What is the right thing to do when you find abandoned chicks of a wild bird?

One year ago, a lovely pair of Palm/Laughing Doves chose to build their nest inside a moderate size plant pot placed on a glass window in our house. This specific glass window is not designed to open. The pair felt OK whenever my son and I appeared beside this window. Things looked to be developing well and the 2 eggs hatched. 2 days later while peeking calmly at the nest, I was horrified to see one of the chicks outside the nest on the opposite side of the pot while the female was sitting calmly with its sibling. The chick was gasping for breath and looking at me as if asking for help. I stayed for some time hoping that the parent will take it back but it didn’t so and the chick looked struggling to stay alive, I did the most instinctive thing. The mother left the nest and I hurried to the chick which was as cold as ice and put it back beside its sibling. Instantaneously, they cuddled and I could feel the warmth going back to the abandoned one. To my eyes, they were both identical, the abandoned chick did not look smaller or weaker. The parent came back and she sat for a few minutes on the nest, apparently very disturbed because of my intervention, then left and never came back. I felt I did the wrong thing so I took both chicks and placed them with a domesticated pigeon which started feeding them right away and kept them warm under her wings. They stayed healthy for a week then for unknown reason both died.
If time goes back, I think I would swiftly take the abandoned baby and try rescuing it myself while leaving the nest as it is for the parents. I am not sure what is the best solution for this dilemma if it ever happened again. What do you think?

2 Likes

It’s hard to guess, as birds won’t take care of chicks or eggs that accidentally fall out, but also they intentionally get sick ones out of nest too, they’re complex organisms that are hard to understand for us. Without autopsy it’s impossible to say why they died, I guess domestic pigeon would feed them similarly enough, though I’m not sure, but you shouldn’t feel bad about your actions as your intentions were good and this dove pair likely bred later in a different place. I don’t think there’s one answer for your question, you can try to raise it yourself next time with pigeon’s help to not add stress to parent birds who may react that way, but I also know about many stories where it went ok, I personally got an egg back to willow warbler’s nest and it didn’t care and all eggs hatched later.

4 Likes

I don’t know much about Laughing Doves, but i have learned some basic stuff about Doves in general while while interacting with commenters on my White-winged Dove video. my understanding is that very young doves feed on crop milk from both parents (who both take care of the young), and doves typically will have a maximum of 2 chicks per clutch because the 2 parents can produce only enough crop milk to sustain a maximum of 2 chicks (see https://www.jstor.org/stable/4162684).

so if you were only ever seeing one Laughing Dove parent, i wonder if the other parent had gone missing somehow, and maybe the remaining parent was equipped to raise only one young chick in that situation?

regarding the surrogate Pigeon parent (i assume singular), i wonder if either:

  1. the pigeon wasn’t producing crop milk (apparently this is tied to the timing of their eggs hatching: https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-is-pigeon-milk-do-birds-produce-milk.html)
  2. the lone pigeon couldn’t produce enough milk for both chicks to survive?

i don’t think many people would fault you for acting with good intentions. Doves apparently are supposed to be relatively easy to renest (although parents are supposed to be intolerant of fledglings coming back to the nest). but if the parent had already decided there was something wrong with the chick or if she knew she could only take care of one, i think it’s just bad luck in this situation.

4 Likes

Actually, both parents were there in the Palm Dove case, and they regularly interchanged their nesting duties. But you are right, I am not sure if this was the case also with the domesticated pigeon or not. Bad luck it is, @Marina_Gorbunova "

I’d have done something to help the baby dove, too. I couldn’t help myself. Sounds like what you did was reasonable. Putting the baby back in the nest was right. In this case, it just didn’t work out.

At least in your case you knew the baby was really in trouble. In most cases where people leap in to help baby birds, they’re young who left the nest early for some reason but are OK and are still supported by their parents. The babies beg for food, of course, but they’d do that in the nest, too. Those babies should be left where they are or moved to a nearby safer place (like a shrub) and left. Perhaps a specific danger (like a cat) should be removed.

We do need to remember the sad fact that most nests fail (50% or more of songbird nests fail in the temperate zone, more in the tropics) and that most young birds die (including 80%+ of small, temperate-zone songbirds before the end of their first calendar year).

7 Likes

It depends
if chick is not in immediate danger its best to observe it for one or two hours, there is possibility if its parent is still feeding it, then do one of this
if chick has visible coloured wings its best to leave it that way as its common for chick to fly and fall to the ground,
if chick’s eye is opened but wings hasn’t come then find a perch and place on it, they have strong claws made for perching, make sure to keep it above ground,

if you don’t see parents feeding it, then its better to contact wildlife rec=scuer near you and ask for help!!

3 Likes

I know of an area taken over by sparrows for nesting and causing many nestlings to fall out. A herpetologist in the neighborhood who has pine snakes and the like sweeps them up. He says it’s a shame to let the chicks die in vain.

4 Likes

I kept a few Spotted doves as pets when I was a teenager. It is possible to hand raise dove chicks. Laughing doves look about the same size as Spotted dove but occur in different regions. There is a technique on how to feed them, but the last time I search the internet, I did not find the method similar to what I had used in the past. Doves are about the same as pigeons, there may be more info on feeding pigeons. The problem with dove chicks is they don’t open their mouth readily and this make it difficult to feed them. but if the technique is there, most of the chicks can be raised until they can feed themselves. The feed is chicken feed with a little water added, just enough to make it moist and not very wet. Press a small pyramid shaped lump and push it down its mouth. Unfortunately, the way to hold its beak and keep it from struggling is a technique that is not easy to describe in words. Hopefully there is another method is youtube.
If there is a temperature drop at night, may have to think of ways to keep them warm. Chicks of chicken need some kind of lamp I think.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.