What Do Baby Birds Eat
If you’re wondering how to feed a baby bird, there are a few important things you need to know. Baby birds usually eat what their parents eat for dinner, since the parent has to burp its food into the mouth of its offspring. Birds cannot break down food at birth, so their parents must first partially digest the food to make it safe for chicks. Since baby birds are dependent on their parents not only for food but also for instructions on how to be a bird, they must stay with them. So, if you find a baby bird on the ground, try to bring it back to the nest rather than looking after it yourself. If you cannot return the bird to its nest, contact a rehabilitation center that can take care of it.
Consult the experts if you think a baby bird isn’t being fed
If you find a baby bird that does not seem to be fed, look for an hour or two to see if its parents provide food for it again. Note that the mother bird only needs a few seconds to feed its baby, so inattentive observers could miss several feeding cycles. However, if one parent bird has to look after several baby birds in different places, parental visits could be irregular. When the baby bird is fed, you can be sure that its parents have provided for its needs, and there is no unnecessary intervention if the baby bird does not appear injured or sick.
If the baby bird does not appear to be fed and becomes increasingly weak and lazy, the first step should be to find a licensed rehabilitator to provide the appropriate care.
If you have found a baby bird that needs to be fed but does not have contact with its parents or an animal rehabilitator, it is essential to know that a baby bird needs a portion of food similar to its natural diet. While each wild bird has its diet, different types of food can serve as an emergency ration if necessary.
What to feed a baby bird
In nature, baby birds eat the same things that their parents eat: Worms, insects, and seeds. However, chicks can eat different types of food if they are taken care of by whoever found them. You could use puppy food soaked in water until it’s like a sponge. Moist dog or cat food can also be used in a jam when at room temperature. You can also use finely chopped fruits and vegetables (such as corn or peas) and even small insects.
It is equally essential to recognize that baby birds have very different nutritional needs than adult birds. What an adult bird eats can harm its young. As a baby bird grows, its diet can be adapted to more raw meat, giving them the protein that’s needed. As for water, a baby bird gets what it needs from the food it eats.
Food suitable for baby birds:
- Boiled eggs
- Moist dog food
- Wet cat food
- Raw liver (without seasoning)
What not to offer when feeding baby birds:
- Bread and bakery products
- Kitchen waste
Unlike mammals, birds do not drink milk and their digestive systems won’t tolerate milk. Unfortunately, it’s a common misconception that mixing bread and milk makes for an ideal feed for baby birds. Milk can be toxic to birds, so avoid feeding it entirely.
When a baby bird is older, it can consume” adult ” bird foods without harming itself, and the longer it can stay between strokes.
DIY baby bird food
One easy recipe for feeding baby birds involves just two ingredients: pet food and water.
- Soaking dog biscuits or kibble in water will create a mushy consistency that’s easy to take and digest for young birds. This mimics the texture of the food given by mama birds in the wild and is also a high-protein option, which is extra important for nestlings.
- A classic biscuit treat like Milk-Bone is ideal for recipes like these. To forgo the mixing and mashing, a canned pet food like the Cesar brand is another great option. You still might want to stir in a tiny bit of water if your bird is particularly young, though.
How to feed a baby bird
- If you need to feed a wild baby bird, remember to offer foods that have a spongy consistency instead of dripping with water, which can suffocate or drown it. All dry food should be softened before offering it.
- Food should only be offered at room temperature, never heated or refrigerated.
- Keep food pieces small and proportional to the size of the bird — tiny birds need tiny bites. Cut or crush food properly to fit the size of the bird.
- When feeding the bird, be as careful as possible to minimize the risk of additional stress or injury. Never force a bird to eat its food.
Lastly, remember that feeding a baby bird should be only an emergency measure. If one is abandoned and needs care, it should be taken by a bird-rescue organization or an experienced rehabilitator as soon as possible. They can not only feed baby birds with a diet suitable for their type, but they also teach them to live independently, avoid predators, and master other skills to live in nature successfully.
Can Baby Birds eat Bird Food/Seed?
Once a chick’s feathers have grown in and it is strong enough to try and fly, the parents will encourage it to leave the nest (fledging).
This can be the most dangerous stage for baby birds as they need to learn to fly, find their food and avoid predators – all in a very short space of time.
Some species of birds leave their young once they are fledged but some will stay together in family groups until fledglings have got the hang of being a bird! It is at this time you may notice family groups visiting your bird feeders or food tables.
Parents will bring their young to places they have previously used for food and know are safe. Once they are old enough, fledglings will then start to take the bird food you provide. At the start though, it isn’t uncommon to observe fledglings sitting right in a food dish ‘shouting’ for their parents to feed them! The parents will do this for a short time until the fledgling learns it must take its food.
It is recommended you provide smaller food items as these are easier for fledglings to digest and reduce the risk of choking (whole peanuts, for example, are too big for many garden birds, let alone fledglings). Peanut granules however are ideal.
If you want to leave out a safe, healthy food for fledglings, sunflower heart chips for birds are ideal as they are provided without shell and are chipped into tiny, bitesize pieces. You can still feed peanuts to fledglings, so long as they are left out in a wire peanut feeder – this stops both fledglings and their parents from taking bites that are too large for them to handle. Although you may get a laugh watching fledglings trying to eat from a wire feeder – don’t worry though – they observe their parents and very quickly learn the ropes!
DO BABY BIRDS EAT THE SAME AS ADULT BIRDS?
As a general rule, baby birds eat the same as adult birds.
We’ve already discussed how adult birds adjust the nutrients and textures of the food for baby birds.
As the baby bird grows, its diet will resemble that of the adult bird.
This is because parents are teaching the baby birds how to survive for themselves as adult birds.
Baby birds must eat the proper diet to be strong and healthy birds.
Take the goldfinch. As adult birds, their diet is mainly vegetarian. Therefore a goldfinch chick has to adapt to a vegetarian diet as they grow.
Birds often need a variety in their diet. When they focus too on one food type, they usually become sick from lack of nutrients.
FOUND A BABY BIRD OUT OF THE NEST?
If you find a chick out of a nest, check if it has feathers.
If it doesn’t, then it’s a nestling or a hatchling. Place the bird back in its nest or alert a bird sanctuary that can care for the bird appropriately.
If they do have feathers, it’s a fledgling. They may be practicing flying. Please put them in a safe place away from predators and leave them alone.
Do not try to feed a bird you find out the nest.
Even if your intentions are good, overhanding a fledgling is more likely to kill them after a few days.
DO BABY BIRDS EAT DRIED MEALWORMS?
Baby birds can eat dried mealworms. But if you offer them at your feeder during the breeding season, make sure you hydrate the mealworms first.
This is important to do if birds are bringing fledglings to your feeders.
You can read more about how to do that in our guide to what birds eat mealworms.
Don’t offer too many mealworms at a feeder during the breeding season, as it can cause issues with calcium absorption.
If you’re unsure about safe amounts, shake some calcium powder on top of your mealworms. You’ll offset any risk of nutrient deficiency.
CAN BABY BIRDS EAT BREAD?
You should not offer adult birds bread to feed their baby birds.
Baby birds will become nutrient and water-deficient with a diet heavy in bread, leading to illness.
Dry chunks of bread can also cause a baby bird to choke.
DO BABY BIRDS EAT AT NIGHT?
Activity time usually depends on whether the bird is diurnal (active during the day) or nocturnal (busy during the night).
Birds active at night will have chicks that will feed through the night.
Some Diurnal fledglings may also feed during the night if they have become disorientated from their sleep cycles.
What Do Baby Birds Eat From Humans?
As far as it comes to humans, baby birds may not be able to identify that. When you pick up a baby bird and take care of it, they are supposed to think of you as their caretaker. Baby birds can eat crop milk, seeds, insects, and other prepared foods from humans.
With proper guidelines and care, the baby bird soon will suppose your place as their nest, and they will eat anything (appropriate) given by humans.
As we have discussed above, there are a few go-to baby bird food options you can find easily. Apart from that, different birds eat different things. With time, you can add more options to the baby bird diet, and they will happily eat them.
You need to ensure they are in a safe, warm place with proper attention and care. If you don’t follow the guidelines and if a baby bird feels unsafe, it might refuse to eat anything.
Hence, if you are a bird’s rehabber or just feeding a baby bird in your backyard, make sure you have proper and safe habitat stimulation. So they will feel safe, cozy, and happy.
To round it up, the next time you ask yourself, ‘what do baby birds eat’ you’ll know the answer.
Baby Birds eat a modified version of an adult bird diet mixed in with a lot of protein.
If you want to help adult birds feed their young, spring is the best time to do it. But remember, this may make them more of a target for nest predators.
The biggest takeaway from this guide should be that you shouldn’t be feeding baby birds that are out of the nest.
Seriously don’t. It’s illegal and, at worst deadly for the birds. Please leave it to the expert and call a sanctuary to help.
Leave a comment to let me read your thoughts or experiences with feeding baby birds.
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