Songbirds are birds that belong to the order, Passeriformes; these are perching birds who use songs to establish and maintain territories as well as attract mates. Songbirds differ from other birds because they have very complex and varied songs, whereas the vocalizations of other orders of birds tend to be simpler and more repetitive. Common songbirds in Illinois include sparrows, cardinals and robins.
If you find an injured or sick songbird: Assess the bird from a safe distance before trying to handle it. If you feel comfortable catching the bird, use a small towel or box to cover it. With the towel, cover the bird’s head, gently hold the wings against the bird’s body and put the bird in a secure, dark container. Once you have the bird safely contained, transport it to a licensed rehabilitator as soon as possible.
If a songbird hits a window: If the bird is not obviously injured, place it in a safe, quiet place outside. Occasionally, these birds are only stunned and can recover on their own in a short time. If, however, the bird is definitely injured or still appears dazed after an hour of rest, place it in a secure container and transport it to a licensed rehabilitator as soon as possible. Birds fly into windows for two reasons: either they don’t realize there is something in their flight path or a male bird sees his reflection as another male in his territory and is acting aggressively toward it. Either way, the best way to prevent window strikes is to use window clings to break up the apparent open space and reduce reflection.
If a songbird is trapped in a building: The best way to get a bird out of a building is to turn the lights off and open as many windows and doors as possible. Birds will fly toward the light and will often leave on their own with this technique. Chasing a flighted bird around a building will be very stressful and can even have life-threatening consequences for the bird.
If you find a baby songbird on the ground without feathers: Look for a nest in the area. If you find the nest and can access it, return the baby to it; if you find the nest and cannot access it, you can make a replacement nest out of a plastic tub with holes cut in the bottom for drainage and some natural bedding (like dried grasses). Place the new nest in a secure, protected area as near to the original nest as possible. In either case, watch the baby from a safe distance to see if the parents return. If the baby appears sick, injured or there are dead siblings or a dead parent in the area, bring the bird to a licensed rehabilitator.
If you find a healthy, feathered baby songbird on the ground: Young birds naturally leave the nest before they are fully flighted; they are called “fledglings.” These birds may spend time on the ground or on branches for several days before they are able to fly. This is a normal process, and these birds should not be rescued unless they are obviously sick, injured or there are dead siblings or a dead parent in the area. If the baby is in danger from a car, domestic animals or people, you can move the baby to a safer nearby area. These birds are still reliant on their parents for food and protection, so make sure the baby stays in an area where the parents will still be able to see and access it.