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Name: Suzanne
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Our cat has found a young cedar waxwing - which he left unharmed - on our lawn. We have taken him in and have been hand-feeding him berries over the weekend. He eats well and seems in perfect health, but he is unable to fly for more than 2 or 3 feet at a time....we think he must have fallen from the nest - although we haven't been able to locate it. My question is wether this young bird will be able to make it outside on his own once he is big and strong enough to fly? Or will he simply not be able to find food on his own, not having lived with other birds? Also, will he simply not be afraid (enough) of humans and/or domestic animals(we have a cat which doesn't seem to affect him any), and risk harm by being left on his own outside? If we are to keep on looking after him, what else should we feed him?


This is a tough one. Historically, wild birds do not survive in captivity. Furthermore, your bird may be injured or very young. If the bird has seen its parents for any lenght of time, it has probably imprinted to them, so releasing the bird once healthy may work, but I'm skeptical. If you live near a nature center or a vet that will look after your bird, I would contact them.

Steve Sample

Birds at this stage of growth MUST leave the nest, they get too big, start flapping their wings to try to fly, and fall out of the nest. The parents (in the absence of cats, and free roaming cats are considered by many to be one of the greatest single threats to birds) continue to feed these not-quite-fledglings on the ground or bushes for the day or two it takes for them to get strong enough to fly, and may continue feeding them some after but will wean them quickly. Feed it canned cat food (presumably you have cat food!), while adult cedar waxwings eat lots of fruit, berries are not sufficient nutrition by themselves for growth at this stage, the parents would be feeding it insects also, cat food is a fair enough substitute. Leave it out as much as possible and as soon as it can fly on its own let it. It may come back to beg for food for a while but let it go as soon as it can.

You should know that you are technically in violation of federal wildlife laws. It is illegal to possess any native wild bird, even with the best of intentions, without a license. Rehabilitators are licensed to care for birds, their facilities are inspected, and if the situation ever comes up again you should try to find one in your area. And as often as at all possible wildlife, even when it appears to be in danger, should be left alone. Thousands of young birds and other animals die every year, usually we just don't see it. That is why there is an "overproduction" of young, to compensate for those losses.

John Elliott

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