Migratory Birds
Midwest Region

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. I found a baby bird; what should I do?
  2. I found a sick/injured bird; what should I do?
  3. A bird is attacking my window; what can I do to stop it?
  4. When do migratory bird (waterfowl, woodcock, etc.) hunting seasons begin/end, and where are some good places to hunt them?
  5. A woodpecker is causing damage to my house; what can I do?
  6. Where are some good places to see birds?
  7. Birds are eating fish out of my pond; how can I deter them?
  8. A bird has built a nest under my porch; can I remove it?
  9. What are some things I can do to help birds?
  10. What is the species of hawk that is hunting birds in my backyard? How can I stop it?
  11. A hummingbird is trapped in my garage; how can I get it out?
  12. A bird is attacking me whenever I walk by a certain area in my yard; what can I do?
  13. I found a dead bird; can I keep it?
  14. I want to do taxidermy; where can I find the permit application?
  15. I have a migratory bird permit and have moved; how do I update my address information?
  16. I am a Native American and want to obtain an eagle feather; can you help me?
  17. What are the regulations regarding activities around Bald Eagle nests?
  18. I found a marked/banded bird; how do I report it?

1. I found a baby bird; what should I do?

The best thing to do is leave it alone. Young birds often leave the nest before they are able to fly as they have become too big to fit in the nest. They survive by hopping along the ground and hiding in vegetation – the parents hear their calls and continue to feed them until they are independent.

If the bird is in the way of something and must be moved, simply transport it to a nearby shrub or clump of grass (make sure to wear gloves) as quickly as possible and leave it there. Keep children and pets away from the bird. The parents will still feed the bird as long as it is left alone after transport. If you find a bird that is unfeathered and whose eyes have not yet opened (or is obviously injured), contact a wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. For a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators in your area, visit http://www.wildliferehabinfo.org/ContactList_MnPg.htm, or contact your local wildlife agency office.

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2. I found a sick/injured bird; what should I do?

The best thing to do is leave the bird alone. Birds that have flown into windows are often just stunned and will recover if left alone. If you must help, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for assistance – it is illegal to try to rehabilitate the bird yourself. Use caution when dealing with injured birds or other wildlife – larger species can become dangerous when injured and can inflict injury to untrained individuals who try to help them. For a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators in your area, visit http://www.wildliferehabinfo.org/ContactList_MnPg.htm, or contact your local wildlife agency office.

If you find multiple sick birds, and are feeding birds in your backyard, you should also check your birdseed and bird feeders to make sure that they aren’t getting sick from that. Spoiled food with any mold, insects, etc. should be discarded. Make sure to thoroughly clean your bird feeders with a diluted bleach solution (this is a good idea to do periodically regardless) to kill any pathogens that may be present on surfaces, and make sure to wear gloves and wash your hands after cleaning. It is also possible that birds have become sick from ingesting chemicals used in lawn care – for more information on this, visit http://athome.audubon.org/eliminate-or-reduce-pesticide-use.

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3. A bird is attacking my window; what can I do to stop it?

During breeding season, territorial male birds will sometimes attack their reflections in windows in an attempt to drive off the “invading” bird. This is especially common with Northern Cardinals and Northern Mockingbirds. Fortunately, this behavior generally stops when the nesting season ends.

You can stop this annoying behavior by breaking up the reflection on the window(s) that are most frequently attacked. This can be accomplished by rubbing dish soap on the glass, hanging streamers, wind chimes, or pinwheels by the window, or putting something light on the window, like newspaper. Fake “frost” spray or other window decorations used during the holidays will also work.

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4. When do migratory bird (waterfowl, woodcock, etc.) hunting seasons begin/end, and where are some good places to hunt them?

State wildlife agencies set season dates and daily harvest limits within a general regulation framework established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Season dates, daily limits, and other regulations vary among states, but each state wildlife agency typically provides hunting-related information, including wildlife area maps, on their state government websites. To find information provided by your state fish and wildlife agency, visit http://www.fishwildlife.org/index.php?section=social-media

Additionally, many U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuges and Waterfowl Production Areas provide hunting opportunities. To find out more about these opportunities, visit http://www.fws.gov/offices/index.html.

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5. A woodpecker is causing damage to my house; what can I do?

Woodpeckers sometimes cause damage to houses with wood sides, as they search for food or excavate cavities for potential nesting. There are many things you can try to discourage this. First, discontinue feeding the woodpeckers if you are doing so. Second, hanging wind chimes, streamers, windsocks, flags or anything flashy and/or noisy will often take care of the problem, as these scare birds. Fake snakes or owls will sometimes also work. Some companies have even developed motion-sensing devices that create a disturbance when they sense the birds’ movement on the side of the house. Placing a sprinkler near the area can also help keep the birds away.

Remember that shooting or trapping the bird is illegal without a permit and should only be used as a last resort, as removing the individual bird is only likely to temporarily solve the problem – more birds could move in behind the one that was removed.  Visit  www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/mbpermits/ApplicationForms.html to get instructions and apply for a permit if needed.

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6. Where are some good places to see birds?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages many National Wildlife Refuges that are often great places to see birds. For list of NWRs in your state, visit http://www.fws.gov/midwest/refuges/visit.html. State ornithological societies and local Audubon chapters are also good sources of information on the best places to see birds in your area.

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7. Birds are eating fish out of my pond; how can I deter them?

Fish-eating birds can sometimes cause damage to fish-rearing facilities and recreational ponds. For smaller ponds, placing netting over the pond or stringing flagged wires across it may help prevent damage. Another option for herons and egrets is to put out flags, wind socks, or other objects attached to posts that will flap in the breeze – these birds are easily spooked and this may help keep them away.

For cormorants or other diving waterbirds, a set up with a large kite tied on top of a tall post will often keep them away, as they are frightened of avian predators. Radio-controlled boats are another innovative way to scare off fish eating birds from fish-rearing facilities or smaller ponds.

Remember that shooting or trapping the bird is illegal without a permit and should only be used as a last resort, and is only likely to temporarily solve the problem – more birds could move in behind the ones that were removed, especially during migration.  Visit http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/mbpermits/ApplicationForms.html to get instructions and apply for a permit.

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8. A bird has built a nest under my porch; can I remove it?

American Robins, Eastern Phoebes, and Barn and Cliff Swallows will often build their mud nests underneath building eaves, porches, bridges, or inside open structures like barns. These insect eating birds are beneficial to have around and their presence is often welcomed. However, their droppings and noise can also cause problems.
It is illegal to remove or attempt to move the nests while there are eggs or young in the nest. However, once the young have left the nest you can remove the nest from the area. The next step is to immediately make the area unattractive for future nests. Seal off the area as much as possible to prevent the birds from re-nesting. For smaller areas such as porches, covering the ledge where the birds built their nest with netting or some other obstruction will prevent them from returning. Stringing fake “ivy” from craft stores along the ledge is a potentially more attractive option.

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9. What are some things I can do to help birds?

According to recent research, one of the largest sources of bird deaths in North America is collision with human-made structures.

There are many things that you can do to prevent birds from getting killed by windows around your home. One of the easiest is to move bird feeders that are fairly close to your house even closer- within 3 feet of windows. At this distance, birds won’t attain enough speed on takeoff to injure themselves if they do fly into a window. Keeping your shades drawn more often and keeping bug screens up during the winter are also good ways to prevent fatal collisions. For more information, visit http://web4.audubon.org/bird/at_home/SafeWindows.html.

Drinking shade-grown coffee is also an easy way to help birds on their wintering grounds. Coffee varieties grown using traditional, shade grown methods are much more bird friendly than those grown using newer, more intensive agricultural methods. For more about shade grown coffee, visit http://nationalzoo.si.edu/scbi/migratorybirds/coffee/bird_friendly/ecological-benefits-of-shade-grown-coffee.cfm

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10. What is the species of hawk that is hunting birds in my backyard? How can I stop it?

Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks are species that are bird-hunting specialists. In many areas, hawks have learned that bird feeders are good places to hunt birds.

Many people enjoy having hawks around, as they are a natural predator, and their presence in the area usually won’t keep birds away from your feeder.

However, if you just don’t want to see predation happen, discontinue feeding for a while, and the hawk will likely move on to another hunting area. The birds will quickly return to your feeders once they are put back up. You can also move your feeders to an area near shrubs or another easy escape for birds, which will give them a little more advantage over the hawk. Remember that it is illegal to trap or kill the hawk.

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11. A hummingbird is trapped in my garage; how can I get it out?

Unfortunately, hummingbirds are often unintentionally lured into open garages as they investigate the red safety handle on garage door openers, or other red objects. When trapped, their instinct is to fly up, and they get trapped against the ceiling. Once trapped the hummingbirds don’t have long before they get exhausted and/or starve to death, due to their high metabolism.

If you can’t capture the hummingbird easily with a net, or direct it out, try putting a hummingbird feeder just outside the door and step away. Once it calms down, the bird may see the feeder and fly over to it, thus liberating itself. If this doesn’t work, close the door and shut the lights off – once dark, the hummingbird will flutter to the floor, as they don’t like to fly in the dark, and should be easily captured using a flashlight.  If your garage has windows and this won’t work, put another feeder up high with the bird so it can feed itself until it figures out how to get out on its’ own.

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12. A bird is attacking me whenever I walk by a certain area in my yard, what can I do?

Birds can sometimes become aggressive around their nests or young. Most of the time, they will make a lot of noise or fly over/near you in an attempt to intimidate you to move on – it’s very rare for them to actually make contact. Fortunately, this behavior is short-lived and will stop once young birds have left the nest that is nearby (or the fledgling bird that they are defending moves away).

If this behavior is unacceptable, the best way to prevent it is to just avoid the area around the nest, if you know where it is. In a week or two, the babies will be gone and the adults won’t care about your presence anymore. You can also try to put some kind of visual obstruction between the nest and where you want to go – if the bird doesn’t see you, it won’t attack you. A well-placed sprinkler may also work, as will carrying an umbrella.

Remember that shooting or trapping the bird is illegal without a permit and should only be used as a last resort. Visit http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/mbpermits/ApplicationForms.html to get instructions and apply for a permit.

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13. I found a dead bird, can I keep it?

Unless you have a permit, it is illegal to keep a dead bird or any part of it. This includes feathers, eggs, and nests. Dead birds should be left where they are or promptly disposed of (if you move a dead bird, wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards as a safety precaution).

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14. I want to do taxidermy; where can I find the permit application?

Visit http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/mbpermits/ApplicationForms.html to get instructions and apply.

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15. I have a migratory bird permit and have moved; how do I update my address information?

You will have to notify us in writing. Please either send a note to our e-mail at permitsR3MB@fws.gov, or send us a letter via regular mail.  Please make sure to include your permit number in the correspondence, along with your new address information.

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16. I am a Native American and want to obtain an eagle feather; can you help me?

Members of federally-recognized tribes can print out the permit application form located at:  http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/mbpermits/ApplicationForms.html to get instructions and apply.  Note: You will have a tribal official sign the enrollment certification. 

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17. What are the regulations regarding activities around Bald Eagle nests?

In addition to being protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act along with other birds, Bald Eagles also receive additional protection under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Under this act, it is illegal to remove both active AND inactive Bald Eagle nests, and there are also regulations prohibiting any disturbance around active Bald Eagle nests that causes them to abandon the nests. Any entity that will be conducting activities that could cause disturbance to an active Bald Eagle nest must apply for a disturbance permit. For a description of activities that require a disturbance permit, and for more information about Bald Eagles and disturbance, visit http://www.fws.gov/midwest/midwestbird/eaglepermits/baeatakepermit.html

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18. I found a marked/banded bird; how do I report it?

Migratory birds are marked by biologists and researchers using a variety of methods, which include leg bands, neck bands, wing tags, and many other methods. If you see a bird with any of these types of markers, or find a banded bird (or band), please do report it as soon as possible to the Bird Banding Lab. Sightings like yours are extremely important in helping better understand bird movements. Make sure to note the letter/number combination on the marker, as well as the color and placement of it, along with the date and location where you found it. The easiest way to report your band observation is online at https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/bblretrv/.

NOTE: Captive racing pigeons, which are not legally protected, are also banded by their owners and often encountered by observers, as they are often somewhat tame and relatively unafraid of humans. They are usually marked with a small plastic leg band, with the letters “AU”, “CU”, “IF”, “IPB”, or “NPA” as part of the combination. These captive birds are not tracked by the Bird Banding Lab, and should not be reported at the website above. You can however find out more information about racing pigeons, and possibly track down the owner of the bird, at http://www.pigeon.org/lostbirdinfo.htm.

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Last updated: March 7, 2014