Helping Injured or Sick Birds: What You Can Do

Juvenile Great-horned Owl rehabbed by the Humane Indiana Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

It’s not uncommon to encounter injured birds that may require medical attention. This information is to help you identify the problem, not necessarily resolve it.


As urbanization encroaches on wildlife habitats, it’s crucial to coexist responsibly with wild animals and know how to assist those in need. It’s common to encounter seemingly orphaned animals like baby birds, rabbits, squirrels, or deer. However, these animals may not actually be abandoned—rabbits, for example, only feed their young once or twice a day and avoid drawing attention to their nests.

Our priority is to keep birds within their natural habitats whenever possible. While many birds may appear abandoned, their mothers often feed away from the nest and are best left undisturbed. However, if a bird is visibly injured or unwell (e.g., bleeding, broken wing), it should be transported to a wildlife rehabilitator for proper care.

Following are a few general rules of emergency care for any type of wildlife:

  1. Leave the animal if the parent is nearby.
  2. Leave the animal if it seems healthy.
  3. Rescue if the parent is deceased.
  4. Rescue if it seems weak, sick, or cold.
  5. Rescue if visibly injured.
  6. Rescue if in danger from traffic or other animals.

Injured Least Bittern

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) maintains a list of permitted wildlife rehabilitators (a.k.a. “rehabbers”) by county. To access the latest list of permitted rehabbers, go to

You can also access updated DNR-permitted wildlife rehabbers at your fingertips with the Animal Help Now (AHNow) app. It uses real-time location data to swiftly connect you with the assistance you need for wildlife and pets. Learn more about the app by visiting

Interested in becoming a wildlife rehabber? The DNR mandates permitting for wildlife rehabilitation to ensure caregivers possess the essential skills, knowledge, and facilities for proper animal care, safeguarding their welfare before release. See the application for more information.


Before transporting an injured bird, seek professional advice. Place the bird in a dark ventilated box with a clean cloth. Avoid using damp grass as bedding and do not attempt to feed or water the bird. Inexperience with the animal’s needs can be fatal. Minimize handling to reduce stress. Transport the bird to a rehabber at your earliest convenience.


Indiana Audubon and Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary receives many calls and emails every year to assist in injured or sick wildlife. While Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary offers refuge for birds, we do not perform rehabilitation efforts for wild birds. For assistance with injured birds or other wildlife, you must contact a local rehabber, using the DNR’s list.


If you come across any sick or dead birds, please use the Indiana DNR’s reporting tool to notify the proper authorities.

Copyright © 2024 Indiana Audubon Society, Inc.

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