humane Animal Control
Phone: (855) 548-6263
Website: http://humanecontrol.com

“Orphaned” baby birds

The first thing to do when you find a baby bird on the ground is stand back and watch, if it’s safe to do so. The baby will likely peep and you’ll become aware of an anxious parent nearby waiting for you to leave.  If you’re sure that no parent is watching over the baby, you can pick it up — it’s a myth that the baby will be abandoned if touched by a human.

Just because a baby doesn’t have all its feathers doesn’t mean it wasn’t ready to leave the nest. Give it the “finger test” — if it can hold onto your finger and stand upright, it’s a fledgling and ready to leave the nest — set it someplace out of danger and leave. If it cannot perch on its own, then it has probably fallen out of a nest. If you can find the nest and put the baby back in it, do so. But be aware there are numerous reasons why a baby is no longer in its nest — they don’t usually just “fall out” for no reason. If you’re determined to help and can’t find a nest, you can put the baby in a bush in a little plastic fruit basket — but at this point you are really fighting nature. Capital-N Nature can be cruel and sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone. Feeding baby birds is tricky, time-consuming (they must be fed every twenty minutes during daylight hours) and fraught with the possibility of failure.

No matter how “in the right place” your heart is, small perching birds are hard to save. Of course, if you find a baby Great Blue Heron and you’re certain there’s no parent around, then call the Wildlife Center.

Urban Mallards 

(reprinted/edited by permission, Audubon of Portland OR)

It is a common and somewhat harrowing sight to see a duck leading a string of ducklings across a busy road or through the middle of a highly urbanized area.

Many of the calls we receive during the spring and early summer are from people who want to know “Why are they here?” and “How can I help them?” The following are some answers to the most common spring waterfowl questions:

A duck is incubating eggs in my backyard, parking lot, porch, balcony, etc. How long will she be here?

Mallards incubate their eggs between 26-30 days. Males typically desert after the first week of incubation, and the female is left to complete the process and raise the young.

Mallard ducklings are precocial, meaning that they are able to feed and move about on their own within minutes of hatching. They are, however, dependant on the mother for guidance, protection and waterproofing. She will typically lead them to appropriate habit within a day of hatching, and they remain with her for 42-60 days.

Why do mallards sometimes nest far from water?

Mallards look for nesting locations away from likely predators. In urban environments this may include raccoons, coyotes, dogs and cats. Urban parks are typically over-populated with ducks, and females may also look for nesting locations away from drakes (male ducks) that may attempt to copulate with them even after egg laying. It is not uncommon for ducks to nest as far as a mile from water.

What should I do if I see a mallard with ducklings?

Once the young hatch, mallards will lead their young to water. Sometimes this requires traversing a hazardous route. It may require crossing roads. Although it is tempting to try and “rescue” the ducklings, it is important to allow the mother to continue to care for her own young.

Attempts to capture the young and transport them to “safer” locations frequently cause the mother to “spook” and fly away. Ducklings will often scatter and can be very difficult to catch. Although well meaning, attempts to interfere usually make a bad situation even worse.

What should I do if I find a lost or abandoned duckling?

Ducklings frequently become separated from their mothers. If the mother is believed to be nearby, it is best to leave the duckling alone. It will “peep” and alert the mother to its whereabouts.

If the mother has been spooked and has left her ducklings behind, they can be gathered and placed into a cardboard box with the top open to the sky. She will usually circle back shortly to relocate her ducklings.

If there are ducklings known to be orphaned, they may be brought to the California Wildlife Center (call first!).

What should I do if I find an injured or malformed duckling?

Ducks typically have between 8-10 young. Most of those will not survive to adulthood. Birth defects and developmental problems are common in ducklings.

Those that are not thriving are left behind so that the mother can focus on those with the best chance. Injured ducklings can be brought to the Wildlife Care Center. However, these types of problems are typically not “fixable” and deformed and badly injured ducklings are usually euthanized.

Why do the males attack the females?

“Drake Rape” is a common occurrence in urban parks. Several males may attempt to copulate with a single female at the same time. Oftentimes this leads to injuries along the neck, back and legs.

In extreme cases it can lead to death from either trauma or drowning. This behavior is associated with over-crowding and it is exacerbated by the fact that the large domestic ducks that are often found in parks are bred for food rather than for survival and are not built to escape.

Why is there so much color variation in our park mallards?

Many ducks found in parks are abandoned domestic ducks (and their offspring) that have been bought at pet and feed stores and then released into the wild. Male Mallards are particularly promiscuous, and will mate with these “barnyard” ducks, creating crossbreeds of varying design.

Releasing domestic ducks into the wild is illegal and punishable by both fines and jail sentences. It is also inhumane as these ducks typically have a difficult time surviving and exacerbate the over-population problems that already exist in urban parks. It is also illegal to gather up ducklings and release them at a local park’s pond. Do everything possible to let them remain with their mother.