Caring for injured or orphaned birds

New Holland Honeyeater

New Holland Honeyeater

I frequently get asked questions about caring for injured or orphaned birds. Some people leave their questions on an appropriate page of this site, while others ask their questions privately using my contact from here.

I am no expert

I often explain to people with this questions that I am certainly no expert in this field. I have no experience and very little knowledge in looking after injured or orphaned native birds or animals. I usually try to direct them to relevant help from elsewhere.


Every state of Australia has its rules and regulations as to what members of the public can and cannot do where helping injured wildlife is concerned. As a general principle, never try to look after an injured animal or bird unless you are skilled to do so and have the necessary permission from the relevant authorities in your state.

Steps to take:

  1. The welfare of the animal or bird is most important: make sure that the bird is safe from further harm. Keep little children, cats and dogs away, handle it as little as possible and keep it in a strong, ventilated cardboard box.
  2. Contact or visit your local vet for advice. Some of my readers have been very disappointed with this course of action, stating that some vets are very dismissive and only recommend that the animal be destroyed. I find this response rather perplexing; I thought vets cared for animals.
  3. Use the Yellow Pages phone directory to find your nearest animal welfare and rescue organization. There are hundreds of skilled and trained carers across Australia and there is every likelihood there is one near you.
  4. Contact or visit your local pet shop: help coming from these people will also vary greatly. Some may be very willing to help, others only will help if there is a potential sale of goods involved.
  5. Visit your local library and ask for books on pet and animal care.
  6. Search on the internet: this is how I get so many requests for help. In some cases, people have said that this site was the ONLY place they found any information and help. That is not correct, but many people do not know how to effectively search the internet. Because of this I have prepared a list of useful Australian sites.

Useful web sites:

Overseas groups:

Always remember that the bird’s welfare is the most important thing to consider.

Updated November 2013.


26 Responses to “Caring for injured or orphaned birds”

  1. […] Caring for orphaned or injured birds Sunday August 31st, 2008 | Categories: Baby birds; Caring for birds; Frequently Asked Questions » 3 Comments   […]

  2. Neil says:

    thanks for your prompt reply.much appreciated.

  3. josh says:

    Hi Trevor and Neil,
    Hope the little birds did okay. I am a wildlife carer in sydney an specialise in rearing spotted pardalotes.These little guys hold a great fascination for me.
    I find they do well as nestlings on a mainly protein based diet and the closest source resembling that of their natural diet in the wild would be the readily comercially avaailable crickets from petshops. Mealworms are NOT good they block pardalotes up and kill them. Once the birds fledge you need to change their diet to a mainly carbohydrate based diet and quickly otherwise they will die aswell. I find them to be a real challenge in care. Would love to know how the babies went and talk to more people who are interested in pardalotes.

  4. josh says:

    Sorry I didn’t find this site sooner.

  5. katy moses says:

    hi all, i am chasing some information if possible? i found a baby bird today. took it into the nearest pet shop and found out it is a baby new holland honeyeater. i was the recomended to feed him wombaroo lorikeet & honeyeater food. so i have started him on that feeding three times a day 5ml per feed (15mls a day) the vet would take him from me but said they would put him down. as i would like to give him the best chance to suvive i would like to hand rear him. do you know and good web sites or cares sheets? or have any information that could be usefull? thanks katy.

  6. […] Caring for injured and orphaned birds – click on this link to read how you can look after injured or orphaned birds you find. Australian Magpie (juvenile) Tags: Baby birds, Bird Behaviour, Injured birds, magpies Tweet « Prev: Willie Wagtails fly the nest     […]

  7. Trevor says:

    Hi Katy,

    Sorry about the delay in answering. I have been busy completing my Master of Arts degree and haven’t had any time to answer readers’ questions recently.

    Did you read the article above? It lists many web sites where you can find information. Or you could use your phone directory to find your nearest wildlife carer for advice.

  8. Destiny says:

    I have a injured Musk Lorikeet and it was attacked by a cat, i am feeding him some nectar and crushed biscuit mixed with water, but i am worried because every time i feed him he seems to eat then tilt his head to the side, and also his tongue seems very dry and he always is sticking his tongue out, do you know of anything that could be wrong…….your help is much appreciated.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Destiny,

      Thank you for your comments.

      Unfortunately I have no experience in looking after injured birds. Please read trough the article above and click on one of the links to organisations which can help you. It sounds like the injured bird you have needs professional help by someone who knows what to do.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help.

  9. josh Cook says:

    Hey Destiny,
    I care for birds that have been attacked by cats frequently and the most important thing that you must do as soon as possible is get them a penicillin injection, even if the injuries seem minimal or unapparent. The reason for this is that the bacteria in the cats mouth is highly toxic to birds and they die within 24-48 hours without treatment. I can’t stress how important it is to get that injection and preferably a long acting one if the bird is to survive.
    The tongue will generally look dry, so that is not a concern, the head tilt is probably him just focusing on you if he is in an enclosed space and if you are looking down into where he is…???
    It could also be that the cat has wounded his head and he may have some swelling putting pressure on his brain or causing discomfort. This may also be why he keeps sticking his tongue out. A vet will also be able to give him an anti inflammatory injection to suppress any swelling
    Good luck, just make sure he gets that penicillin injection;)

  10. […] Caring for injured birds – including links to animal rescue groups […]

  11. zoidberg says:

    I just found Josh’s comments on spotted pardalotes doing a web search for info.
    Not sure if he’ll see this, but I’m curious about the comment on a more carbohydrate based diets for them at fledging. What sort of foods can provide this?
    Thanks very much!

    • Josh Cook says:

      if you have fledgling or adult spotted pardalotes in care then you want to try getting them taking banana, once they realise it is a food source, they will relish it. They will also take very well to the wombaroo lorikeet and honey eater formula mixed with some wombaroo insectivore formula to the ratio of 1tbl spoon nectar mix to quarter of a tsp insectivore mix all mixed up with 30mls of hot water. Initially you want to get them taking a drop at a time from a dropper until they get the hang of pulling the drop from the end of the dropper and identifying it as food. They will do best once they can regulate their own metabolism by feeding of their own accord so once they are taking the drops, you want to get a canary style water bottle( just a glass bottle with a screw cap top and a hole in the lid which enables the formula to dispense in a drop form) that you can fill with the formula and place it inside their cage so they can take it themselves. The reason i reccomend this style of feeder to dispense the nectar is because if you use an open feeder, such as a “D” cup they will end up becoming coated in the nectar formula and die. Avoid feeding them mealworms as they tend to bind the birds up and usually leads to death.
      Hope this info helps.

      • zoidberg says:

        Hi Josh
        Thanks very much for that info, it’s really helpful.
        Is there any other food you’d suggest for them when younger (nestlings, pre-fledging) beside crickets?

        I had some tiny babies whose nest it now seems was inadvertently dug up. It was found intact on the ground, and the babies were so young we couldn’t identify them. It was thought the nest had fallen from a tree, but now that they are starting to get feathers I can see they are almost certainly spotted pardalotes.

        Sadly I only found your comment warning about mealworms today. I’ve found several sources that suggest them as a good food for birds such as pardalotes! (and until yesterday we didn’t know they were pardalotes in any case)

        There were 4 babies and only one has survived this far(they have been in care for 8 days now). I don’t know if the small amount of mealworms we fed them was what caused their deaths but of course I will not feed the last one any more mealworms!

  12. Josh Cook says:

    you can just take small pieces of banana in your fingers and dip it in water and then just touch it to the pardalotes beak so it begins to lick it. Once it realises it is sweet it will usually take it in its beak and swallow it. Once they get the taste for the banana, then you can cut about a third of a banana and massage about a quarter of it out of the skin so that part of the banana is exposed then at perch level stick the stalk end of the banana through the cage to hold it in place so that the exposed fruit is accessable to the pardalote in the cage.

    • zoidberg says:

      Sorry I forgot to ask, is there a safe way to give them fluids? The usual method of putting a drop of water on the end of their beak seems to cause them difficulty (as they are so small I guess?)
      Dehydration must be a particular problem for a bird used to growing up underground?

  13. Josh Cook says:

    that’s a bummer!
    anyway unless the babies are dehydrated, i wouldn’t advise giving fluids as they will obtain all they need from the insects. you can also use minced meat with insectivore mixed in with it to supplement the diet and dip the pieces in water before feeding, not dripping but just enough to moisten.
    once fledged you can also mash a boiled egg(without shell) and mix insectivore powder through it and then add some wombaroo lorikeet complete formula to it to sweeten. They will take this from a “D” cup. Out of interest where abouts are you located?

    • zoidberg says:

      Thanks so much for your help.
      I am in southern Tasmania.

      I’m sorry to say I lost the last one this morning.

      I tried my best to try and entice the parents back when they were first found but a combination of not knowing they were from an underground nest and bad weather worked against us.

      Also, the poor babies were being attacked by jack jumper ants when first found as well, so that can’t have helped obviously!

  14. Josh Cook says:

    once fledged they will take water from a “D” cup by themselves

  15. Kate says:

    I have found an orphaned baby bird possibly a honeyeater and i have no idea what to feed it. I have been feeding it flies and it seems to love them, but i would like to find out if there is anything better to feed it. Also I have been giving it water by hand. So should I be doing that or should I leave a little cup of water in its box?

    • zoidberg says:

      Hi Kate
      Are you sure the bird is orphaned? It’s very common for people to assume a just-fledged baby bird needs help, when in fact it’s being cared for by its parents. If you are not sure its parents are dead, can you try reuniting it with them?
      How old is it – is it fully feathered? Part feathered? Any flying skills at all?
      Unless you already have experience with wild birds I would strongly recommend that you seek help from your local wildlife care group ASAP – where are you located?

  16. Josh Cook says:

    Hi there,
    firstly it is important to identify exactly what the bird is and that way we can then figure out what to feed it. When administering water to baby birds, it is crucial that none of the water goes into the wind pipe. As baby birds are not fed water by their parents it is suffice to say that they get all the moisture they need from their food whether it be fruit or insects so don’t give too much water. When using substitute or formulated foods such as banana dusted in wombaroo insectivore mixture,(which is generally a pretty good food for most honeyeater type baby birds) I like to moisten by dipping the pieces in water before feeding. I don’t recommend leaving a dish of water in the box unless the bird is self feeding. it will most likely just end up jumping in it and getting wet and cold if it is a baby. Hope this helps,

  17. Gino says:

    Hi recently we rescued a magpie chick/ fledging from off of a two lane road way,(we were amazed it did not get run over before we got too it ) we took it to two pet shops at both places they looked at the bird and saw nothing wrong, they also advised us not to take the bird to the vets as they would put it down. As we just saved the little chick, we were not about to do that. We have had the chick now for about 2.5 months and it is flying the length of our front patio, we have been feeding her a mix of meal worms and mince and have just found out we should not be giving her the mince. question will the mince have hurt her in any way ? and is it possible for her to be released into the wild ? also could we take the chick to the vet now without any worries? I also believe we need to hold a licence to keep a magpie in queensland. It is a friendly bird and very playful my daughter has grown quite attached to it, but she realises that we may have to release the bird and she is prepared for that. we just want to make sure the bird will survive if we do let her go. look forward to any advice

  18. zoidberg says:

    Gino do you have wildlife rescue organisations in Qld?
    They are always your best bet for advice and support. Pet shops are really awful places to get info about wildlife. The way they treat their own animals is usually less than great too.
    The main reason mince and mealworms is a bad idea is that it’s not a balanced diet for a magpie. They are very prone to calcium deficiency for starters, and that can cause horrible deformities to beaks and legs (sometimes they are unable to walk).
    I couldn’t really answer your questions about Qld regulations or the attitudes of vets there. Again, I’d strongly suggest you contact your local wildlife rehab/rescue group for all the info.

  19. Jan Ellks says:

    Message for Josh
    You seem to know a lot about pardalotes. My husband saved one from a group of minor birds which were attacking it. He caught the bird and we brought it home. The bird seems fine and not hurt. We have fed it Betafarm Parrot Hand Rearing Food and bird seems OK. Whistling a lot. We would like to try and release it back into the wild but can’t get back to the park where we found it until next weekend. Can you tell me if the bird should be OK on this mix until then.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

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