Knowing The Difference Between A Stunned Or A Dead Bird

It can be quite distressing to come across a bird that is perfectly still and not moving. Yet, it’s something that we encounter every now and again.

If a bird flies into a window then it’s not going to move yet, but that begs the question – is that bird simply unconscious thanks to shock, or has it died? There’s a simple way to tell. Simply go up to the bird and check if the breathing is slow or if there’s a heartbeat.

As you can imagine, if either of these factors remain then the bird is likely to just be stunned. Give it a little bit of space and it will come around eventually.

If the bird doesn’t have any signs of life like breathing or a heartbeat, then it’s an indication that the bird is potentially dead. In most cases though, it’s a good idea to allow the bird to have some time alone as this will give it the time that it needs in order to recover from its injuries and shock.

If that answer wasn’t sufficient for you, read on. We have more information in this article to help you to figure out whether a bird is stunned so that you can nurse it back to help before it embarks into the wild once more. Without any further hesitation, here’s what you need to know.

Knowing Whether A Bird Is Alive

If you have found what appears to be an unconscious bird, the first thing that you need to do is clarify whether it has passed away or if it is merely shocked by the impact and just needs time to come around.

If a bird is just stunned then you will notice that it will look weak and unresponsive, but they may end up breathing quite slowly, or sometimes rapidly instead.

The best thing to do is to check on the bird every couple of minutes for around 10 minutes total. Keep an eye on any movements or signs that the bird is recovering before you confirm that it is truly dead.

If you have a stethoscope on hand then you can also clarify whether the bird is dead using the device. The bird doesn’t necessarily need to have a strong heartbeat either, as even weak heartbeats can be enough to keep their bodies alive.

Help! A Bird Has Hit My Window!

If a bird hits your window, don’t panic. You now know how to tell whether it’s shocked or dead, so it’s just a matter of doing the right thing to protect the bird after they hit the window. Here’s a guide to show you in detail how to take care of a bird that’s hit your window.

Locate The Bird And Watch It 

First, you will have noticed that the bird has hit the window. In most cases you’ll just hear a sound of them banging against the glass, but you aren’t always going to find them right next to the place that they hit.

Sometimes birds may fly shakily for a few seconds after they have hit the window, and then they’ll faint pretty soon afterwards. 

If the bird isn’t directly in the place that it hit, you can look instead around the place that they hit for the bird. Don’t touch the bird straight away – first, watch the bird and see if it responds to you being close by.

A stunned bird most likely is not going to respond to you, and will stay almost perfectly still until it’s ready to get up again. You may also recognize that it has hanging wings and looks somewhat fragile.

Take a Closer Look at the Bird, and See If There are Signs It Has Been Injured

In most cases, if the bird is only stunned then they are usually going to come around on their own. The exception to this is if the bird is injured and needs to have help immediately in order to keep them alive.

Don’t pick up the bird straight away, just look at it – can you see any obvious wounds or injuries? Is the bird bleeding, or do its bones appear to be broken? Have a look to see if there are any feathers missing or wet parts coming from the beak.

When you have done this, you can then pick the bird up gently. It’s a good idea to do this while wearing gloves, as it will help to keep you both safe from any infections.

If you don’t see any further injuries on the bird’s body, then this is a good sign as there’s nothing extra that you can see that may get in the way of them getting better. You can then proceed onto the next step to get them ready for the recovery process.

If they do look severely injured though, the bird is going to need to be cared for by a professional. Take them to a veterinarian for further help. 

Give It Shelter

Once you have checked that everything is fine with the bird, you will then need to create a shelter for it to keep it safe as it recovers. In most cases it’s best to let the bird stay in the same position it’s currently in, so long as the place is completely safe for the bird and isn’t surrounded by predators and children that could harm it.

In the event that you deem the area unsafe for the bird, you can instead get the bird and take it to a location that’s safer for it.

You need to make sure that the shelter you choose has enough space for the little creature to be able to spread its wings when it’s ready to fly away. A small box will usually be fine. Grab some old newspaper or fabric to lay on the bottom to make them more comfortable too.

The little bird also needs to breathe too, so poke some holes into the box for ventilation. Shoeboxes are usually a fantastic choice.

When you have the bird’s temporary home all ready to go, pick them up and gently take them over to the box. Put the box in a quiet location that’s warm, and close the lid gently.

There’s no need to put food in there as the bird should hopefully only need to recover in there for a short duration of time. They may need some water though, in which case you can add just a little bit of water into a shallow dish. Don’t put too much in there though, as it can drown the bird if it’s spilled.

Allow The Bird To Recover

Now it’s just a matter of allowing the little bird to recover. One of the main reasons why the box needs to be covered over is because you will want to avoid over stimulating the bird, since they are trying to recover from the shock.

Now, the recovery time is not the same for every bird. It can vary among species, how bad the injury is and the duration of time since the bird has been found.

The amount of time that it takes can span from 10 minutes to 4 hours, which is quite the difference. During this time period, it’s best to avoid touching the bird or trying to open the bird, though you may mean well by checking on them.

If by four hours after the incident the bird has still not recovered, it’s a good idea to speak to a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.

Set Them Free

After a few hours have passed, the little bird should now be in a position where they can fly free again. At this point you will need to allow them to go back into the world.

To do this, bring the box outside. Take them into a safe location like your backyard or the window. In most cases if you take the lid away, the bird is going to start flying as soon as they can.

In some cases the bird may be awake but they are staying in the box. If this happens, give the bird your hand which they can use as a platform. Raise your hands into the air, and they should then fly away.

Knowing What To Do When You Find A Dead Bird

Unfortunately, you may sometimes find the bird dead. In this case, follow the steps below.

Handling The Corpse

In most cases people will try to get rid of the corpse of the bird. They may put it in a bag or bury the bird.

If you are going to do this on your own then it’s very important to ensure that you put it somewhere away from predators that may try to start digging in your yard to eat the corpse of the bird. Nobody said the animal kingdom was totally glamorous! In the event that you are opting for a burial for the bird, dig it 2 feet deep at the minimum to ward off the scavengers.

Reporting The Death

For the vast majority of common birds you don’t need to notify anyone that the bird has died. In some situations it may be a good idea to call someone though.

For instance, if the bird is migrating, they look like they’ve been harmed by a person, birds often get hurt in the same area, the bird is some kind of raptor or they come with equipment used for tracking.

Knowing Who To Call When The Bird Is Seriously Hurt

If you have no way to deal with a bird that has been stunned, speak to a wildlife rehabilitator for more advice. There is more information about this online – have a look for the Humane Society of the United States for more information.

To Be Avoided

There are a few things to think about in order to avoid harm when you are saving a bird. First of all, don’t give the bird food at this point – it’s not needed and not all birds can even swallow it at this point.

Don’t examine the bird thoroughly either since you can end up harming the bird in the process. Don’t give them medications, keep your pets away and don’t keep them as pets. Do not release the bird inside of a building, and don’t touch birds of prey since it can be dangerous for you.