How do I teach a wild baby bird to survive on his own?


11 Years
Sep 9, 2008
My little girl found a baby bird in our backyard 2 weeks ago. I don't know what kind he is (sort of looks like a sparrow to me, I'll post pictures tomorrow), and initially I did not think he'd make it, since he was barely feathered, but we've been feeding him baby bird formula and caring for him for 2 weeks, and he's thriving and doing great. We tried real hard to find his parents (hung him in a basket in a tree, hoping for his parents to locate him, which did not happen), and we tried not to handle him much, but he has become very tame, and follows us if we try to leave.
He shows no interest in live insects or seeds we put into his cage, and I'm wondering how we can re-introduce him to the wild, and get him to eat on his own. He is now fully feathered, and can fly fairly well, but still just sits there and then "opens wide" when we come with food. I've tried to let him fly in my fully enclosed chicken run, but he always comes back to me. What to do?
nope, not gonna happen. you are stuck with him now

its very difficult to raise one without any kind of imprinting happening, to be able to raise them as totally wild. need to have basically no human contact with the animal, that includes at feeding time (need to devise a method so that the animal doesnt see you, just sees a glove feeding it or even better a puppet in the shape of an adult of its species
two weeks out from not fully feathered is not ready to eat on it's own. when the bird is mobil you can slowly introduce it to the world. start keeping it in a structure that you can put outside when the time comes. it will live there untill it decides to go and you can still monitor it's status and keep it fed if need be. i raised a tree rat that way and eventually it returned to the wild and did fine.

here's a link:

good luck !!!
Here in Hawaii, we have a refuge where we give the baby bird that has been eating on it`s own and they will release the bird in an open aviary where he is free to go and return as he pleases.This serves as a teaching tool for the baby because he is learning from the rest of the wild birds that have been released there and know how to survive the wild.The refuge owners provide food for the flock twice a day to get them started in the new enviornment.Eventually, the baby grows up and gets becomes less dependant on its human caretakers.

That is how I do it here in Hawaii.I have handfed a few wild birds in the past and this method has been most sucessful for me and the babies that I want to release back into the wild.I dont know if there is this option in your area though....
Hope this helps!

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I have raised several dozen at this point. I have not kept one. Sometimes it has taken them a couple weeks to stop coming back for food and such though. Put them outside alot once you can. Find out what your particular bird would usually eat. Sometimes with the seeds if you soak them first and just offer the water with the seeds in it they will try them. I have taken the bottom off the birdcage and put them in the grass. They start foraging on their own.

I had a dove that was the same way. It was almost a month before it finally did not come back to its cage at feeding and bedtime every night. We still fed it but did not lock it in. Eventually it stayed away longer and longer.
go to this site- it explains alot about raising them

the problem with a single baby bird is they bond with the people- depending on what it is- i have 2 starlings- gotten at different times, and they don't know they are birds- it would help to see a pic of him- now if you find a group of babies, it is easier to release if you limit human interaction-
Sometimes the birds will imprint, but its more likely that the bird is following you because he wants food. I had a sparrow who was exactly like that. A few months after raising him, he wanted nothing to do with me becuase he was eating on his own!

I'm going through a similar thing with starlings right now. I've gotten to the point where I've released them outside (After letting them be outside in a cage for a few days). Now they spend the day in a tree, but they still find their way back for food. They will come on my hand, but fly off as soon as they get their food. In a couple of weeks, I expect they'll be able to eat on their own. I will probably just decrease the amount of food I give little by little. My family has already seen the one eating bugs off the ground, so I have no doubt they'll learn!

Its definitely possible to release the bird, even if its bonded. Think about it, they bond to the mother bird as well, and when they become fledglings, she weans them away from the nest. There are plenty of good websites you can read about the release process. It may take a couple of months, but you'll start to see it working.

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