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Orphaned baby Bushtits at WildCare. These babies are enjoying their every-20-minutes feeding
of mealworms, and are tucked warmly into a hand-knitted nest.

Trouble viewing the video? Click to watch it on YouTube.
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Birds in knitted nest. Photo by Francoise Samuelson
These little birds are taking full advantage of their knitted nest. Scroll down for knitting instructions to help you make nests for our baby birds too! Photos by Francoise Samuelson
 

How to knit a nest for a baby bird

The successful raising of orphaned baby songbirds requires a lot of expertise and experience. These little creatures must have a properly balanced diet, they must be fed every 20 - 45 minutes, depending on species and age, and they must be kept warm, especially when they are still fluffy.

Sometimes a little creativity comes in handy when finding the best ways to care for these hundreds of tiny patients. These hand-knitted nests are a perfect example. A volunteer from an organization with which we work extensively, Native Songbird Care and Conservation, came up with the idea and design for the knitted nests, and some very dedicated WildCare volunteers have knit them for us.

A nest knitted of washable yarn into just the right size and shape provides the least artificial environment for tiny baby birds. The soft nests flex like a wild bird's would, and they are soft under tiny feathers and feet.

Story continues below...

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Baby birds in a knitted nest. Photo by Alison Hermance
Three tiny baby Bushtits nestle into their hand-knitted nest.
Nest cut out of a tree. Photo by Alison Hermance
A nest cut out of a tree cavern. Unfortunately the babies did not survive their fall.
Orphaned squirrels cut from a tree. Photo by Alison Hermance
These orphaned baby squirrels were cut out of a tree in late January. Four of them were successfully raised as orphans at WildCare but the fifth died from head trauma.
White-crowned Sparrow pair (L. Milholland)

Hungry orphaned starlings

Wren on birdhouse
Orphaned robin being hand-fed at WildCare
Baby Screech Owls
These Screech Owls were orphaned when the tree their cavity nest was in was removed. Photo by Melanie Piazza

These tightly-knit nests can also be easily cleaned by throwing them into the washing machine, which is an invaluable component of all the equipment our baby bird foster parents use.

If you like knitting, WildCare needs lots more of these soft nests. Click here for a helpful set of knitting instructions. Remember that all nests should be washable and durable-- they get a lot of use during baby bird season at WildCare! Yarn color doesn't matter too much, although muted colors are best. These nests are a fun and worthwhile way to use up extra bits of yarn you have lying around!

Don't know how to knit? You can help songbirds by spreading the word that spring is time for babies, not tree pruning!

Wild babies need trees... maybe even yours!

Is there a tree or bush in your yard that needs some pruning? Planning to trim it this weekend? WildCare asks you to please stop and consider the time of year-- if it's spring or summer, animals of all species may be using your tree as a nursery even as you read this!

Every spring, baby animals that have been orphaned or injured because their nests were damaged or removed arrive at WildCare. Most people are appalled to find they have caused these accidents, especially when the injury to wildlife is so easy to prevent: just procrastinate! Wait until resident wildlife have raised their broods, or even better, until nesting season is over. If you're facing an active nest, it really won't be long--usually just a matter of weeks. Before you cut that tree, take a look to see if there are wild families already living there. If so, give them a chance to grow up and move out. Some species of birds (especially raptors) nest in hidden tree cavities, so don't forget to check both limbs and trunks thoroughly before trimming or removing.

Spring (and summer!) are busy baby season— procrastinate now!

When is wildlife nesting? There is some variation, but most wild animals have their babies in the spring, between March and June. However, many species will also have a second brood in July or August if food supplies are sufficient. If you can plan to trim your trees in the winter months, you can completely avoid the possibility of damaging a nest. It's also a healthier time for the trees, when the sap has gone down and trees will be in their dormant phase. Call WildCare at 415-456-7283 if you're unsure when it is a safe time to trim or remove a tree.

Click to read what to do if you find a baby bird!

Bird nests

In Northern California, most bird species nest through spring and summer. The great news is that birds fledge very quickly. If birds are nesting in an area of your garden that needs work, call our advice line (415-456-7283). Birds are federally protected, (including nests that are occupied by eggs or babies), and we can help you determine which species is in residence, and tell you how soon the babies will fledge and leave the nest. In most cases simply being patient for a couple of weeks is all it takes before you can safely (and legally) remove the nest.

House Finches provide a good example of the process. These birds tend to nest in precarious places close to our living quarters: on top of porch lamps, in hanging flowerpots or in outdoor wreaths. The mother incubates her eggs for 11 to 14 days. Enjoy watching the babies grow for about two weeks, and you'll ultimately see these little youngsters leave the nest. If you want to do some work in the area of the nest, remove it as soon as the babies have gone; House Finches will reuse the nest for a second family soon after the first clutch fledges! Most bird species (other than House Finches) won't use the nest again this year once all the babies have left. This means you can safely remove it and reclaim your property. Keep your cats indoors for a week or so, to give the fledglings time to get the hang of this flying business! (Better yet, keep Tabby indoors all the time for her safety as well as theirs!)

I found a baby bird!

During the spring and summer months, WildCare's phones will be ringing with calls about baby birds found on the ground. The first impulse of the kind-hearted is to rush a fallen baby to our Wildlife Hospital. Sometimes this saves a tiny life, but other times it's actually "kidnapping." Here's what WildCare will be telling callers this spring.

If a baby bird has fallen from a tree, first, be sure it is  warm and protected, then call WildCare right away at 415-456-7283. Our 24-hour Living with Wildlife telephone advice staff can help you figure out how to do the right thing to help the little ones and maybe even reunite the wild family.

Baby birds and mammals knocked from a nest that remains intact MAY be returned to their nests! A mother bird will continue to feed her babies after they have been handled by a person (although a bird may smell your scent on her baby, she will not be deterred from caring for it). However, if a baby is obviously injured or is cold, please follow the instructions on our Found an Animal page and bring it to WildCare or your local wildlife rehabilitator immediately.

If a nest has been destroyed, a berry basket or small wicker basket can be wired to the branch where the nest was. However, the basket MUST be in exactly the same location as the nest, and ALL the babies must be together in the replacement nest. Parent birds will not feed nestlings in more than one location, so if the babies can't be returned to the exact spot and be kept together, they should be brought to WildCare. The mother bird should be observed coming to the new nest within an hour, otherwise the babies should be brought to WildCare immediately. Orphaned babies will be raised at WildCare until they are ready for release back into the area where they were found. 

Wild animals grow and leave the nest quickly

Property owners should postpone trimming trees if an active nest is present, or at the very least should trim carefully around the nest area. The time required for a bird to complete its nesting cycle varies by species, but most birds have active nests for 1 - 3 weeks, so delaying the cutting or trimming of trees shouldn't be difficult.

WildCare is your best resource

Contact WildCare's Living with Wildlife Hotline at 415-456-SAVE (7283) for specific information on how long it will take for baby birds to leave the nest. Our operators have an extensive library of resources and can pinpoint very accurately the time when a nesting cycle will be finished (and tree-trimming will be appropriate) based on species and current age of nestlings.It really is best if you can take advantage of the autumn and winter to cut and trim trees, bushes and do other landscaping. And please remember you may always contact WildCare for advice at 415-456-7283.

 

Story and video by Alison Hermance

Get the t-shirt!

Hundreds of baby birds are at WildCare right now! Buy a t-shirt featuring a fluffy baby mockingbird, and WildCare receives $25 for your purchase!

Click here to choose from a selection of awesome t-shirts
(or a mousepad or coffee mug ) featuring this very special baby!

All merchandise features this funny fluffy baby.

Buy now and WildCare will receive $25 from your purchase as a donation.

Shop now...

spacer2.gif Artistic rendering of a baby Mockingbird
 

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