Southeastern Raptor Center: Advice for those finding ‘orphaned’ birds

Published: April 07, 2016
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The number of birds brought to the Southeastern Raptor Center, often by well-meaning people who believe the bird is abandoned, rises from spring to midsummer.

It's not always correct to assume an infant bird found alone is an orphan, said Dr. Seth Oster, an avian veterinarian at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine who oversees the rehabilitation division of the Southeastern Raptor Center.

"By the age of four or five weeks, most raptors are grown enough to begin walking and can climb out of their nests."

Oster advises anyone who finds a baby bird of prey to leave it alone. "Don't worry about getting your scent on the bird, this will not drive the parents away. The parents will come back and care for it even if you do not see them in the immediate area.

"Commonly, birds can fall out of the nest when they start moving about or get blown out of the nest by early spring thunderstorms," Oster said. "The parents will still care for these young birds while they are on the ground just like they would when the young are in the nest.

The center, which is home to the university's beloved eagles, rehabilitates and releases hundreds of injured birds of prey annually and conducts educational programs throughout the Southeast.

In the average year, the Southeastern Raptor Center takes in more than 400 native, wild birds from Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama that are injured, ill or orphaned. When injured birds are brought to the center, they are treated and cared for with the goal of returning them back to the wild.

Already this spring, more than a dozen orphans have been brought to the center, from Foley, Montgomery and Huntsville, and Albany, Tifton and Douglas, Georgia.

If the bird appears injured or left in an area where it could become injured, Oster recommends the following: Use a cardboard box at least twice the size of the bird and line it with something padded, like a towel. Using another towel, carefully pick up the bird and place it into the nest box. Then, place the box in a safer location or transport it to a veterinarian or the Auburn University Veterinary Clinic, a community practice at the College of Veterinary Medicine, which accepts injured birds 24/7. Oster also serves as the avian and exotic animal veterinarian.

For questions, contact Dr. Seth Oster through April 11 at 334-844-9966 or ( After that, contact Dr. Jamie Bellah at 334-844-8513 or (

For more information about the Southeastern Raptor Center, go to