When I was a kid I was taught to NEVER touch a baby bird!! We learned that wild birds are filthy and germy. And, the mother will abandon the baby if it has been touched by a human. You touch that little bird and you and it are doomed!
Well folks, this must be one of the earliest urban myths. Wild birds are not germ ridden, and most birds (excepting buzzards) have no sense of smell. Mama bird won’t mind if you pick up her baby and put it back in the nest.
The other thing I have always believed about baby birds is that they launch into their first flight from the edge of the nest and don’t look back. Reality is a little different. Lots of baby birds find themselves on the ground after that launch and stay on terra firma for a week or more continuing to develop and practicing short flights. In the meantime, the bird parent(s) will protect the fledglings and keep bringing them food. This is true for little guys like mockingbirds as well as great big species like great horned owls. If you encounter a bird on the ground and it has feathers, it is a fledgling. If it is hurt or sick, it will look lethargic or lopsided as it moves about. If that little bird is perky and balanced it should be fine as long as it is in a relatively protected area. Keep pets and kids away and no other intervention should be needed. (Many baby birds have no fear of humans, another clue!) Next installment will cover the unfeathered nestlings and what you can do if you find one of those really tiny babies. Supernaturelover to the rescue! In the meantime, if you live in the Phoenix area and you find a wild animal in a bind call Liberty Wildlife at (480) 998-5550. They can help.