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wildlife frequently asked questions

This is one of many common questions we receive every year. However, to some extent, each situation is unique and different. Often, you will need to take the information provided here and adapt it to your individual situation. Feel free to call the Wildlife Staff for more specific advice. We have 24-hour voicemail and will return your call as quickly as possible.

14. There’s a bird hopping on the ground unable to fly. Does it need help?

During the summer, especially in the month of June, Lake Erie Nature & Science Center answers hundreds of questions about birds on the ground, appearing healthy, but unable to fly out of harm’s way.  Most of these birds are fledglings and their behavior is a normal part of bird development. 

When a bird hatches out of the egg, it is called a nestling. About two weeks later, the bird becomes a fledgling. At this stage, birds will begin to venture out of the nest onto nearby branches – soon to attempt a first flight –  but are not yet fully flighted. This is why they end up “stuck” on the ground for what could be up to two weeks.          

The fledgling phase is the most important and most dangerous part of a bird’s life.  With parent birds close by continuing to provide care, the fledgling learns everything it needs to know to succeed as an adult.  By watching its parents, a fledgling will learn to eat on its own, to recognize threats and how to respond to danger.

So, when it’s time for birds to be fledging from their nests, observe the bird for at least a half hour before jumping to any conclusions.  Is the bird hopping around and chirping (sometimes as little as once an hour)? These are normal behaviors and you should leave the bird alone. You may actually harm the bird by moving it to what you think is a safer place. 

If you are unsure if it is a healthy fledgling or injured bird, please call our Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Program staff first before attempting to capture it. A baby bird’s best chance for survival is to be raised in nature by wild parents.  Because birds raised by humans have significantly lower chances for survival when released, people should intervene only as a last resort!

Always, feel free to call the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center’s Wildlife Staff at 440-871-2900, ext 204 for more information.

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