Why You Really Shouldn’t Take in a Wild Bird – Lifehacker


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As a kid in the rural Midwest, I was accustomed to seeing people around me “rescue” injured birds, bring them into their homes, and care for them. The local vet even facilitated this by calling up certain families when a hurt bird was brought into his practice. We considered these birds lucky, Little-Orphan-Annie-style critters who were blessed by the comforts of on-demand food and shelter, saved from the cruel outside world. In adulthood, I know a number of people who do this with the pigeons of New York City.

Is this the right thing to do, though? Even if a bird is hurt, is it OK to take them in and turn them into a house pet? Not really! Here’s why.
Before bringing a bird from outside your house into it, you should know about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal law that makes it illegal to possess protected migratory bird species without a permit. That authorization comes from the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. Are you going to prison for taking in a bird? Probably not, but you should check the FWS website to see if the bird you found is on the protected list and apply for a permit if it is. (Broadly, only European starlings, pigeons, and sparrows are not protected by law in the U.S.)
Local laws may also apply. While you need a permit to trap pigeons in New York City, the city won’t accept complaints about anyone keeping the birds in coops or as pets. Owning pigeons isn’t actually illegal in NYC, but trapping them is. Most people trap pigeons because they consider them pests, but if you’re trying to lure in and trap a bunch to keep as pets (for some reason) you might be violating the law, too.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out, governments also have ordinances against certain pets because of noise, size, or public health risk. That means even some of the birds actually bred to be pets might be illegal. In short, bird ownership is legally riskier than you might think.
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Over at the Spruce Pets, avian expert Alyson Kalhagen and veterinarian Dr. Natasha Diehl advise that keeping a wild bird as a pet “is a questionable idea in the vast majority of cases.” They note that it’s “rather unethical” and not particularly humane to take a wild animal from its habitat and stick it in a cage. Not only is it unfair to cage a wild animal, it might be even more morally reprehensible in the event the bird needs some kind of care. The Spruce Pets experts note that an avian expert or veterinarian might take issue with you having the bird at all, so finding someone to treat the animal when needed could be pretty difficult. In that case, your bird would be sick or hurt with no care from someone who could provide aid.
Of course, you can argue that taking a wounded or sick bird in is humane, or at least better than letting it suffer or even die outside. Unfortunately, birds die outside all the time. The folks at Bird Watching Pro do say, however, if a bird is really unable to be rehabilitated, you can consider giving it a home—but you should never take in a bird that is totally fine just because you want one. Wild animals should be free.
If you find a baby bird and think you’ll just take it in until it’s ready to return to its natural habitat, reconsider that, too. According to the Cornell Lab’s All About Birds project, “even with expert care and feeding, people simply cannot provide baby birds with most of the skills they need to negotiate the natural world.” You’re essentially setting that bird up to die in an unfamiliar territory it hasn’t been prepared for.
If you find a wild bird that is really hurt and you’re not just snatching up a healthy animal for selfish enjoyment, plus it’s one of the few species that is legal to keep, you still need to consider its well-being. Buying a cage and some seed is not enough. Birds are flock animals that do well in packs, so your new companion will be lonely and could even become depressed and resort to self-harm.
You’ll need to get the bird checked out by a vet, if you can find a willing one, to make sure it doesn’t pose any health risks to you and your family, or your other pets. Seek expert opinion on what to feed the bird and how to give it a healthy environment.
You’re better off setting up bird feeders in your yard and enjoying the company of wild birds outside, even if it’s fleeting. You can also contact a local rehabilitation or research center to find out if there are any opportunities to volunteer there. Then, you can be among birds and really help the ones who need it—safely.
    

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