Find an Injured Bird?

Toronto Wildlife Centre's Wildlife Hotline: 416-631-0662
Available 7 days a week

What to do if you find a bird that you suspect has hit a window. If the bird near a window, glass door or other reflective surface, then proceed to Confining the bird.

If no, for example the bird was found in the middle of a ravine, it is unlikely to have hit a window.

  • If it is safe to do so, confine the bird to a cardboard box and call a wildlife rehabilitator for instructions
  • Birds which may be dangerous to confine including: birds of prey, herons, cormorants, swans and large gulls - keep an eye on these birds and call a wildlife rehabilitator immediately for instructions

Confining the bird

The safest way to pick up an injured small migratory bird is the following:

  • Prepare a small cardboard box (one with lid) by placing a clean, ravel-free cloth or a piece of absorbent paper towel on the bottom
  • Do not put food or water in the box
  • Poke some small holes in the sides of the box
  • Do a quick exam of the bird, ideally without touching it -see next section
  • Using a clean hand or tea towel, place it over the bird including its head and eyes
Photo of a volunteer collecting an injured bird.
Photo: Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP)
  • Gently pick up the bird in the towel and quickly place it in a cardboard box. Do not put any food or water directly into the birds's mouth, do not administer any medical treatment
  • Close the lid of the box and place the same towel over the closed lid
  • If there is no lid on the box, place the towel completely over the open top and secure the edges with masking tape

Doing a quick examination

Even if the bird appears "tame", it is terrified but too injured to show fear - NEVER handle for more than a few seconds as the bird can die from fright. Look the bird over quickly but thoroughly - any of the following conditions mean that the bird should be brought to a wildlife rehabilitator immediately:

  • Blood visible anywhere e.g. beak, eyes, matted feathers
  • A significant amount of feathers missing
  • Asymmetry anywhere e.g. one eye closed / one eye open, one wing drooping / one wing normal, one leg being held up / out, tail being held to one side
  • One or both wings being held away from the body
  • Inability to stand (on both legs)
  • Beak looks crooked
  • Swelling anywhere, e.g. around the eyes or head
  • Bird appears inflated, like a little balloon
  • Bird is off-balance e.g. falling to one side, stumbling when it tries to walk or hop
  • Head tilt or head switch
  • Gurgly breathing or open-mouthed gasping
  • Bird has been in the area and unable to fly for more than one hour
  • Bird known / suspected to have been in a cat's mouth or claws

Image of an injured bird on the ground. Image of an injured bird on the ground.
Photo: Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP)

If the bird does not appear to have obvious injuries, leave it in the cardboard box in a quiet place like a closet or bathroom for at least one hour - after this time:

  • With the door to the closet or bathroom closed, peek into the box (be careful not to open the box too much) - if the bird appears 100% normal (e.g. nervous that you are looking at it, both eyes open, feathers not fluffed up, etc.), close the box back up and take it outside
  • Once outside, open the lid of the box (have your towel ready to recapture the bird if necessary) - if the bird flies out of the box well, even if it then lands in a nearby tree, the bird should be fine. *If you have any concerns, please call a wildlife rehabilitator to confirm your course of action
  • If the bird does not fly at all, or flies poorly and can easily be recaptured, put it back in the box and proceed with transporting the bird to a wildlife rehabilitator Note: if there is any chance that this bird is a baby and not an injured adult bird, call a wildlife rehabilitator for instructions before transporting the bird
  • Signs that a bird may be a baby, not an injured adult:
    • Naked patches visible under the wings or on the bird's belly
    • The presence of downy feathers anywhere on the bird
    • The bird opens its mouth and gapes for food
    • The bird has a very small short tail relative to its body size

Transporting the bird

If there is a delay in transporting the bird, place the box in a very quiet area of the home e.g. a closet or small bathroom, with the door closed, until you are ready to leave. The faster an injured bird receives medical treatment, the better its chances for a successful recovery.

Photo of brown paper bags of injured birds being transported for rehabilitation.
After many volunteers from FLAP have gathered fallen birds to transport for rehabiliation
Make sure you have thorough directions and take the quickest, most direct route to a local wildlife rehabilitator. Please don't stop and do errands on the way. Transport bird in a quiet, climate-controlled vehicle. Please do not play the radio, talk (whisper if you have to), smoke, or have pets in the car.


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