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Wildlife: Birds

Are you experiencing an issue with birds in your area?  If you have an urgent concern, please get in touch with us right away.  If you are looking for more information, please click on one of the questions below to expand the content and find your answer.  If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at DFW Wildlife Coalition.

A BABY BIRD NEEDS HELP IF,

  • Parents are known to be dead
  • Is injured, bleeding, broken wing or leg
  • Fire ants or flies
  • Lethargic, laying on its side
  • Cat or dog caught
  • Fishing line or other object tangled in the wing or body
  • Shivering is cold, featherless or nearly featherless and you cannot safely return to the nest.
  • Wandering and vocalizing

EXCEPTION FOR RESCUING A BIRD ON THE GROUND: 

A nestling is a bird that is too young to be away from the nest.  It will have no feathers or incomplete feathering, such as downy feathers or pin feathers which are undeveloped feathers consisting mostly of the shaft.  A nestling is not capable of hopping, walking, or fluttering.  It will not be able to grip tightly on a finger.

  • A nestling should be returned to the nest for care and warmth from the parents. If you can safely return the nestling, do so.
  • Birds will not reject a baby you have handled.
  • If the entire nest and several nestlings are on the ground, you can get the nest and babies put in a small wicker basket or a cool whip container with holes in the bottom to allow for drainage.  The container needs to be shallow as the parents will not accept a deep container.  Attach to the tree as close to the original site as you can safely do so.  Go inside and watch from a window to determine if the parents have resumed care.  If they do not resume care within two hours proceed with rescue.

A FLEDGLING is a fully feathered bird that is learning to fly.  The fledgling will look like the parents; however, you may notice the tail feathers are shorter than the adult.

  • The fledgling will be on the ground hopping around. At this stage they are often kidnapped by well meaning individuals who do not understand the process of learning to fly which will take several days up to a couple of weeks depending on the species. The parents will continue to feed and protect the bird.  Normally the fledgling will hide in shrubbery or undergrowth.  If you see the parent do not rescue unless the fledgling is injured.

A GROUND NESTING BIRD such as killdeer, are born feathered and ready to run and partially feed themselves.  If they are active and running do not rescue.

DUCKLING AND GOSLING should always be accompanied by a mother, if not rescue.

Please reference our “Quick Tips” located in the upper right corner of our website for instructions on containing, transporting, providing life saving heat, and finding a wildlife rehabilitator.

Please manage your pets during these critical times by taking cats and dogs indoors.

Please reference our “Quick Tips” located in the upper right corner of our website for instructions on containing, transporting, providing life saving heat, and finding a wildlife rehabilitator.

BIRD STRIKES:  When a bird is looking at the window, they often will see the reflection of the sky or trees not the window. A few ways to prevent these collisions are as follows:

Keep mosquito or solar screens up all year.

Hang wind chimes with shinny objects above the window.

Move feeders or bird baths, either within 3 feet of the window, which will limit collision opportunity, or more than 30 feet away so that the birds will recognize the whole house instead of the reflection.

Keep your vertical blinds at least halfway closed and shades, or curtains closed to reduce reflection.

At night, keep your lights off or close your curtains and shades.

Relocate house plants several feet away from the window.

These products are recommended for bird strikes. Your purchase through our product page supports the DFW Wildlife Coalition Hotline.

Apply decals, spacing them across and up and down the window. Many art and craft stores carry decals.

Apply a window film to the outside of the window. There are transparent window films that allow light in while appearing opaque on the outside

Apply bird tape.

Install a “Zen curtain”

BUILDING OR REPLACING WINDOWS:  Further solutions especially if you are building a home or replacing your windows. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/why-birds-hit-windows-and-how-you-can-help-prevent-it/

COMMERCIAL BUILDING BIRD STRIKES:  If you are routinely finding birds that have flown into your office building, share with the management and owners, the following information on FLAP. Dallas and Fort Worth are in the migratory flight paths, many songbirds migrate at night and can be drawn to the light and become confused and collide. Everyone working together can make a difference.

Fatal Light Awareness Program, FLAP. http://flap.org/. Mission, “FLAP Canada is dedicated to safeguarding migratory birds in the urban environment through education, policy development, research, rescue, and rehabilitation.”

Birds can be seen attacking windows, (for example Cardinals), during the spring. The bird sees his image in the glass and believes he is seeing a competing bird, so to defend his territory the bird will attack the reflection.

The solution is to break up the reflection, on the outside place a post-it-note, a decal, twisted foil, or a suncatcher. Visit our product page for an attractive solution. You can also allow your windows to become a little dirty and not feel guilty because you are benefiting your feathered neighbors.


Often, we have bushes in our yards that have berries. When the berries experience freezing and thawing temperatures it will often cause the berries to ferment. Cedar Waxwings are known to eat the berries and become drunk.

  • A simple solution of placing an inverted laundry basket over the bird to give them time to sober is usually all that is needed.
  • If they are located near the street or pets are present that could cause harm, you may need to relocate them to a safer place.

If the bird has not recovered in 2 hours, contact a wildlife rehabilitator or the hotline, 972-234-9453.

Birds may eat Amdro Ant Block, bait or other granular pesticides, they can appear drunk. If you or your neighbor may have used a pesticide the bird must go to a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.

Please reference our “Quick Tips” located in the upper right corner of our website for instructions on containing, transporting, providing life saving heat, and finding a wildlife rehabilitator.

Barn Swallows build mud and straw nest and like to place the nest around the eaves and vertical structures of our homes.  Swallows eat insects and are beneficial to our neighborhoods.  However, it is understandable that the activity of a nest of baby swallows can be messy and a health concern.  Swallows are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.  An active nest with eggs or babies cannot be removed or harassed.  

To understand and resolve conflict you need a brief on the natural history.  The breeding season is March through September with two clutches of 3 to 5 young. Once eggs are laid they incubate 13-17 days. Once hatched the babies will fledge in 18-21 days of which the first week and a half or so, the parents eat the feces.  The conflict begins when this period ends after hatching and the babies start defecating over the rim of the nest. This will be a period of approximately two weeks where placing newspaper, or plastic tablecloth or tarp on the porch or automobile or patio furniture will make clean up easier.  Once the babies fledge they will come and go from the nest for several weeks. The bulk of the conflict will be the two weeks prior to fledging. Patience needs to be exercised as this conflict is short term and the benefit is insect reduction in your yard and neighborhood.

Once the nest is empty and prior to the second clutch, you may remove the nest.  You may need to continually interrupt nest construction by washing away the mud until the swallows become discouraged and move elsewhere.  REMEMBER you cannot destroy an active nest.  Other deterrents are hanging plants at the location of the nest or other moving objects such as windsocks, blowing devices, or strips of aluminum foil.  Play distress swallow calls may alarm the birds to relocate.

You may want to encourage the swallows to nest at another location or you may want to make a permanent modification to prevent further nest building these topics are in the following links.

https://www.fws.gov/cno/conservation/MigratoryBirds/pdf-files/Swallows-4-27-18.pdf

http://www.dfwwildlife.org/BirdSwallow.pdf

Chimney Swifts must nest in hollow trees or other vertical cylinders such as a chimney. Due to the anatomy of their feet, they cannot perch as other birds do on a tree limb. In our cities, the chimney is used for their nest and raising of the young.  A small cup shape nest made of twigs glued with their salvia is attached to a brick or rock of the interior of your chimney. The young mature in 30 days and often go unnoticed until the final two weeks.

Patience is recommended.

You can try insulating the noise with some foam or similar product placed in the firebox under the damper to muffle the baby’s cries.  Do not use insulation as it is harmful to the birds due to the fiberglass. Be sure and remove these items once the swifts have left. Understand that thousands of insects including mosquitos are being consumed and fed to these babies, this is beneficial to you.

Once the babies leave the nest in two weeks the conflict is resolved.

It is recommended to have your chimney cleaned and old nest removed.  If your chimney liner is a metal flue or other slick surface a chimney cap is recommended to keep Chimney Swifts from becoming trapped in your flue as well as raccoons and squirrels.  

If you believe a baby has fallen from the nest, please contact the hotline 972-234-9453, or Rogers Wildlife Center 972-225-4000.  DO NOT REMOVE BABIES FROM A NEST. Babies are best raised by their natural parents. Chimney Swifts are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

For the benefits of the Chimney swift, and considerations for the loss of habitat due to urban landscapes limiting dead hollow trees, read further in the following links for alternatives you may want to pursue to encourage your feathered friend and their hearty appetite for insects in your neighborhood.

http://www.chimneyswifts.org/

http://www.dfwwildlife.org/BirdChimneySwift.pdf

https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/nonpwdpubs/media/dwa_chimney_swift_information_2005.pdf

Be Proactive.  Deter ducks BEFORE they start laying eggs.

As winter winds to an end in late February, momma duck starts looking for a place to lay her eggs.  If you have a pool, your backyard is prime real estate.  Since it is against state and federal law to relocate, disturb or destroy their nests and mother usually won’t follow a moved nest, this is the time to take action and make your backyard uninviting. 

Males and females pair off in the fall and the daddy will stay with her until she starts to incubate the nest.  If you see two ducks hanging around, they are staking out your yard.  If it is mid-March or later, you likely already have a nest somewhere.  In that case, see FAQ Ducks – I found a nest with eggs in it.

How to deter ducks before they start building a nest: 

Big Eye Scare Balloon.  Placing these balloons in your pool and in the shrubbery will scare the ducks and they will move on to another location.  See our Products page. 

Mylar balloons with helium.  The reflective surface and the movement of the balloons will scare the ducks away.  You can attach them to a floatie in the pool or weight them down and place them around the perimeter of the pool.

Beach balls.  Floating several beach balls in your pool will make your pool uninviting to ducks.

Electric boats.  The movement of the boats will create an uninviting environment to ducks.  While one boat may do the trick, having a few will increase the effectiveness of this tactic.

Motion-sensing sprinklers.  Of course ducks like water!  But they don’t like being caught by surprise and sprayed.

Homemade flags.  Cut long strips or flags out of bright fabrics.  Tie them to tree branches and attach to 3′ – 4′ stakes.  You could also set up a “clothesline” to hang the flags.  The movement of the flags blowing in the wind and the bright colors will scare the ducks away.

Scarecrows or effigies that are designed to be relocated frequently.  

Pool cover.  If possible, cover your pool entirely during egg-laying season 

Dogs.  Let your dog roam free in your backyard and around the pool area.  Ducks are afraid of dogs and the dogs are unlikely to catch the duck.  

Ducks are easily scared.  While these tactics can prove to be successful, any bird or waterfowl can become accustom to negative conditioning techniques, so it is important to move the items around frequently.

If you do not have a pool or pond, ducks still may nest in your yard.  You can use the scare tactics to deter them if you do not want them there.  If you do find a nest, mother will move them to water shortly after hatching. 

If you find a duck nest in your yard, leave it alone.  It is against state and federal law to move, disturb or destroy the nest or eggs.   Momma duck won’t usually follow a moved nest. 

How did they get here?  There is no water close to me.

City ponds and small lakes that have an adequate food supply often attract more ducks than can nest near the water. When this happens, some ducks will nest well away from the pond to avoid competition and harassment. 

I have been seeing two ducks hanging around.  What does that mean?

Male and female ducks pair off in the fall.  Around the end of February, they will begin looking for a place to lay the eggs.  Egg- laying is very stressful for momma duck as she lays more than half her body weight in eggs within a couple weeks. She needs rest and depends heavily on the daddy to protect her and their environment.  Once momma lays all the eggs, daddy leaves.  So, if you are seeing two, they are likely building the nest or laying eggs.  If you find a nest full of duck eggs, leave it alone.  It is unlikely to have been abandoned

Okay.  I have a nest.  How long is the commitment?

Egg-laying season starts around mid-March but can go as late as end of July.

From the time momma duck starts building her nest and laying her eggs, it will be approximately 4 months till the ducklings and momma move on.  However, if there is not enough food, and she can get the family out of your yard, she may move sooner.

Momma duck will build her nest and start laying one egg every day or two.  The average clutch (all the eggs) is 12, but can range from 8 – 16, depending on the type of duck.  In two weeks, she is generally done laying eggs. 

Once all the eggs are laid, she will begin to incubate (sit on the nest) the eggs.  To ensure the eggs hatch at the same time, she will not sit on the nest until all of them are laid.  The eggs incubate for approximately 28 days, then they all typically hatch within 24 hours.  During the incubation period, momma will only leave the nest for short periods of time to eat.

The newly hatched ducklings are alert and covered in down.  They will stay in the nest while they dry and get used to using their legs.  They are ready to leave the nest within 13-16 hours.  Usually early the next morning, momma will lead them to water, which is likely your pool, if you have one.  It will then be 50 to 60 days until they fledge and are ready to fly. 

I would prefer to relocate them once they hatch.

The ideal scenario is to let them stay in your yard until they are ready to leave.  If this cannot be done and there is a pond nearby it is better to escort them out with a “moving wall” (see FAQ Ducks – I have ducklings in my backyard and/or pool). 

Be aware that there are lots of predators at the local pond, which is a good reason to give the ducklings a week or two to get stronger before escorting out of the yard.  If the closes pond is several miles away and the walking sidewalk is not possible, reconsider allowing them to stay in your yard.   When choosing to relocate to a nearby pond, be aware of other duck families, avoid releasing near an existing family as the parents can be very protective and aggressive toward the newly relocated family.

If you discover the mother sitting on the nest you may have the opportunity to gain her trust which will make it possible to relocate the family later.  You may only get one try so make sure it is planned out well.  If momma gets scared and flies away, she may not return.  The ducklings will be abandoned, and they cannot survive on their own.   Having an extra person or two could increase the odds of success.  Don’t move them until all the ducklings are dry and ready to travel (at least 13-16 hours after they hatch).  This should be done in the morning, so they have the entire day to get settled in before nightfall.  Be sure to count the ducklings beforehand to ensure you have them all when you move them.

  1. As soon as you notice momma duck sitting on her nest, begin putting food out for her in a pet carrier. Prop the door open.  Be sure momma can easily fit into the carrier and you can easily carry it.  She will get used to going in the carrier for food.  After the ducklings have hatched and are getting out of the nest, give her the normal meal making sure the door can be easily closed.  Once she is inside, close the door and cover the carrier so that it is dark, which will lessen her panicking.
  2. Have a laundry basket (tight weave) ready to put over the ducklings once the mother is contained.  They normally stand together in a tight bunch.  Try not to chase the ducklings as this could cause them to panic and scatter and you may not be able to find them.
  3. Carefully put the ducklings into a box or other carrier.  Do not put them in with momma as she may escape.  This experience will be very stressful for all of them, so try to stay silent and handle them as little as possible.
  4. While transporting the ducks, keep the containers together so momma knows her ducklings are there.  Keep noise to a minimum.  Do not play the radio.
  5. Once you get to the water, set momma’s carrier down facing the direction you will release the ducklings.  Uncover the front of the carrier so she can see where you are releasing them.  Release them on an open bank where they can stand and easily get in and out of the water.  Release away from other duck families.
  6. Be sure momma has seen the ducklings before you release her.  Stand behind or to the side of the carrier so that she doesn’t see you.  Open the door so she can walk straight out to the ducklings
  7. Do not take the ducklings down to the nearest pond by themselves as they most certainly will not survive and their mother will not find them.  Young ducklings can feed themselves as soon as they reach water, but they must learn what is edible.  They also depend on their mother for warmth and protection.  She broods them regularly, particularly at night, as they easily chill in cool weather.  Ducklings can die from hypothermia even if the weather is warm.  Orphaned ducklings will also quickly fall prey to the elements, other ducks, turtles, and egrets and herons.  Momma duck must protect her ducklings from being attacked by other ducks as other females will kill stray ducklings that are close to her nest.

If one day you suddenly see ducklings in your backyard (and your yard is fenced), there was a nest somewhere on your property.  The best thing to do is leave them alone.  They will fly away in 7 – 8 weeks from hatching.

I do not want these ducks growing up in my yard

Although it is best to leave them alone until they can fly, sometimes that is not always possible or desired.  If the nest is quite a distance from water, their journey can be quite dangerous.  Some people may want to walk along with them until they safely reach water.  Most of the time it is best not to do this since interfering can cause undue stress and may cause momma duck to panic and fly off, abandoning the ducklings.  If there is a lot of traffic or other dangers, keeping your distance and shepherding them across busy roads may be beneficial.

To get the family out of the yard, you can shepherd them out by creating a “moving wall.”  Have people hold sheets between them and move behind the ducks, forcing them to walk in the desired direction.  Be sure you have enough people to keep them from scattering.

If you choose to go along, simply map out the safest route to a nearby pond or stream.  Stay quiet, keep your distance and do not run.

Do not take the ducklings down to the nearest pond by themselves as they most certainly will not survive and their mother will not find them.  Young ducklings can feed themselves as soon as they reach water, but they must learn what is edible.  They also depend on their mother for warmth and protection.  She broods them regularly, particularly at night, as they easily chill in cool weather.  Ducklings can die from hypothermia even if the weather is warm.  Orphaned ducklings will also quickly fall prey to the elements, other ducks, turtles, and egrets and herons.  Momma duck must protect her ducklings from being attacked by other ducks as other females will kill stray ducklings that are close to her nest.

You can also encourage them to leave by using the deterrent tactics listed under Ducks – How can I keep ducks from making a nest and laying eggs in my backyard?  If you do this, provide them with an opening where they can walk out of your yard.

Be sure to use the deterrent tactics next year and future years to prevent them from nesting in your yard in the first place.

Of course, they can stay!  Is there anything I can do to help?

How exciting to be able to witness a clutch of ducklings grow.  Yes, ducks can be messy, but the gratification can far outweigh the inconvenience not to mention the peace of mind you gain knowing you are giving them the best chance of surviving this vulnerable time.  While your little family is growing over the next 7 – 8 weeks, here are some things to know: 

      Safeguard your pool.  Pools can be deadly to ducklings.  Getting stuck in the skimmer or not being able to get out of the pool are both dangers to ducklings, and because they are not waterproof, they can become waterlogged and drown.  If you have a pool service, be sure they know what to do as well.  You can eliminate these dangers by doing the following:

a)    Provide a way to get out of the pool.  There are both homemade and commercial options to provide a way out of the pool.

i)     Bricks:  Put bricks on the first pool step to build a “stairway” they can use to jump out

ii)    Pool Chair:  Put a pool chair half in/half out of the pool.  You can cover it with a wet beach towel to give the ducklings traction and a more solid surface

iii)   Ramp:  A quick and easy ramp is to use the lid of a cooler and a beach towel.  Wet the towel and drape it over the cooler lid and edge of the pool to create a “floating dock” they can use to jump out of the pool. 

iv)   FrogLog:  Floating mesh escape ramp (see our Products page)

v)    Skamper Ramp:  Lightweight plastic ramp (see our Products page)

b)    Keep water level low.  With the water level low enough that it just barely enters the skimmer, ducklings will not be trapped in the skimmer by the float.  At this water level, ducklings can escape the skimmer and you can still run the pump.  Keep an eye on the water so it doesn’t get below the skimmer opening.

c)    Chemicals.  While your little family is sharing your backyard, use as little chemicals as possible.  That doesn’t mean you can’t use any chemicals, but if there is a chance they can get in the pool, do not “shock” it until they are gone.  Also, you can provide a clean water source for them to drink so they are not drinking the chlorinated pool water.  Make sure all chemicals are cleaned up so that the ducklings don’t eat it.      

2)    To encourage the ducklings to not get in your swimming pool, place an alternative plastic kiddie pool with ramps (so they can get in and out) in the yard. To keep the ducklings away from the swimming pool, install a temporary 18-inch-high fence around your swimming pool.  Plastic poultry fencing with easy insert poles can be used for the fencing.  As an added measure, float several beach balls in the swimming pool as a deterrent.  Be sure to keep clean water in the plastic kiddie pool. 

3)    Keep pets inside or on a leash when in the yard.   

4)    This is a great opportunity for children to learn about wildlife, and a great time to teach them to respect wildlife.  Explain that momma duck and ducklings cannot be disturbed or played with, that they are very fearful of humans and it will be very stressful for the ducks if approached.  It may also cause momma duck to fly away, and the ducklings will be without their mother.  One way to make the experience exciting for children without disturbing the family is to create a scrapbook of the experience and fill it with pictures (taken from a distance) and stories.  Children’s books are a good way to help them understand and what to expect.  Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey or A Cuddle for Little Duck by Claire Freedman and Caroline Pedler for younger children are two good choices.

5)    Supplement feed.  Feeding them certainly isn’t required, but if your yard doesn’t provide enough food, momma will need to move them, or they will starve. Ducks are omnivores, which means they eat animals and plants, such as insects, snails, worms, aquatic plants, and grasses.  Because your yard may not have enough variety to support their nutritional needs, you can supplement feed with Mazuri Waterfowl Starter www.mazuri.com. You can buy Mazuri on their website or search on their website for a store near you.  Only use feeds designated for waterfowl as poultry feed causes wing deformities.  Do not feed them bread, processed food or junk food or anything else that they wouldn’t eat in the wild.  Improper nutrition can cause deformities and illnesses.  Put enough pellets for the ducks to eat quickly on water.  Start with a small amount, then put more to see how much they will eat so that you aren’t wasting it.  It will float for a short amount of time, for a more natural feeding, plus it softens in the water.

Your duck family will grow quickly but will not be able to fly until 7-8 weeks.  No matter how hospitable you are, they will still leave to find a new home and eventually have their own ducklings, which they will do around one year old.

We hope you enjoy your experience watching the ducklings grow.  If you would rather not have ducks nesting in your yard again, be sure to read our FAQ How can I keep Ducks from making a nest and laying eggs in my backyard? You will want to be proactive starting in February.