You’ve found a baby bird … now what?

It’s happening all around the city. Our feathered friends are busy raising their young, and you may very well encounter a baby bird out of the nest that may — or may not — need a helping hand. But how do you know if you should help?

Check out this handy flowchart to help you determine if you should help that baby bird or leave it be. And remember — if you’re in Seattle and you see an animal in distress, call the Seattle Animal Shelter at 206-386-PETS (7387). Visit us online at for more information.

Does that baby bird need help?

It’s that time of year in Seattle, and it’s happening everywhere in the city. You may not even be aware of it until you find yourself being chirped at or dive-bombed by a wild bird that has seemingly lost its mind, or until you find a helpless nestling or awkward fledgling on the ground. Now through about mid-August, our feathered wild neighbors will be busy raising their next generation, and during this time the odds of encountering a protective parent and their naïve young will be very high. Most of the birds you will encounter will need nothing more from you than a little respectful distance, but you may occasionally encounter a baby bird out of the nest that could benefit from a helping hand.

But how will you know if the baby bird you encounter needs help? And, if it needs help, what should you do? Check out this simple, two-minute video recently posted on to help answer these questions. Additional sources of information and assistance are below.

The Seattle Animal Shelter responds to dead and injured wildlife within Seattle city limits. Give us a call at 206-386-7387 if you require assistance.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife provides great information on what to do when you find a baby bird out of the nest, and the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood provides a useful flowchart that asks a series of yes or no questions to help you decide whether or not a baby bird needs help. A baby mammal version is also available.

Keeping the power on and the ospreys safe

In the ongoing saga between ospreys and City Light infrastructure near the Duwamish River, the birds have been getting the upper talon.

That could change this spring. When the ospreys return to take advantage of the easy fishing and tall power line towers for nesting, they will find a new set of barriers designed to protect the power lines and keep the birds safe. They will also find new nesting platforms nearby, where they can raise their chicks in peace.

This March, City Light crews installed adjustable, triangular covers on top of the crossbeams of the electrical towers spanning the Duwamish River, near our substation. In between the covers, workers installed rods with loose plastic pipes that roll when birds try to perch on them. The barriers will hopefully prevent osprey from perching on the crossbeams and being able to wedge sticks and other nest building materials into the tower.

The lines and jumpers below have also been wrapped with insulating sleeves to prevent power outages when nest materials fall and make contact.

“We will be checking the Duwamish towers periodically this spring, to evaluate the effectiveness of the exclusion devices and will check the nesting platforms to see if the ospreys are being accommodated, which should reduce the risk of them nesting on City Light structures where they can cause outages or be injured or killed,” said City Light Wildlife Biologist Ron Tressler, who oversees the project.

“Hopefully the exclusion devices and platforms will result in osprey leaving our towers alone but if they don’t work, we’ll be back there again for another try,” he said.

City Light and NB Power in New Brunswick, Canada, are the only two utilities in the world using these experimental nesting deterrents. The devices were designed and fabricated by Jim Kaiser of Osprey Solutions, a specialist hired by City Light to help with some of the osprey issues.

The birds arrive here in spring to take advantage of the salmon released by the Icy Creek Pond hatchery upstream. In their natural habitat, ospreys prefer to build their nests on the top of large snags or deformed trees near water.

But the Duwamish waterway is an industrial corridor where the tallest bare structures are light poles, communications towers and other artificial structures. So those sites are being used by the increasing population of ospreys. Even thin light poles are suitable – ospreys can build a nest on as little as one square foot of space, according to Kaiser. There are approximately 12 nesting pairs in the lower Duwamish.

The City Light towers on the Duwamish, besides serving as a tempting nesting surface, also carry several major electrical feeders that supply critical Boeing infrastructure. Over the years, ospreys have caused periodic outages, affecting Boeing’s operations.

In the past six years, osprey pairs have also nested on light poles at the Insurance Auto Auction lot on East Marginal Way, near the Duwamish River towers, and on a communications tower in the Sound Transit operations and maintenance facility near East Airport Way. Since the last nesting season, the company who owns the tower has installed exclusion devices to prevent osprey from nesting there in the future. Because these birds will return and likely try to find an alternate nest site on one of our nearby poles, City Light crews installed two new, safer platforms for the ospreys to nest and raise their young.

All of these efforts are part of City Light’s Avian Protection Program, which monitors incidents with birds and implements measures to keep the animals safe and the electrical equipment operating.