Bird-napped! The Case of the Kidnapped Bluejay

This is a scenario that is seen at the wildlife hospital all too often.
A well meaning individual arrives carrying a shoe box containing a fledgling bird. Inside the box, along with the bird is what every rescuer believes young birds will eat pieces of bread. Sometimes there is a little container of water which has tipped and has made the little bird soaking wet. Sometimes the cup contains cow’s milk; when was the last time you saw a bird nursing?
Just a few weeks ago we had just this scenario happen. A caring woman brought in a little fledgling bluejay. She found it in her side yard and said it could not fly and was holding one wing at an odd angle, so she assumed it must be fractured. The women arrived at the hospital before Donna, the rehabilitator, so it was waiting when I got there. Yes there was some untouched bread in the box and a spilled cup of water (thankfully not milk!). On examining the little guy I was able to feel that he had food in his crop – a sure sign that mom was still looking after him. He had no injuries and was healthy. The wings were fine. I suspected that he was exhibiting typical dove behavior of holding the wing up to slap with it as a defense mechanism. Kidnapped!
Fledglings are the “teenagers” of the bird world, and just like human teenagers it’s the time of their lives when they hop out of the nest and begin to stretch their wings. It’s during this time when they can get themselves into trouble too – but also have to learn important life lessons.
Fledgling birds leave the nest and hop around on the ground or in low bushes while the parents watch over them. They are not flying for 3 or 4 days at this time. Yes they are vulnerable at this time, but no rehabber can teach them the things they need to survive better than their parents.
So what about our little kidnapped bluejay? I called the finder and got the exact location of where she picked up the bird. Auriel, our assistant rehabber, agreed to take the bluejay & try to reunite it with its mom since it was on her way home.
She took the little bird to the side yard, and as she tucked him into a bush an adult bluejay flew out! As she placed him in the bush she then saw another fledgling just the same size (bluejays lays 2 eggs at a time). It must be his sibling. She left the two little bluejays snuggled up together and called me with the good news of a successful reuniting (and no ransom involved!)
So next time you see a little fledgling bird on the ground remember the lesson of our kidnapped bluejay.
If it’s fully feathered, has no injuries, and especially if you see parent birds around – please leave it. Don’t kidnap it. If it’s in an unsafe area, like a road, move it out of harm’s way.
We rehabbers have a saying – “If you care – leave it there!”