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I Found a Baby Cardinal; Advice?

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
I was in my bathroom, which over looks my back yard; Sunday a.m. and heard an incredible commotion, which I could tell was coming from cardinals. I figured there was a cat passing thru the yard and didn't think much of it. When I went out a little later to fill my bird and squirrel feeders, I found a baby cardinal laying on the ground under the tree. The poor little thing had a twig stuck in his wing feathers, and was begging for food. I couldn't just leave him there, so I got a half-empty hanging planter and put him in it, then hung the platner in the tree. I assumed his parents would come and take care of him, and even tho' lots of cardinals came and went none of them stopped to feed him. I couldn't bear his little peeping any longer, so I found a pair of tweezers and a syringe, and have been feeding him and giving him water every couple of hours. I brought the planter inside my enclosed porch last night and covered him with a towel so he wouldn't get cold. I got him back outside early today and hung him back in the tree, hoping the parents would finally feed him. Again, lots of cardinals but none took care of him. Every time he hears a cardinal peep, he peeps in reply; it just breaks my heart listening to the little guy.

He can't fly yet, and I'm pretty sure he couldn't begin to feed himself yet, so I guess I'm his surrogate Mom for a few days. He does flap his wings a little, but he hasn't made it out of the planter yet. I thought about putting him back where I found him, but I figured that would just be giving a cat a free meal.

Any ideas on what to feed him? He's had bread, Cheerios, a little bit of a peach and a grape, and some small seeds mixed in with it.
post #2 of 31
at that age, mom is still regurgating worms, so you need to dig up some, and cut them into small pieces, he should enjoy that.
Also, call around, see if you cant find a wild bird refuge that might be able to take him to get him back healthy and to the wild. should be able to call a vet to find out that info.

good luck with that lil one!!!
post #3 of 31
Thank you for caring and trying.
Call a bird rescue group.
post #4 of 31
Sometimes your local animal shelter can help you. Ours will send wildlife to a hospital that does wildlife care about an hour away. Or you could see if there are any wildlife rehabilitators in your area. You can check that online. Good luck. I took care of a baby robin when I was a kid. (realize now I should have left the bird since the parents probably were feeding it even though it was out of the nest). We went outside and dug up worms. Didn't have to cut them up though, He would eat the whole thing.
post #5 of 31
Many places sell live mealworms. In sizes small, medium, and large, no less. Check to see if your area has a "wild wings" store - thy usually have mealworm tubs in stock. you can also order them online and have them shipped extra fast-just google 'order mealworms online" and you'll get many choices.
You may also try your petsmart type stores for baby bird formula or make your own out of boiled white rice, egg yolk, and mashed banana. make it kind of thick if your bird is older and see if he'll eat it on his own after you dab a bit in his mouth. You can also get the baby bird formula and add a bit of the homemade stuff. This is a decent baby food for primary seed-eaters like cardinals.
They are not like robins-in the winter cardinals eat almost all seeds, in the summer they will add some insect/worm material, maybe even about half their food. He may eat some mealworms now and appreciate them but I would go with the formula and egg yolk mostly and offer some small worms now and then.
post #6 of 31
Bless you for picking him up! A cat or something else would have surely got him. How long was he left alone in the planter- when you said all the other cardinals were flying around him? If you still have him, I say hang him back in the tree. His parents might just be out of the area- he'll be fine, just as long as he is in the shade. Give him a good feeding a stick em back out there and see if mom or pop comes back for him
post #7 of 31
Call a wildlife rescue. I know a lot of wildbirds you are not supposed to try to feed - you can do more harm than good and make them sick.

And definitely leave him out there where his parents can see him - they might be feeding him and you're just not seeing them - or they're not coming because you're watching. I'm guessing he's a fledgling that tried to fly and fell out of the nest - mom and dad probably know where he is.
post #8 of 31
Thread Starter 
Feeding him meal worms finally occurred to me; I went to 3 different pet stores and they were all out. I finally went to a bait shop and found some.
He's eaten 3 in the past 1 1/2 hours. His planter is hanging in the tree unless I'm feeding him.
I like the 'formula' idea, and think I'll give it a try. I don't think he's really young--he has a full set of wing feathers--but he rarely opens his eyes. He flaps like crazy sometimes.
I also might call my vet; he has a raptor/wildlife sactuary, but I don't know if he takes in small birds. It's worth a shot.
post #9 of 31
Well bless you for trying to save his widdle life.

I would say calling your vet or a wildlife center is a good idea. :
post #10 of 31
I would definitely get ahold of a rehabber.
Even though you are trying to do the right thing and help, it is illegal to have native birds in your possesion, though I doubt anyone would turn you in for it, you just never know.

Bless you for caring
post #11 of 31
Libby-GB your vet but I am willing to bet if he takes in raptors that your songbird baby is SOL!
yeah, many states it's illegal to keep a songbird, but not necessarily simply a "native" bird...some states for instance class a mourning dove as a gamebird and so legally some people eat them and some people have one for a pet, and some states class the same bird as a "songbird" and you shouldn't "harass" them in any way.
You're not "keeping" him, you're merely maintaining until better qualified help arrives, IMO.
I left a robin baby in my yard for a good week. the nieghborhood children, bless thier little hearts, were 'rescuing' babybirds they 'found on the ground' and this one I rescued from their tender mercies and put back in my backyard. Some long feathers, some fluff. I knew when he was alive and well 24 hours later and that he was being fed and later I was able to observe the parents actually feeding him. This is so very hard to do, really-you just have a cat-proof area to place the bird in, and you must be hard hearted enough to ignore the bird when he is cheeping.
Today I threw out a baby bird of unknown origen-he was very young and possibly I could have saved him with formula but I wanted to give tyhe parents a shot.
he died in the yard. I cannot save them all. Would I have tried harder if I knew for sure he was say, an ivory billed woodpecker? Sure, but-he might have crapped out anyway like the baby last robin I borught inside to feed.
It's best with their parents. You can't save them all, but if you save one, good on you.
PLEASE DO NOT HELP ENGLISH SPARROWS OR STARLINGS!!!!!! These are destructice non-native species. Let them die.
post #12 of 31
Thread Starter 
I took the baby to my vet yesterday; I was concerned about her left leg and wanted to get her looked at. She was holding the leg straight out behind her, and couldn't seem to bend it up, altho' her little toes would flex when you tried to move the leg. The vet's assistant looked her over and decided the leg wasn't broken, but there was a lot of bruising/soft tissue damage where the leg joins the body. She got a 50/50 chance of pulling thru. They also offered to put her down right then and there (absolutely no way!), or I could nurse her for a week and see how things went and then they could euthanize her if necessary. ( I left the office crying and determined to save her)
She's eating meal worms, the vet suggested whole milk with a little sugar mixed in, rice baby cereal..... anything I can get down her little throat.
I moved her to a larger container this morning; her little wings are going a mile a minute and I thought she needed something a little bigger. Her bum leg isn't stretched out, she's actually trying to get it under her body. She also hadn't opened her right eye since I found her, so I got out a magnifying glass and discovered a small piece of bird seed stuck to her eye and a little scab right above it. I think she must have banged her head when she fell out of her nest. I used a wet paper towel to ever-so-gently remove the seed and within 10 minutes she was opening that eye. Yea!
I know she's no where near ready to feed herself yet, so I think I need to keep her prisoner for at least a few more days. If I let her loose I'm afraid she'll sit in the yard and starve, and I couldn't handle that.
Please keep your fingers crossed that her little leg improves; I think it's literally a matter of life or death for her.
post #13 of 31
Oh goodness, I wish you AND her the best of luck!!!!!!!!!
post #14 of 31
lots of wishes for this little baby bird!

It's funny all I've ever heard my whole life is that the mother bird will not feed it or care for it once a human has touched it.... Also, I found 3 baby robbins a few years ago that got blown out of their nest from a storm... I called all of the wildlife sanctuaries in the area & got the same response... "you want us to come out there for a baby bird?!" Like I was asking them to fly to mars or something? No one cared....
post #15 of 31
Birds are usually very good mommies. they will keep feeding babies who fall out, who get handled by us humans, and many will even tolerate repeated views into their nestboxes.
Good luck Libby with your birdy-cardinals are beautiful. It's a super feeling when you can save one.
post #16 of 31
Originally Posted by LuckyGirl View Post
lots of wishes for this little baby bird!

It's funny all I've ever heard my whole life is that the mother bird will not feed it or care for it once a human has touched it.... Also, I found 3 baby robbins a few years ago that got blown out of their nest from a storm... I called all of the wildlife sanctuaries in the area & got the same response... "you want us to come out there for a baby bird?!" Like I was asking them to fly to mars or something? No one cared....
It seems like a lot of wildlife rehabilitators are like that.

I am currently bottle feeding a 5-6 week old raccoon because no wildlife organization would take it.. and I'm not going to put her back so she can get hit on the road like her mom probably was.

Good luck with the bird!
I hand raised a starling a few years ago.. I soaked dry cat food in warm water, mushed it up with some chicken and veggies baby food and made a McDs straw into a spoon. She did live till adulthood and learned how to fly and joined a group of local starlings.
post #17 of 31
Good job Leto86

No matter the species I would try to save it. It is not the birdies fault that they were introduced to this country. I will never understand how someone could almost help a bird until they found out it was the "wrong" species very cold-hearted, hateful, and just downright wrong.

Libby74- Good luck with this little one! So glad you figured out what was going on with her eye. Hope she makes a full recovery
post #18 of 31
Awww, this poor little cardinal baby..I hope it pulls through, I am sending many for him.

Its very hard to raise a baby bird. If I have learned ONE thing about trying to raise a baby robin (unfortunately unsucessfully), they eat ALOT.

My sister and I fed the baby wet cat food, and worms which we cut up for it. Little did we know, they eat like 20 feet of worms a day!! (Thats not the exact number, but they eat alot of feet of worms a day) We starved the poor thing And he ended up dying.

I wish you lots of luck with this little one
post #19 of 31
Thread Starter 
I'm discovering just how much one tiny bird can eat! It's not a lot at one feeding, it's just a lot of feedings! I also discovererd my baby like cooked carrots. I might try the cat food, too; that was actually my first thought the other day. I can't tell if the bird's a boy or girl--lots of brown feathers and down, but I can see the bright red when he flaps his wings, and there's dull red on it's wing feathers. He seems to be doing pretty good, considering. My DH says he looks 100% better than he did 2 days ago.

I am currently bottle feeding a 5-6 week old raccoon because no wildlife organization would take it.. and I'm not going to put her back so she can get hit on the road like her mom probably was.
I've never hand-fed a raccoon, but we do have raccoons that show up for supper every night. I put out a bowl of water and a dozen cookies every evening, and I believe it's the same raccoon that comes once it gets dark. One night last week, she was there with 2 young ones, then a different one showed up; there was a raccoon fight 5 feet from my back door.

Thanks for all the good wishes; I hope some of those famous TCS vibes will help the little one make a full recovery.
post #20 of 31
Hello. I have been caring for a baby cardinal for 2.5 weeks now. I can take the little baby off your hands if you would like.

If not, here is what you can feef the baby. If you havea cat or dog, get some dry food and soak it for 30 min until it is mushy. break off little pieces and feed the baby. NO WORMS!! they carry parasites. NO MEAL WORMS!! Store bought meal worms do not have much nutrition. The cat/dog food has all the proteins, fats, and oils and grains the baby needs. ALSO if you can get wild berries or blue berries, give it small pieces of that too. NO WATER as it can drown the baby. It will get it's water from the moist food. I have been hand feeding orphaned birds and this recipe works for ALL baby birds. Please contact me and I can be of help. I live by MIDWAY and do not mind making the trip to get the baby and I can bring my little bird along for the trip. If I can be of any jelp, please contact me @ CHYZNY@AOL.COM

Oh, please feed the baby every 30 min, It will let you know when it is full or hungry. The injury on it's leg will not harm or prevent the Cardinal to be released back into the wild. Try not to bond with the baby so it has a batter chance of making it on it's own once released. The baby should be weaned in 3 weeks.
post #21 of 31

He jumped down to see if I had any goodies to feed her. I think it's a her, but not sure yet.
post #22 of 31
I would do what Spouken said and feed the baby either dry dog or cat food soaked in water to soften it or some canned soft cat or dog food.

I can't believe the vet told you to feed it milk because I know with parrots and pet birds they can have milk or dairy products...so I wouldn't feed the baby any milk.

I hope the little guy makes it. Good luck.
post #23 of 31
Thread Starter 
Wow, Spouken4, thanks for all the advice! I deeply appreciate it.
I have been feeding her every 30-60 minutes, depending on how vocal she is. She's been getting some small pieces of grapes and peaches, hard boiled egg yolk, and thin rice baby cereal (the latter 2 on the advice of the vet's assistant). I have been giving her small drops of water--guess I should stop that, huh? I have shredded moist cat food that I've given her, as well.
Would earthworms be better than mealworms? She has been getting mealworms for the last few days---cut up and dipped in water---yum.
I can definitely give her the dry cat food soaked in water, seeing as I'm feeding 5 house-kitties, I have lots of dry food.

I left her container outside for a while yesterday evening (I have a clear storage container that I made a top for out of small mesh fencing; I twist-tie the top on so she can't get out and nothing can get in) and went I went to check on her there was a male cardinal sitting by it looking at her.

I do appreciate your offer to come get her, but I can't ask you to do that! It's so much dedicated time taking care of one, how on earth could you handle 2 babies? The little one is really stretching her wings now, and actually managed to 'lift off' in her container last night! And I know I'm getting too attached to her; I'm trying really hard not to give her a name, and I hate thinking of letting her go in a few weeks, but I know it has to be.
My DH has been on vacation this week, and has been amazingly understanding about her feeding schedule. He knows we can't really go anywhere because I have to be home to feed her so often. What a guy!

Thanks again for the advice. The pic you posted looks a lot like my little one--some red on wing feathers and that little 'mohawk' on her head. Good luck with your baby, too.
post #24 of 31
You are most welcome.

Be careful when you put the baby outside that it does not manage to SNEAK OFF the little nest you made for it. Once they get out, they will wander off and could be easy pray. If you ever need my help, please contact me as I am a stay at home person and one more little bird should be no problem as I also have a baby Robin that I am feeding that should be soon on his own. I guess the 4th of JUly was too much for most little birds in my area. The meal worms are OK, and even CRICKETSA too, but the DOG/CAT food should be enough. The grapes are OK too, but you should be feeding the baby some native wild berries that grow in your area since that is what they eat. If he is old enought, you can go to a local stora (WALMART) and buy some SUET, hang it from where he can reach it. this way the baby will have something to do and learn to feed himself at the same time. Cardinals will eat the small black sunflower seeds, they love anything that is easy to open such as millet and saw flower seeds, but that will come much later. I place romaine lettuce and red apple slices in his enclosure to let him pick and play all at the same time to help him also learn to feed himself.

Sounds like you are doing a GREAT job with your baby.
I will post more pictures of my little birds later on for all to enjoy.
Oh, I almost forgot, I cruch up sunflower seeds nad mix in in withthe PURINA PUPPY CHOW food I feed my little guy so he gets more of what he eats in the wild.
post #25 of 31
Here are photo's ot the Robin I am raising and the Cardinal.

If you change your mind and want me to care for it, it would be great so that my little guy will have someone JUST like him and they can build a bond so when released together they will have each other and a better chance at survival. Who knows, they can even be a mated pair since they are from 2 different families. I read that Cardinals connot be release until they have they're adult RED colored feathing (if males) or ash if females.

Here is also a link that plays a Cardinal's song so your little bird can learn it's song and not feel lonely.. I let it play continuosly every day for my little feathered friend.


Here are the links to my pictures.

Outside baby Robin photos

Following me around for food.

Common and feed me!

Waiting for me on a rock for more food.

Back in the nest.

Gaping for food.

Cardinal photos.
Alert for food.

playing with paper while food is getting ready.





Fed and happily resting.

Ready for a nap with a full belly.
post #26 of 31
I want to clarify something about baby birds I posted so everyone doesn't think I am "mean and hateful" Lol.
I advocate the elimination of both english sparrows and starlings from the US. it will never happen, of course, but both of these birds do more than merely take over niches formerly occupied by American songbirds-they search out and destroy eggs and nestlings of some of this country's most beloved songbirds, such as bluebirds. they will also brutally KILL mommy or daddy bluebirds who stay at their nestsite to defend it.
can I casually turn my back on a cheeping starling nestling? Not really...but it gets easier every time I find a native nest with eggs smashed and native nestlings torn to ribbons-I won't even begin on the way they peck apart the skulls of heroic bluebird parents who refuse to abandon their children. Please everyone who advocates assisting these two species do some googling. You'll be astounded at the vicious way these birds actually murder perceived rivals-and that includes not just bluebirds but cardinals, wrens, titmice, chickadees, etc.
I'm not making it up-call your states fish and game office.
post #27 of 31
post #28 of 31
Thread Starter 
these birds actually murder perceived rivals
Absolutely true. One summer those stinking grackles killed every sparrow they could get their beaks on, and only ate the heads. Sparrows don't bother me, but I could live without starlings and grackles.

buy some SUET, hang it from where he can reach it. this way the baby will have something to do and learn to feed himself at the same time
Once again, Spouken4, thanks for the tips. I have feeders up all year long for all sorts of birds, so getting my hands on suet is as easy as going to my backyard. I could use a food mill to make some safflower and sunflower kernels palatable for the little one, too. Am going grocery shopping this evening, and will make a point of getting some blueberries for her. I was telling my DH just a couple of hours ago that I needed to find a way to put food in her enclosure so she could begin to learn to feed herself. I think I've figured out how to do it without having her knock it over when she's flapping (which she does frequently).

She spends time outside whenever I'm home (which I usually am, as I work from home) so she can hear not only the other cardinals that feed here, but all the other birds as well. It breaks my heart sometimes listening to her call to them. I just hope that when she's ready to leave she'll find a friendly bird or two to 'hang with.'

And StacyD1987, thanks for the links; I'll definitely check them out.
post #29 of 31
I just wanted to pass along my best wishes for this little cardinal. keep up the great work with taking care of him/her.
post #30 of 31
Thread Starter 
An update on the baby: he's (yes, I'm sure now it's a male) been here for 10 days now, and I've learned a new respect for mother birds! That boy can eat!
His left leg is still kind of wonky, for lack of a better term. At about half of his feedings, I pick him up and try to gently massage that leg. He lets me do it, altho the older he gets the less he likes being picked up. He flaps around his enclosure like crazy, and manages to lift off sometimes.
Now I'm wondering how long before I should let him go? He's still being hand fed, altho he will peck at what I'm offering sometimes.
I received so many suggestions about feeding him cat food. He absolutely refused to eat 3 different kinds of dry food; I can fool him sometimes into thinking shredded moist food is actually a worm.
All in all, he's really doing well--except for that leg.
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