Last evening, I was reading to my daughter when my neighbor–I have some of the best in the world–came over to ask about a baby bird in her yard. The baby Downy Woodpecker was clinging to the trunk of a tree, trying to climb it, and calling for his mother. She thought the baby might be in trouble and wanted to help–a completely reasonable thought for anyone who cares about wild animals and one I experienced many times in the past.
I had a feeling right away that she was observing a fledgling and the bird was most likely just fine. I grabbed my camera and went over in my pajamas (because I’m classy like that!) and this is what I saw:
Oh my word, is that not the cutest little woodpecker you’ve ever seen?
It surprises many people, myself included, to hear that when a bird first leaves the nest, he cannot fly well and is still dependent on his parents. When people come across these birds, they assume the baby is alone and in trouble. But usually, the parents are nearby and will care for the bird as soon as you leave. Here is a great article from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology giving advice on how to tell if a baby bird is in trouble or not.
The best advice I could give my neighbors was to leave the bird be, give it some privacy, and the parents would care for it. They wisely kept their cats indoors to protect the bird.
Birds are amazing creatures. Most of the time, they can care for their young much better than a human can.