Collisions of birds with windows and cars often kill birds, but sometimes the bird survives with a broken wing.
You can tell when a bird’s wing is broken by its droop. Healthy birds hold both of their wings the same way. A bird will let a wing with a broken bone dangle from its body, and will not be able to fly.
A wild bird with a broken wing can survive—with a little help from some kindly humans.
In this article, we will tell you about four things you need to do to help a bird with a broken wing survive its injuries and what you can expect at various stages of the healing process.
But first, let’s consider the question of whether human intervention is a good thing for injured wildlife.
Should You Try to Help an Injured Bird?
It is hard to know when to intervene to help an injured animal. Sometimes, the suffering of the animal is minimized by letting nature take its course.
But helping a bird with a broken wing is an exception to the rule. If you come across a bird with a broken wing, you can help it without interfering with the balance of nature.
Before you try to help a bird that seems to have a broken wing, make sure it isn’t feigning an injury to try to lead you away from its nest.
It is important not to interfere with healthy birds that are doing their best to take care of their babies.
If you are sure a bird is suffering a broken wing, then you can spring into action. Here’s what you need to know.
Yes, A Bird Can Survive a Broken Wing
Birds can survive to lead a long and happy life after a broken wing heals, provided they are not killed by predators while they are convalescing.
This is where you come in.
The most important thing you can do to help an injured bird is to make sure it is not attacked by cats, dogs, or other wildlife.
Just remember that you are not turning the bird into a pet, and remember that you need to avoid breaking the law (more about that point a little later).
A Broken Wing Will Not Heal on Its Own
A minor break in the bone of a bird’s wing will heal on its own, if the bird can avoid being attacked by predators.
A major break in a bone, for example, a compound fracture that causes the broken bone to be visible, sticking out of the bird’s skin, requires veterinary intervention.
Some broken bones will require veterinary surgery to repair the bone and antibiotics to prevent infection.
How Long Does It Take a Bird to Recover from a Broken Wing Bone?
You might be surprised how fast a bird can recover from a small break in its wing bones. Some birds will be able to fly again after just a week.
For a more serious injury, recovery can take a month to six weeks. During that time, the bird will have lost muscle tone, so it will need rehabilitation before it can fly again.
Some breaks are so bad that there is no chance that the bird will ever recover.
If you can’t find a wildlife rehabilitation agency to take care of the bird indefinitely, the kindest thing to do would be to put the bird down.
However, euthanasia of wild birds is something you should let a licensed wildlife expert do. Don’t try to do it yourself.
Four Things to Do If You Decide to Help a Wild Bird with a Broken Wing
Both the United States and Canada have federal laws that prohibit interference with the life cycle of migratory birds.
These laws make it a crime to take a bird out of the wild, even if your intention is to help it.
These laws do not apply to birds that do not migrate, like pigeons, or to domestic birds, like chickens, or pets.
But because of the law, your first step involves a telephone call.
Call a vet or a midlife rehabilitation center
Asking for help from a veterinarian or a wildlife rehabilitation person fulfills your obligation not to interfere with the life cycle of migratory wild birds.
It also ensures that the bird will get the best possible care from start to finish. A vet can tell you how bad the break is, and whether the bird will need surgery for it to heal.
A licensed wildlife rehabilitation specialist can also offer you expert advice on what is best for the bird.
Capture the bird and place it a pet carrier or a box
After you have spoken with an expert, your next step is to catch the bird so you can transport it to professional help.
You don’t necessarily have to do this on your own.
A local animal control officer or the local game commission may be available to collect the bird and take it for treatment.
You can also capture the bird on your own. This is only a good idea if you feel comfortable handling wild animals.
If you are hesitant to hold the bird, and it tries to get away from you, it may make its injuries even worse.
Keep in mind that raptors, birds of prey such as owls and hawks, have sharp beaks and claws that cause injury.
If you decide to capture a raptor, find a large, thick, clean towel. Cover the bird with a towel.
Once the bird is covered, use the towel to make a bird burrito. Then it will be safe to pick up the bird in the towel and place it in a cardboard box or some other kind of pet carrier.
When placing a bird in a container, make sure it is tall enough that the bird can stand up without its head touching the top.
The container does not have to be so wide that the bird can spread its wings. You just need to be sure the container is tall for the bird to stand in.
Once you have the bird in a carrier, then it is simple to put it in a vehicle and transport it to the vet or a wildlife rehab center.
(Optional) Set the Broken Wing
Chances are that the vet or the wildlife rehab specialist will set a bird’s broken wing, but you should know how just in case you have to step in.
Get some micropore or vetwrap tape.
These tapes will not stick to feathers. Tape the wing with the broken bone to the bird’s body in its normal, folded position.
Then secure the wing with a bandage and give the bird a chance to rest and recuperate.
Don’t Forget Food and Water
It is important not to offer the injured bird food or water before you take care of its wing, especially if the vet is doing surgery. Once the wing is set, then the bird needs food and water to recuperate.
Place the recuperating bird in a cage. Make sure it has clean water for drinking at all times.
Offer an injured songbird bird seed, pellets, Nyjer seed, or fresh fruit. You can also give it easy-to-digest human foods such as applesauce, mashed ripe bananas, baby cereal, oatmeal, or English peas.
If you are taking care of a raptor, such as a hawk or an owl, consult with a wildlife rehabilitator about appropriate feeding.
When the bird becomes more active, take off the bandage and the tape, and return them to the wild.
It is always best to let a professional take care of an injured bird, but when this kind of help is not available, the opportunity to help the bird may come to you.
Frequently Asked Questions about Taking Care of a Bird with a Broken Wing
Q. What do I do if my pet bird breaks a wing?
A. The first thing to do is to make sure that your bird does not succumb to shock.
Birds that are in shock after breaking a wing may be unresponsive, lying on the bottom of their cage.
They may breathe in slowly and breathe out quickly. They may fluff out their feathers as if they were cold.
Warmth is important for helping a bird overcome shock. They need to be in a room where the air temperature is between 77° and 86° F (25° and 30° C).
Covering their cage, leaving just enough room for airflow, helps them calm down and recover. A bird in shock needs to be kept in its own cage, undisturbed by children and other pets.
Don’t attempt to help a pet bird with a broken wing until it has overcome the shock. Then call your vet for advice.
There are no laws that prohibit private individuals from taking care of pet birds, but your veterinarian is always the best source of treatment.
Q. Should I give the injured bird water?
A. Never squirt water down an injured bird’s throat. You could squirt into their lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia.
It’s OK to let an injured bird take water on its own from a dish in its cage.
Q. What should I do with a baby bird with a broken wing?
A. Keep the baby bird warm and in a dark, quiet place to minimize the risk of shock.
Then transport it to a veterinarian or wildlife rehab facility.
Q. What can I do to prevent broken Wing bones in birds?
A. The most important thing you can do to prevent broken wings in wild birds is to make sure that they do not fly into glass windows.
Never place feeders in the zone 5 feet to 15 feet (1.6 meters to 5 meters) in front of a glass window.
Birds visiting your feeder won’t be able to “put on the brakes” before they hit your window.
When you let pet birds out of their cage, make sure ceiling fans are turned off. Collisions of birds with fans are the major cause of injuries to birds indoors.
You should also make sure that your birds do not fly into a door that closes suddenly because of wind or children moving quickly through your home.
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