How To Tell If A Bird Is In Shock

You may have come across a bird that has hit a window, or injured itself in some way that it is lying helpless on the floor. It’s a horrible sight seeing a sick, helpless or injured animal, so you may want to know how you can help a poor bird that is in shock. 

It’s in our nature to want to rescue innocent and vulnerable creatures, so this is vital information that you’ll want to know. This guide is all about spotting the signs that a bird is in shock so that you can help them recover. So, what exactly is shock, and how do you tell if a bird is in shock or is dead? 

What Is Shock?

When people go into shock, they may begin sweating, or will have pale, cold skin and rapid, shallow breathing.

They may also start panicking, or even vomiting in some cases. Experiencing shock is a lot different for birds. When a bird goes into shock, it can sometimes be unresponsive, have slow breathing, and will appear very weak or fluffed up. 

Birds in shock will therefore need a calm, quiet and dimly lit environment for them to recover properly, and will need to be kept in a warm, cozy environment until they come around. So, what are some of the warning signs that a bird has gone into shock? We’ve listed a few in the next section for you to consider. 

How To Tell If A Bird Is In Shock

Birds can often become sick or injured easily as they can be rather small, fragile creatures. Whether a bird has flown into a window, fallen out of the nest, been hit by a car or attacked by another animal, you might often come across sick or injured birds in the wild.

This is why you’ll need to be able to spot the signs that a bird is in shock, rather than dead, so that you can help them recover safely. 

The Main Signs That A Bird Is In Shock Are:

  • Wounded, or bleeding
  • Fluffed up feathers
  • Does not attempt to escape as you approach the bird
  • Bird is immobilized on the ground and unable to move
  • Limbs looks injured, or wings are hanging down
  • Eyes are squint, crusty, swollen or bleeding
  • Bird attempts to fly but struggles to move

How Long Can Birds Stay In Shock?

Birds can often go into shock after hitting a window as the impact can dazzle them, and knock them into something of a stupor. But how long can they stay like that for? Some birds can go into shock and can remain like that for several hours, which is why people often assume that they are dead, when they may not be.

There is no exact time for a bird to stay in shock, as it depends on what has happened and the force at which they have hit or injured themselves. For some, the shock can pass in a few seconds or a matter of minutes, whereas others may be in shock for hours. 

If a bird is in shock, then it is important that you do not bother them, and give them a safe space to recover. 

If A Bird Is Stunned, Should They Be Breathing?

Yes, if a bird is stunned and in shock, then they should still be breathing. This is the main way that you can tell if a bird is in shock or if it is dead. A bird that is stunned will still be breathing out of its mouth, so you should see a slightly parted or opened beak.

This can be difficult to see however, as the bird may be very small, and the breathing when in shock can be very slow. That being said, if you see a bird that is stunned, and has an opened beak, then it is likely in shock. 

The best thing to do in this scenario is to place the bird gently in a dark, quiet area to calm down and recover. If you are able to, place the bird in a peaceful, relaxed environment so that they can come out of shock. 

However, it is vital that you look for any visible injuries before moving a bird as you can cause more damage and pain by moving it. If you are able to move the bird, then you are better off doing so by placing it very gently inside of a cardboard box.

Then, you’ll want to cover the box with a breathable lid or a towel, and keep it in a cool, safe place. This can give the bird time to recover in a safe place, away from possible dangers and predators. 

Just keep in mind that birds that are severely injured and in shock are most likely to pass away, regardless of your efforts. The shock combined with the injuries sustained can often be just too much for them to handle.  

What Happens If A Bird Hits A Window?

The majority of the time, when a bird hits a window it is not dead. It may fall to the floor, and lie there in shock for a little while, but the force itself is often not enough to cause the bird to die. Therefore, if a bird hits your window, it is more likely that it goes into shock, and will need some time to recover.

In these cases, it is better to rescue the bird by placing it inside of a cardboard box as a stunned bird lying on the floor can be more at risk of being attacked by a cat or dog left outside. 

Therefore, place the bird gently in a cardboard box and leave it to rest in a calm and peaceful place until it is ready to fly again.

You will not need to feed the bird anything or try to get it to drink water. Simply wait, have a little patience, and take the box outside every 15-20 minutes to give the bird the opportunity to fly away.

If the bird is lifeless, and seems to have been in shock for several hours, then it could be time to contact a wildlife agency or authority for assistance. 

How To Deal With A Bird In Shock

If you find a bird in need, then your natural instincts to protect and help them will probably kick in. So, we’ve got some handy tips and instructions for you to consider when helping a bird. 

The first step is to examine the bird, and ensure that they are okay. They may squirm and attempt to fly away but may be too injured to do so. Others may seem unconscious and will not react at all, but will still be breathing which is an indication that they are alive and in shock rather than dead.

Some birds can even simply just stand still, appearing conscious, but not moving at all. If they are in a safe place away from harm, then it is best to leave them to recover on their own. 

Look For Injuries

The next thing you’ll need to do is check the bird for injuries. They may have broken a wing, be bleeding from somewhere, or are severely injured and will need your help.

The most common injuries are broken bones, cuts, missing feathers or some sort of discharge or blood coming from the bill of the bird. If the bird seems very badly injured, then contact a professional wildlife expert for help.

If the bird appears okay, and seems to be just stunned then simply keep it in a safe, sheltered space. If you can, leave the bird where it is and avoid moving it, but if the bird is at risk, then it could be worth placing them in a box to protect from predators. 

Ensure that the box has proper ventilation, and enough room for the bird to spread its wings when it recovers, and check the bird frequently to see if it is ready to fly away.

Let Them Recover

Most birds in shock just need some time to recover. This can take a matter of minutes or even a few hours. If the bird does not seem to recover, then take them to a wildlife center for help. 

However, after a little time has passed, most birds will be fine and able to move again. Then, you can release it back into its natural habitat by taking the box back outside and allowing the bird to be free. 

What You Shouldn’t Do

There are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to caring for a bird. What you should not do is give the injured bird any food or water to drink. Birds have very special diets, and you should not force the bird to eat. It will find its own food when it is freed again. 

The same goes for medication. Although you mean well, do not offer any medication for the bird as it can be dangerous and toxic for them. If the bird is injured, then try to wrap the wound to prevent further bleeding and take them to a wildlife facility. 

In addition, do not release the bird indoors when it is moving again. Always ensure that the box is outside, in a safe environment before you remove the lid and release them.

Letting them out inside can cause panic, anxiety and can make the bird even more stressed than before. Finally, never attempt to keep the bird as a pet as this is cruel, inhumane and not to mention illegal. 

What To Do If You Find A Raptor (Bird Of Prey)

Birds of prey are often referred to as raptors. These birds can be incredibly large and dangerous, so it is best if you leave the handling of these to the professionals. These birds are potentially hazardous and can harm or injure you and themselves when they feel threatened or attacked.

In addition, if you try to nurse a bird of prey back to life, you could make them dependent on you and they will not be able to reintegrate successfully in the wild, which is even more dangerous for them. 

A raptor, or bird of prey will typically be much larger in size than other birds, and will have strong bills and talons that could cause serious damage.

As a result, if one of these birds flies into your window or injures itself in your vicinity, we recommend that you call the proper wildlife authorities and handlers first. They will be qualified and trained to give the proper assistance to the bird without causing any more damage or becoming injured themselves. 


To summarize, a bird in shock just needs some time to recover in a safe and comfortable environment. Birds can often go into shock when they fly into windows.

Make sure that you know how to help these flying friends as much as you can in the case that one goes into shock, but if you are unsure, then always seek help from a professional bird handler or the relevant wildlife authorities.