All wild birds are protected by law. State and federal laws prohibit you from having any protected wildlife in your possession, even temporarily, unless you are transporting an injured raptor to receive medical attention.

When to Take Action:

  • The bird is obviously injured: a wing is drooping, blood can be seen, the bird is lying on the ground, trapped or caught or trapped in something
  • The bird is in obvious danger from a predator or has been caught by one
  • There are hazards like busy roads.
  • The parents have been killed or seriously injured
  • The nest has been destroyed
  • A young raptor, covered only in white downy feathers, that is found on the ground
  • The bird has its eyes closed and does not respond to your presence.

When to Observe:

  • Watch from a distance and check periodically to see if the bird has moved.
    • Is the raptor eating?  If so, it may be reluctant to leave its food.  This is normal behavior.
    • Is it a young raptor?  It may be out of the nest and exploring its environment while still being cared for by its parents.  Check for parents you can see or hear nearby.
      • When young raptors are learning to fly, their early flights are not graceful and can get them into trouble.  If a young raptor seems healthy, has some adult looking feathers (not ALL downy and white) and the parents are seen nearby, you can try to carefully place it back in the lower branches of a shrub or tree.  It is not true that the parent birds will abandon young if they have been touched by humans, although parents may abandon a nest in an area where there is continual disturbance.

Sometimes, well meaning people will collect a bird they believe orphaned, not realizing the parents are watching. Before removing a bird from its home, observe and watch for parents returning with food. REMEMBER: A young raptor's best chance of survival is to be raised by its wild parents.