What do Baby Birds Drink? A Complete Guide to Feeding and Hydrating Baby Birds

Feeding a baby bird can be immensely rewarding, but it’s also daunting if you’re unsure of what to do. Did you know that the hydration and feeding needs of a baby bird differ significantly based on their species and age?

This blog post aims to provide in-depth guidance, so you navigate this task confidently, ensuring these delicate creatures’ health and survival.

Ready to become an expert in caring for our feathered friends? Let’s dive in!

Understanding Baby Birds

Determining the age of baby birds is crucial in order to provide appropriate care and nutrition for their stage of development.

How to Determine Age of Baby Birds

Understanding the age of baby birds involves observing a few key characteristics. Look for feathers, as their development indicates growth stages. Nestlings, often found in nests, exhibit little to no feathers.

As they grow into fledglings, they develop more plumage and may flutter or hop around but still depend on parents for meals. Upon reaching juvenile stage, these birds flaunt fully grown feathers and begin flying independently while seeking out their own food sources.

Size can also hint at a bird’s age; smaller ones typically are younger than bigger counterparts showcasing more mature features like extensive feathering or increased mobility skills.

Therefore, by noting size and feather maturity alongside behavior patterns such as feeding dependency or flight ability gives insight into a bird’s age range.

What Do Baby Birds Eat and Drink in the Wild?

Baby birds in the wild have a diverse diet, primarily fed by their parents. The menu often contains small vertebrates, worms, and insects. This natural bird diet provides all the essential nutrients required for their growth and survival.

Newly hatched chicks are nourished with regurgitated food from parent birds that safeguard them from harmful bacteria and viruses.

While baby birds don’t generally drink water directly, they get sufficient hydration from their food sources. Bugs or whole worms consumed by these tiny creatures not only contribute to organ development but also provide necessary moisture content.

However, an important aspect of feeding involves refraining from giving high-salt foods such as chips, crackers, and bread which could potentially harm these fledglings.

The Importance of Hydration for Baby Birds

Baby birds are highly dependent on hydration for their survival and overall well-being.

Should You Give Water to Baby Birds?

Providing water directly to baby birds often poses a significant risk. Taking direct action, such as using a dropper or syringe to give water orally to baby birds, is not advisable.

This act can inadvertently lead to drowning as these tiny creatures are not equipped to ingest liquids in this manner. Professionals emphasize the importance of hydration for young birds but warn that it should be done through their diet rather than by drinking water directly.

Baby bird’s food includes high-water content items like fruits and insects which offer sufficient hydration while minimizing the danger of aspiration or choking.

Feeding Baby Birds: What You Need to Know

Learn what to feed a baby bird, what not to feed them, and discover the safety of DIY baby bird food.

What to Feed a Baby Bird

Caring for baby birds involves offering them a well-rounded diet, modeled as closely as possible to their natural bird diet. The specifics of what to feed will vary depending on the species and age of the bird, but some general guidelines apply:

  1. Baby birds can consume a high protein meal made from hard – boiled eggs, moist dog food, or wet cat food. Whatever you choose should be chopped into small pieces suitable for the bird’s size.
  2. Worms and insects are essential components of many baby birds’ diets in the wild, particularly for fledglings learning independent living skills for birds.
  3. Fruits including apples, pears, peaches, and berries provide necessary hydration and nutrients for young avian bodies. However, offer these sparingly as they should not form a significant part of the overall diet.
  4. Certain domestic bird species like parrots may also enjoy small vertebrates such as mice or lizards.
  5. Do not offer raw unseasoned liver or any form of kitchen scraps as these contain elements that can be toxic to birds.
  6. Feeding baby birds bread and milk is a common misconception and should be avoided due to their inability to digest lactose properly.

What Not to Feed a Baby Bird

Feeding baby birds can be a delicate task, and it’s important to know what foods to avoid. Here are some things you should never feed a baby bird:

  1. Bread and bread products: These can cause digestive issues and diarrhea in baby birds.
  2. Milk and dairy products: Baby birds cannot properly digest lactose, so milk should be avoided.
  3. Fruit juice: While it may seem like a healthy choice, fruit juice can actually be harmful to baby birds due to its high sugar content.
  4. Foods high in salt: Crackers, chips, and other salty snacks should not be given to baby birds as they can have negative effects on their health.
  5. Human baby food: Many commercial baby foods contain additives such as sugar, which can be harmful for birds.
  6. Meat products: It’s best to avoid feeding meat to baby birds, as their digestive systems may not be equipped to handle it properly.

DIY Baby Bird Food: Is It Safe?

Making homemade baby bird food may seem like a good idea, but it is not recommended. DIY baby bird food can potentially cause nutritional imbalances and allergic reactions in humans.

It’s crucial to feed baby birds a diet that closely resembles their natural diet, consisting of fruits, vegetables, seeds, insects, and bugs. Avoid giving them bread or other high-salt foods as they can dehydrate the birds or even lead to choking.

Stay away from liquids such as fruit juice as they don’t have the same properties as solid foods and could be harmful to the baby birds. Remember, feeding them bread products can cause diarrhea, especially if made with whole grains.

The Dangers of Feeding Wild Baby Birds

Feeding wild baby birds can be dangerous if not done properly, as it may lead to improper nutrition or health issues.

How to Know When a Bird Has Eaten Enough

Baby birds have small stomachs, so it’s important to know when they’ve had enough food. One way to determine this is by observing their behavior during feeding. When a bird has eaten enough, they will become less interested in food and may start turning away or refusing to eat any more.

Another clue is the size of their crop, which is a pouch-like structure near their throat that stores food. If the crop feels full and firm after a feeding, it indicates that the bird has had enough to eat.

It’s crucial not to overfeed baby birds as it can lead to digestive issues and even death. Monitoring their feeding cues and being mindful of their crop size can help ensure they receive just the right amount of nourishment for healthy growth.

How to Care for a Found Baby Bird

Assess the situation, follow the necessary steps, and learn what to do if you find a baby bird on the ground with no nest. Care for these helpless creatures and help them thrive! Read more for expert advice and tips on feeding and hydrating baby birds in need.

Assessing the Situation

Lost baby birds are a common sight in springtime and may appear helpless. It is important to assess the situation carefully before taking any action. Start by determining if the bird is an altricial or precocial species.

Altricial birds are not able to survive on their own and need assistance, while precocial birds are more developed and can walk and feed themselves shortly after hatching. If you find a nestling bird on the ground, it should be placed back in its nest if possible.

Remember that interfering with healthy fledglings can do more harm than good, as they are learning to fly and explore their surroundings.

Steps to Follow When You Find a Baby Bird

  • Assess the situation and determine if the baby bird has been abandoned.
  • Look for any signs of injury or distress.
  • If the baby bird is not injured and appears healthy, try to locate its nest.
  • Carefully place the baby bird back in its nest if it is safe to do so.
  • If the nest cannot be found or is destroyed, create a substitute nest using a berry basket or butter tub lined with soft materials like grass or leaves.
  • Keep an eye on the nest from a distance to see if the parents return within a few hours.
  • If the parents do not return, or if the baby bird is injured or in immediate danger, contact a bird rehabilitation center for assistance.

What to Do If You Find a Baby Bird on the Ground With No Nest

If you find a baby bird on the ground with no nest, it is important to take immediate action to ensure its safety and well-being. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Assess the situation: Determine if the bird is injured or in immediate danger. Look for any signs of distress or physical injuries.
  2. Create a substitute nest: If possible, locate the original nest and carefully place the baby bird back into it. If you cannot find the nest or if it is damaged, create a substitute nest using a small container lined with soft materials such as grass, leaves, or paper towels.
  3. Place the nest in a safe location: Put the substitute nest in a nearby tree or bush, as close to where you found the baby bird as possible. Ensure that it is protected from direct sunlight and predators.
  4. Observe from a distance: Step back and monitor the situation from a distance to see if the adult birds return to care for their offspring. It may take some time for them to feel comfortable approaching the substitute nest.
  5. Contact a bird rescue or rehabilitation center: If you do not see any sign of adult birds caring for the baby bird after a few hours, it may be necessary to seek professional help. Contact a licensed bird rescue or rehabilitation center for guidance and assistance.

Hand-Feeding Baby Birds: Is It Safe?

Hand-feeding baby birds is a challenging task that should only be done by experienced individuals, such as licensed rehabilitators. The chances of survival for hand-fed baby birds in human care are generally low.

Additionally, it is important to note that keeping or caring for a wild bird without the proper permits and licenses is technically against the law. Therefore, if you come across an abandoned or injured baby bird, it’s best to reach out to a local bird-rescue organization or wildlife rehabilitation center for assistance from professionals who have the necessary knowledge and resources to provide proper care.

Consulting with Experts: When Should You Seek Help?

If you have found a baby bird and are unsure of what to do, it’s essential to consult with experts for guidance. Assess the situation first to determine if the bird has truly been abandoned.

Differentiate between altricial and precocial birds, as altricial birds may require assistance if they have fallen or been thrown from their nest. If possible, place a nestling bird back in the nest as they have little chance of survival on their own.

However, if the original nest is destroyed, create a substitute nest using a berry basket or butter tub. In cases where you cannot safely return the young bird to its natural habitat, it’s crucial to contact a local bird rehabilitation center for professional help.

Consulting with experts is especially important when dealing with abandoned baby birds. They can provide advice specific to each situation and guide you through any necessary steps for rescuing and caring for the bird properly.

Remember that licensed rehabilitators possess specialized knowledge and experience in handling wild animals like birds, ensuring their safety and well-being. Seek professional help promptly whenever there are concerns about an injured or orphaned baby bird so that it can receive appropriate care from trained professionals who understand its needs best.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are you wondering if you’re allowed to feed wild baby birds or how to determine the age of a wild baby bird? Find the answers to these and more frequently asked questions in this comprehensive guide.

Am I Allowed to Feed Wild Baby Birds?

Feeding wild baby birds is possible, but it’s essential to evaluate the situation first. Determine if the bird has truly been abandoned before taking action. If you find an altricial bird, such as a robin or blue jay, on the ground and in need of help, it’s crucial to assist them.

Try to place the nestling back into its nest if feasible since they have a limited chance of survival without their parents’ care. However, if it becomes evident that the baby bird has been abandoned, contacting a bird rehabilitation center is your best course of action.

They will be able to provide appropriate assistance and care for these helpless creatures.

How to Tell the Age of a Wild Baby Bird?

To determine the age of a wild baby bird, there are a few key indicators to look for. First, consider the bird’s size. Younger birds will generally be smaller and have less developed feathers compared to older ones.

Another clue is their behavior – younger birds may still be in the nest or not yet fully able to fly, while older ones will be more independent and exploring their surroundings. Additionally, you can observe their feather growth; if they have downy feathers or just small pinfeathers starting to emerge, they are likely very young.

Lastly, listen for vocalizations – younger birds typically make high-pitched begging sounds while older ones have more developed calls. By taking note of these characteristics, you can get an idea of how old a wild baby bird might be.


In conclusion, understanding the feeding and hydration needs of baby birds is crucial for their survival. While baby birds do not drink water orally, they can drink from shallow containers once they are old enough to hop around.

Providing proper care and nutrition is essential for their growth and development. With the right knowledge and precautions, we can help these young birds thrive in their natural habitat.


1. What do baby birds drink?

Baby bird’s water needs vary by species, but dehydration is a common issue in bird care.

2. How can I feed and hydrate an abandoned baby bird?

Hand-feeding formula delivered with tweezers or forceps can provide nutrition and hydration to the neglected baby bird, but careful attention to not block its glottis is crucial for the young bird’s survival.

3. Are there special feeding considerations for different types of baby birds like pigeons, doves, hummingbirds, fish-eating birds and birds of prey?

Yes! Bird species preferences differ drastically: precocial chicks may require offerings such as hand-feeding formula while others might take to room temperature food items like hard-boiled eggs or mealworms more readily.

4. Can I use regular puppy or kitten kibble to feed a baby bird in an emergency situation?

In case of emergencies when specialized supplies aren’t available quickly enough, puppy or kitten kibble softened into a spongy consistency could serve as an emergency ration until proper feeding materials are procured.

5. Should I leave out water for wildlife and birds that visit my garden?

Bird baths filled with clean fresh water can aid in animal rescue efforts by preventing dehydration amongst wild visitors including uninjured young birds, terrestrial animals like amphibians and aquatic turtles if you’re also a testudine enthusiast!

6. How does understanding bird behavior help in their conservation?

Observing through tools like bird watching binoculars, following updates on online platforms like blogs or magazines sharing stories about domesticated or wild species’ habits helps foster empathy towards nature & contributes positively towards wildlife protection initiatives such as taking actions against predictors.

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.