How to Catch a Sick or Injured Bird

Capturing an injured bird can be rather tricky, as you must be extremely careful to avoid injuring the animal. The process can be complicated if the animal is acting in an aggressive manner. This can pose a danger to the animal lover if the bird is large, particularly if it’s a bird of prey.

Whether it’s an escaped pet bird who has become sick or injured or a wild bird who is in need of assistance, the process for catching the animal is more or less the same.

First, you must find a place to keep the bird. A pet carrier can work well. A box is also acceptable, but you must poke a few air holes into the side walls. In addition, you must place something on the bottom of the carrier or box to absorb feces/urine and to provide the bird with a bit of traction. A blanket with a tight weave works well. Other suitable alternatives are hay or shredded newspaper. Avoid using towels, as the bird’s talons can get caught up in the “loop” weave, resulting in foot or leg injuries.

The process varies slightly, depending on whether the animal is cooperative. Sick birds are typically eaier to coax into a box or animal carrier, whereas injured animals tend to be a bit more resistant. Escaped pet birds are generally easier to capture than wild birds.

You may first try placing an open box or animal carrier in front of the bird. Then, bend a large piece of cardboard into a “V” shape and approach the bird from behind. Use the cardboard to gently direct the bird into the box or pet carrier.

For less cooperative animals or animals who are acting in an aggressive manner, the process for capturing an injured or sick bird is a bit more involved. Follow these steps:

  • Get a large box or animal carrier and place it near the bird.
  • Don leather gloves to protect your hands
  • Throw a sheet or a light blanket over the bird. This will keep the animal in place.
  • Lift one edge of the sheet and place the open box or animal carrier under the edge of the sheet.
  • Use a piece of cardboard bent into a “V” shape to nudge the bird — who is still under the sheet — forward and into the carrier or box. You can also slide the box or carrier toward the bird while it’s under the sheet.

The sheet serves to calm the bird, as it conceals you from his view during the trapping process. It’s important to use a sheet or a light blanket; the weight of a large, heavy blanket can further injure a small bird.

Once the bird is inside the box or carrier, close the flaps or the carrier door and immediately transport the bird to a wildlife rehabilitation clinic or veterinary clinic. Place a sheet over the carrier during transport to reduce stress. If you cannot immediately transport the animal, keep the box in a dark, quiet location like a garage. The location must be safe from predators like cats.

Ideally, you should never directly touch a wild animal. If you do accidentally touch a wild animal or a lost pet who has been out in the wild, immediately wash and disinfect your hands.

If you do not feel comfortable attempting to catch an injured bird, contact animal control or the staff at a local wildlife rehabilitation facility. They typically have volunteers who can come out to assist.

If you leave a sick or injured bird outdoors, it’s best to observe the animal from a distance until help arrives. Keep your eye out for potential predators, such as dogs or cats, and be ready to swing into action if an animal appears to be stalking the bird.

Notably, these same methods can be used to catch a pet bird who has escaped, though you should only attempt to capture the animal while it’s on the ground. Never place a sheet over a bird who is in a tree, it may cause injury, particularly if the bird panics and flies into a branch.

For more tips, read PetLvr’s related article on how to identify a sick or injured bird.

Photo Source: Leonardo Faria on

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Mia Carter is a professional journalist and animal lover. Her furry family members include 6 dogs and 12 cats. She is also a feral cat colony caretaker. Carter specializes in pet training and special needs pet care. All of her animals have special needs such as paralysis, blindness, deafness and FIV, just to name a few. She also serves as a pet foster parent and she actively rehabilitates and rescues local strays and feral kittens.

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