What to Feed a Baby Bird: Essential Nutrition and Care Tips

Jason Brown

Baby Birds

Feeding a baby bird can be a crucial task, especially if it has fallen out of its nest. Birds require specific food based on their species and age. A common and effective food option is a mixture of cat or dog food, hardboiled eggs, and crushed mealworms. It’s also essential to use a syringe or pipette for nestlings.

Feeding techniques vary, but gentle and frequent feeding is key. Pay attention to the bird’s response to ensure it’s accepting the food. Avoid feeding baby birds certain foods like milk, bread, or raw meat as these can cause harm.

For those unsure about the exact needs of the bird, reaching out to a local wildlife rehabilitator can provide expert guidance. They can assist in ensuring the bird receives the proper care and diet it needs to grow healthy and strong.

Image Credit: Tony Alter from Newport News, USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Feeding Baby Birds: Nurturing Nature’s Young

Identifying the Type of Baby Bird

Before feeding a baby bird, it’s important to determine whether it is a nestling or fledgling. Nestlings are featherless or have very few feathers and are entirely dependent on their parents. Fledglings have most of their feathers and are learning to fly. If you find a nestling out of its nest, it’s best to try and return it if possible. Fledglings, however, are often found on the ground as they practice their flying skills, and they may not need intervention unless they are injured or in danger.

Essential Nutrition for Baby Birds

Baby birds require a high-protein diet to support their rapid growth and development. The specific food choices depend on the type of bird, but some general guidelines apply:


  • Insect-based diet: Most nestlings are primarily insectivorous and require a diet rich in protein from insects like mealworms, crickets, or caterpillars.
  • Commercial formulas: For orphaned nestlings, specially formulated bird food can be purchased from pet stores or wildlife rehabilitators.
  • Hand-feeding: Nestlings need to be hand-fed using a syringe or small spoon every 15-20 minutes during daylight hours.


  • Variety of foods: Fledglings can start to eat a wider variety of foods, including insects, seeds, fruits, and berries.
  • Gradual transition: As fledglings get older, gradually reduce the frequency of feeding and encourage them to find food on their own.

Feeding Schedule and Tips

Type of Baby BirdFoodFeeding Frequency
NestlingInsects, formulaEvery 15-20 minutes
FledglingInsects, seeds, fruits, berriesGradually decrease
  • Offer food gently: Do not force-feed a baby bird. Gently open its beak and place the food at the back of its throat.
  • Monitor hydration: Ensure the baby bird has access to fresh water. You can offer water using a dropper or a small dish.
  • Cleanliness: Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling baby birds to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Avoid harmful foods: Never feed baby birds bread, milk, or other human foods, as these can be harmful to their health.
  • Seek professional help: If you’re unsure about how to care for a baby bird, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for guidance.

Providing a Safe Environment

In addition to proper nutrition, baby birds need a safe and warm environment to thrive. If you are caring for an orphaned baby bird, provide a small box or nest lined with soft materials like tissues or paper towels. Keep the nest in a quiet, warm area away from direct sunlight and drafts. If the baby bird is cold, you can provide a heating pad or a warm water bottle wrapped in a towel.

Remember, caring for a baby bird is a delicate task that requires patience and attention to detail. By following these guidelines and providing the right nutrition and care, you can help these vulnerable creatures grow and thrive.

Key Takeaways

  • Feed baby birds a mix of cat/dog food, hardboiled eggs, and mealworms.
  • Use a syringe or pipette for feeding nestlings.
  • Avoid harmful foods like milk and bread.

Understanding the Dietary Needs of Baby Birds

Baby birds have unique dietary needs that change as they grow. It is essential to understand these requirements to ensure their healthy development.

Species-Specific Diets

Different species of birds have varied dietary needs. Insect-eating birds like sparrows and robins need high-protein diets. Feed them small insects such as mealworms, caterpillars, and mosquito larvae. Fruit-eating birds like parrots and jays require fruits along with seeds. Offer chopped fruits like apples or berries. Hummingbirds primarily consume nectar, so provide a sugar-water mixture. Pigeons and doves need grains and seeds. Always ensure the safety and suitability of the food items for each bird species.

Age-Related Nutrition

Baby birds’ dietary needs change with their growth stages. Hatchlings (0-3 days old) need finely ground, easy-to-digest food, often fed via syringe. Nestlings (3-13 days old) require soft food like soaked dog kibble or mashed hardboiled eggs. Fledglings (13-20 days old) start to eat more solid foods like small insects and berries. Ensure the food is warm and appropriately sized to prevent choking. Frequent feedings, every 2-3 hours, are crucial to support their growth and development. Consistent monitoring is necessary to adjust the diet based on the bird’s response and growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses common concerns about feeding baby birds, ensuring they receive proper nutrition and care.

How can one prepare homemade food suitable for a baby bird?

Mix cat or dog food with hard-boiled eggs and crushed mealworms for a high-protein diet. Ensure the food is soft and easy to ingest for the bird.

What are the appropriate feeding intervals for a newborn avian?

Feed them every 15-20 minutes from sunrise to sunset. Reduce frequency as they grow older but never let them go hungry during the day.

Is it necessary to provide water for fledgling birds, and if so, how?

Do not give water directly. Their food should be moist enough to hydrate them. Giving water can lead to drowning or respiratory issues.

What are suitable feeding techniques for an orphaned baby bird?

Use a syringe or pipette for precise feeding. Make sure the food is warm, but not hot, to avoid rejection. Feed gently to prevent harm.

During colder seasons, what dietary adjustments should be made for infant birds?

Increase food portions to provide more energy. Ensure the brooder temperature stays warm to help them maintain their body heat.

What steps should be taken to care for a young bird that has been found outside of its nest?

Place the bird in a warm, secure box. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator for further assistance. Do not attempt to feed it immediately.