Found an Injured Bird

What to Do If You Find an Injured Bird

Stunned Chestnut-sided Warbler found by a Project Safe Flight volunteer. Photo: Sophie Butcher
The most common reason for finding an injured adult bird is a collision with glass. Through our Project Safe Flight collisions research, we estimate that up to 230,000 birds collide with glass each year in New York City. With your help, some window collision victims can survive. If you find an injured bird, please follow the steps below to help save them.   


How to Determine If the Bird is Injured

If you see an adult bird on the sidewalk with its eyes closed and/or not moving, the bird likely hit a window and is stunned. The following are characteristics of an adult bird in need of help:

  • Lying on its side or sitting motionless on its stomach
  • Allowing humans to closely approach
  • Attempting but failing to fly
  • Bloody or with apparent wounds
  • Visible broken legs or drooping wings
  • Swollen or closed eyes

Where to Place an Injured Bird

Any soft breathable container can do in an emergency, but small unwaxed paper bags and cloth tote bags are great for securing birds and easy to bring along with you. Whatever you use, the container should be ventilated but the bird should not be able to see out, and the container should be securely closed (for instance with binder clips), so that the bird cannot escape. If you do not have a suitable container on hand, you can pick the bird up and carry it in your hands to a nearby store to ask for a paper bag. Do not use a wire cage. And do not attempt to give the bird food or water.

Volunteer Cynthia Guile encountered this stunned Ovenbird while patrolling her regular Project Safe Flight monitoring route during spring migration. Photo: Sophie Butcher "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Volunteer Cynthia Guile encountered this stunned Ovenbird while patrolling her regular Project Safe Flight monitoring route during spring migration. Photo: Sophie Butcher

How to Contain and Secure an Injured Bird

Approach the bird slowly and quietly from behind, pointed away from traffic, so as to not scare it. Do not talk to the bird as you walk toward it. Wild birds are frightened of humans and will try to escape, often flying back into glass or into the street. 

Gently but firmly grab the bird by putting one or two hands over its wings; put it into an unwaxed paper bag, cloth tote bag, or box. Make sure you close the container completely: do not leave the top open, because the bird might try to escape as it begins to come to its senses (even though it likely still needs more help).


Where to Bring an Injured Bird

Once the bird is contained, place the container in a dark, quiet place and bring it to the Wild Bird Fund as soon as possible. Again, do not try to force feed or give water to the bird. The Wild Bird Fund is located at:

Wild Bird Fund
565 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 11024 (
Google Map).

The Wild Bird Fund is open seven days a week, from 9 AM to 7 PM. There is no need to call before dropping off a bird. You can call them at 646.306.2862 and leave a voicemail if you need further advice. The Wild Bird Fund is the only wild bird rehabilitation center in New York City and provides by far the best chance for the bird to survive.

If you absolutely cannot get to the Wild Bird Fund, certain Animal Hospitals located in other parts of the city may be able to take in the bird.   

Injured American Woodcock recovering at the Wild Bird Fund. Photo: MaryJane Boland "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Injured American Woodcock recovering at the Wild Bird Fund. Photo: MaryJane Boland

What to Do If You Can't Bring an Injured Bird to a Rehabber Yourself

Except for cases concerning a large bird or a bird of prey, please first make sure the bird is contained in a bag or box. Keep the bird safe with you; do not leave it in the street. If you do not have a suitable container on hand, you can pick the bird up and carry it in your hand to a nearby store to ask for a paper bag. Once the bird if securely contained, if you are unable to transport the bird to the Wild Bird Fund or an Animal Hospital, contact NYC Audubon at injuredbird@nycaudubon.org. In your email please include all of the following information:

  • a short description of the situation
  • a photo/video of the injured bird
  • your phone number
  • your location (address or cross roads) 

We can ask a volunteer group if anyone is able to go to your location; if someone can, they will contact you to arrange a pickup, and will take the bird to the Wild Bird Fund. 

However, please know that you might not receive a response today, and that it is not always possible for a volunteer to help, especially for more distant locations or in busy months in the spring and fall. You or a friend are likely this bird’s best chance to get help. 
This Northern Parula was found stunned in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. Conservation Biologist Kaitlyn Parkins helped it safely recover at the office before releasing it back into the wild in Madison Square Park, pictured here. Photo: NYC Audubon
This Northern Parula was found stunned in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. Conservation Biologist Kaitlyn Parkins helped it safely recover at the office before releasing it back into the wild in Madison Square Park, pictured here. Photo: NYC Audubon
Additional Information: What to Do If You Find a Stunned Adult Bird
Every bird that hits a window needs help. At the least, it is concussed, and needs a safe place to rest before gathering its wits and flying off again. It is crucial to get it off the ground so that it is not stepped on by passersby on the sidewalk, eaten by a predator, or swept up by building cleaning staff. 
 
In almost every case, that bird needs pain relievers, anti-inflammatories (to help avoid brain swelling, which is often fatal), and a ready source of its proper food; these things can only be provided by licensed rehabilitators, and we strongly encourage you to bring the bird as soon as possible to the Wild Bird Fund.