If You Touch a Baby Bird, Will Its Mother Abandon It?

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This is one I heard a lot when I was a kid, out roaming around in the woods and playing in creeks. I was always told not to touch a baby bird (or rabbit) because then their mother would reject them, it would die a slow and painful death, and it would be all my fault.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

But the question remains: it that old story true? Will a mother bird abandon babies that human beings have touched because she doesn’t recognize the foreign scent and thus leaves the chicks to fend for themselves?

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I’m here to set the record straight (and to humiliate my parents) by saying that it’s not true.

There are several reasons why. The first one is that birds can’t really smell humans. Well, that’s simple enough. Birds are not known for their sense of smell – they don’t rely on it much at all, so we’ve basically been lied to all our lives for no reason.

The second reason is that birds are not known for abandoning their young. Some animals do abandon their offspring occasionally, but it really is pretty rare in the animal kingdom. In fact, birds like to protect their little ones as much as possible, so the abandonment theory just doesn’t ring true.

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

So what should you do next time you see a baby bird out if its nest? It really isn’t rare for them to venture out of the nest occasionally, so they may not even require human assistance. If they’re learning to fly, they may be hopping around outside the nest until they get the whole flying thing down.

But if you do happen to see a baby bird with no feathers that seems like it can’t move well, it’s perfectly safe to pick it up and put it back in the nest.

So that’s that for that old urban legend!