Click HERE to discover the benefits of joining our e-mail list
Basic Wild Bird Diets


If You Find A Bird | Baby Bird Care & Feeding | Identifying Species | Symptoms & Treatments | Basic Wild Bird Diets | Links | Free Brochures


All baby birds should be fed for 12 hours daily (eg. 8 am to 8 pm).

Never feed birds tomatoes and potatoes (both are members of the Nightshade family and can be extremely toxic to birds), avocados, chocolate, or dairy products with the exception of cottage cheese (high in protein, high in minerals, negligible lactose) for softbills. Mynahs can also be given hard cheeses (parmesan, Romano) in limited quantities.

Most formulas should NOT be microwaved, as it will kill the probiotics in the mix. Made formula can be kept in the fridge for up to four hours (BE SURE TO WARM BEFORE GIVING TO A BABY) and if it isn't a hot day or house has air-conditioning, up to two hours (Important: doves should receive fresh formula each time they are fed).
The "belly" area (right in front of the vent) of all the birds listed here can be felt to determine whether or not more feed needs to be given. The area will protrude a bit like a round paunch, but should not feel taut or stretched. Sometimes babies will ask for more when they are already full, Mejiros particularly, and if fed, may bring up food and aspirate. All of these birds have a tracheal (breathing) hole that is very noticeable when they gape; it is behind the tongue on the lower mandible (lower beak). Do NOT try to push the syringe down this hole, but rather put it behind the hole.
Hatchling (naked and may be blind) - seek assistance from a more experienced rehabber. These guys can be tricky.

Nestling (pinfeathers or feathers, but not flying yet) - 60-70% DRIED formula and 30-40% fruit mixed and then warm water added to applesauce consistency. Do NOT use Kaytee Exact as this formula is too high in iron. Pretty Bird is acceptable. Fruit should be fresh mango, papaya, banana, or any combination of the three, but applesauce or strained fruit baby food can be used if necessary. Add three mealworms (preferably ones who've recently shed their skins - they are white) and fingernail size pieces of soft tofu or bits of boiled egg for additional protein supplement. Protein is VERY important at this stage for proper feather growth, but don't substitute egg and tofu for formula. Pinfeather babies should be fed every half hour through a twelve-hour period and feathered babies every 45 minutes to an hour through the same period.

Fledgling (limited and strong flight) - Same mix as above, but formula mix should be pudding consistency (add less water). Four to five mealworms are okay for this age along with tofu and egg. Two or three de-legged crickets can also be given. As the baby gets older, mix the formula to a thick paste consistency and start feeding off of a finger. This will help to transitioning the bird to solid food. After about three or so days of feeding the paste formula, bits of fruit or softened softbill pellets can also be given. Soft fruit can be given at a younger age, of course, but not to substitute for formula. Start putting pieces of fruit in the bird's cage along with insects and feed approximately every 1 1/2 hours. The bird can go up to 2 hours if you observe it feeding itself. Until it is actively interested in food, however, do not let it go over 3 hours without offering more food than what is has already in its cage. When the bird is actively interested in food, transition over to an adult diet.

Adult - prone to a condition called Hemochromatosis (iron poisoning) be very sure diet is LOW in iron; absolutely NO dog or cat food and Kaytee Mynah Pellets are also too high in iron. If softbill pellets are to be given at all, do not exceed 30% of the diet, as nearly all mixtures tend to be somewhat high in iron. Hagen softbill crumble for mynahs is appropriate to feed. Omnivorous with exception of red meat, raisins, and other high iron foods. Mealworms in small quantities (no more than 10 or so a day), crickets (de-legged to prevent them from hopping away), soft tofu, and chopped, boiled egg all are very good sources of protein. Mynahs to be readied for release should be fed food they can find in the "wild" such as mango, papaya, banana, cooked rice, bread pieces, and insects. Other suitable foods can supplement the above, but the bird must be familiar with food that is readily available.
Excellent website: http://www.mynahbird.org.
Hatchling (naked and may be blind) - seek assistance from a more experienced rehabber. These guys can be difficult.

Nestling (pinfeathers or feathers, but not flying yet) - Vitamin C is an ESSENTIAL, a part of the bulbul's diet; it will most likely die if fed a straight formula diet or one with insufficient fruit. 60-70% DRIED formula and 30-40% fruit mixed and then warm water added to applesauce consistency. Fruit should be fresh mango, papaya, banana, or any combination of the three, but applesauce or strained fruit baby food can be used if necessary. Add two to three mealworms (preferably ones who've recently shed their skins - they are white) and small pea size pieces of soft tofu or bits of boiled egg for additional protein supplement. Protein is VERY important at this stage for proper feather growth, but don't substitute tofu and egg for formula. Bulbuls at this age should have two feedings per day of straight formula with a pinch of Tang added for Vitamin C. Bulbuls are more susceptible to poor feather growth from insufficient protein than mynahs are. Pinfeather babies should be fed every half hour through a twelve-hour period and feathered babies every 45 minutes to an hour through the same period.

Fledgling (limited and strong flight) - same mix as above, but formula mix should be pudding consistency (add less water). Three mealworms are okay for this age along with tofu and egg. One or two de-legged crickets can also be given. As the baby gets older, mix the formula to a thick paste consistency and start feeding off of a finger. This will help to transition the bird to solid food. After about three or so days of feeding the paste formula, bits of fruit or softened softbill pellets can also be given. Soft fruit can be given at a younger age, of course, but not to substitute for formula. Start putting pieces of fruit in the bird's cage along with insects and feed approximately every 1 1/2 hours. The bird can go up to 2 hours if you observe it feeding itself. Until it is actively interested in food, however, do not let it go over 3 hours without offering more food than what it has already in its cage. Some bulbuls may take an abnormally long time to wean, go very slowly and don't wean the bird cold turkey. When the bird is actively interested in food, transition over to an adult diet.

Adult - because these birds are frugivorous, they must have a fairly constant supply of fruit in their diets. Softbird pellets (8 in 1 makes a good pellet for softbills) should constitute about 40% or less if they are given a softbill insect crumble. Only four to five mealworms per day should be given, as healthy bulbuls tend to be on the plump side anyways. De-legged crickets can be given now and then; some birds are more interested in them than others. Soft tofu, and chopped, boiled egg are very good sources of protein. Mango is the most important food that a bulbul can learn to eat. Mango trees grow all over the island and provide an excellent fruit source. Fruit should make up at least 50% of the bulbul's diet and at least two different types of fruit, most important are mango, papaya, and banana, should be fed along with pellets, etc. Peeled, chopped grapes, watermelon, and chopped up strawberries are well-appreciated treats. Bulbuls to be readied for release should be fed food they can find in the "wild" such as mango, papaya, banana, cooked rice, bread pieces, and insects.
Hatchling (naked and may be blind) - these are the easiest of "belly" birds to feed, believe it or not, as they gape very easily at overhead movement, chirps, and slight jostling of the "nest". They also grow extremely fast and are out of this phase very quickly (within two to four days depending on hatch date). GREAT care must be taken to only feed the smallest possible quantities and the babies MUST be fed every 10-15 minutes or they will die. These babies are best to raise when they are in a bunch.

Nestling (pinfeathers or feathers, but not flying yet) - 60% DRIED formula and 40% fruit mixed and then warm water added to applesauce consistency. Fruit should be fresh mango, papaya, banana, or any combination of the three, but applesauce or strained fruit baby food can be used if necessary. Add one to two mealworms (DEFINITELY ones who've recently shed their skins - they are white) and bitty bits of soft tofu or boiled egg for additional protein supplement. Protein is important at this stage for proper feather growth. Mejiros at this age should have one feeding per day of straight formula with a pinch of Tang added for sugar. Mejiros are less susceptible to poor feather growth than bulbuls. Pinfeather and feathered babies should be fed every 15 minutes through a twelve-hour period. Mejiro babies will be out of this stage within two to three days max. Take EXTREME caution at this point because one minute you will feeding a bunch of non-flying babies and the next minute they will be leaping out of the nest and, shortly after, buzzing around like bumblebees at the speed of light.

Fledgling (no tail or some tail and flying regardless) - same mix as above, but formula mix should be pudding consistency (add less water). Two mealworms are okay for this age along with tofu and egg. As the baby gets older, mix the formula to a thick paste consistency and start feeding off of a finger. This will help to transition the bird to solid food. Also at this stage, carefully offer nectar drop by drop from a syringe. Touch it against the tip of the bird's beak and it should quickly learn to suck at it. After about three or so days of feeding the paste formula, tiny bits of fruit. Soft fruit can be given at a younger age, of course, but not to substitute for formula. Start putting pieces of fruit in the bird's cage along with the insect crumble and feed approximately every half hour. Until the bird is actively feeding from the fruit and/or crumble, do not go longer than an hour without offering food. If the bird doesn't want it, offer several drops of nectar. Mejiros can literally run out of "gas" and die at this age if they do not get enough sugar. Once the bird takes nectar readily from a syringe, then a nectar bottle can be put in the cage. Mejiros usually wean themselves when their white-eye ring grows in. Watch carefully and transition at the bird's pace to an adult diet.

Adult - This bird is a nectivore and should be supplied with either soft fruit or nectar, preferably both, at ALL times. Softbill insect crumble is very good, but some birds may not eat it right away. Chopped, boiled egg and tofu in small quantities along with one to two small mealworms are also necessary. The nectar mixture is five parts water, one part sugar and can be put out for three to four days depending on the heat or when the ants get to it. Do NOT offer the Mejiro a standard bird water dish, as they have been known to drown. A bird tube with a tongue (can be found in any pet store) is best. Nectar can be put in this as well, but the bird may take a bath in it. A very small Lix-it bottle made specifically for birds works very well for nectar. Mango, papaya, banana, and orange (in slices only) should be provided and peeled; chopped grape and chopped strawberries can be added as well. Hibiscus and honeysuckle blossoms can be offered, but not plumeria as it is poisonous.
Hatchling (naked and may be blind) - Limited hand-feeding knowledge is available for birds at this age, however, it's suspected they can be fed the same way as any other finch type bird, very carefully with a more experienced rehabber's help if necessary. One suggested diet for these birds is Kaytee Exact with a little papaya (80% Kaytee to 20% papaya) for all stages of hand feeding. One rehabber reports that Nutri-Start fed to older babies resulted in a failure to thrive. There seems to be nutrients in both the Kaytee and papaya that this bird needs to grow properly.

Nestling (pinfeathers or feathers, but not flying yet and won't really for a LONG time) - Feed VERY carefully during all stages of hand feeding. Give small amounts at a time (3-4 cc) and go right to left into the mouth as you are facing the bird. This bird is tricky to feed because you also have to get the syringe fairly deep down the throat, almost shoving it, or the baby will hack and cough on formula. Parents have been observed to literally SHOVE food down their babies throats. 80% DRIED formula and 20% papaya and then warm water added to applesauce consistency. Add two to three mealworms (preferably ones who've recently shed their skins - they are white) and pea size bits of soft tofu or boiled egg for additional protein supplement. Protein is important at this stage for proper feather growth. Pinfeather babies should be fed every half hour to 45 minutes. Feathered babies should be fed every 45 minutes to one and a half hours, as they get older. Nestlings take a very long time to get serious about flying that you might think something is wrong with the bird's wings. Just be patient and they will eventually start flying. Cardinals will want to wean before they want to fly due to physiological changes with the beak. When you are feeding every hour or so, start offering pieces of papaya, tofu, cockatiel diet, and mealworms for the bird to pick at.

Fledgling/Adolescent (FINALLY flying) - look for consistent flight and a fairly large baby. Feed the adult diet.

Adult - these birds are not true finches and are basically omnivorous. The crop is located down in the "belly" area, but is not the same as the other birds in this category. They've been observed to eat practically everything. A good diet for adolescents (birds no longer wanting or needing to be handfed) and adults is a high quality cockatiel seed mix (Kaytee Fiesta is very good). They will also do okay on wild birdseed, but develop better plumage with the variety cockatiel diet has. Papaya and banana can be given to supplement the diet and are enjoyed. Four to five mealworms, tofu, and chopped, boiled egg can be given in smaller quantities.
Look for a thick and wide triangular beak and the crop on the right side of the bird's neck.

Java Sparrow and House Finch (Papaya Bird) - add about 10-15% papaya to dried formula for several feedings a day and offer pieces to fledglings and adults, they love it!

House Sparrow and Northern Cardinal - they seem to enjoy tofu now and then and also papaya offered occasionally.

Hatchling (naked and may be blind) - Feed straight formula mixed with water to a little runnier consistency than applesauce. Go in right to left as you're facing the chick and time the release of formula to the bobbing of the bird's head. Give only small amounts (2 cc) at a time until the crop is noticeably full, but not bulging. At this age, bobbing will be slight. The chick will need to be fed every half hour or so. Be very careful and get a more experienced rehabber's help if necessary.

Nestling (pinfeathers or feathers, but not flying yet) - feed formula mixed with water to the consistency of applesauce. Feed the same way as directed above, but give a little more formula (3 to 5 cc depending on age and species) at a time until the crop is nearly bulging, but NOT stretched tight. Bobbing will be more noticeable at this age. Feed every hour to hour and a half, as the bird gets older. Add 3 to 4 mealworms and chopped, boiled egg.

Fledgling (limited and strong flight) - feed a formula mixed with water to the consistency of pudding. Feed the same way and give just a LITTLE more formula per shot depending on the species. Offer millet spray, 3 to 4 mealworms, and some boiled egg along with water. When you see that the millet is starting to look pecked at, offer a cup of seed. Feed formula every one and a half to two hours. You can go to every three to four hours when the bird shows an active interest in its food and eventually the bird will not accept food from you any longer.

Adult - The diet for the above birds is very similar with some variations noted above. In general, use finch food for the smaller birds and wild birdseed for the larger birds, millet sprays, 4-5 mealworms, and 2-3 de-legged crickets.
Hatchling (naked and may be blind) - Silverbill babies in this stage will have the bull and arrow markings in their mouths that look exactly like the mouths of baby Java Sparrows except that Silverbill babies are considerably larger. Once pinfeathers start to come out, there are other physiological differences that make it easy to tell which is which (Javas have paler legs). It is important to get the advice of a rehabber who has actually seen babies at this stage because silverbills MUST get a certain enzyme that Javas don't need and if they don't get it, they die. The hand feeding process is the same for the above birds except mealworms aren't necessary, but either chicken broth (from chicken noodle soup or regular broth) or strained turkey or chicken baby food must be added to the dry formula at about 20% before mixing in the water. These have the enzyme necessary for the baby birds to live.

Nestling (pinfeathers or feathers, but not yet flying) - same for the other finch type birds, but that extra special ingredient must be added. Mealworms aren't necessary.

Fledgling (limited and strong flight) - same for the other finch type birds. It appears the enzyme may not be necessary at this age, but better to be safe than sorry at least while hand feeding.

Adult - same diet as the above finch type birds although they are more strictly seed-eaters.
These birds feed from their parent's crops and the crop fills equally on both sides.
Hatchling (naked and may be blind) - feed very small quantities every hour and a half to two hours depending on species (larger species need to be fed less often). Give enough to fill the crop so it looks like two boobies on the chest, but not so much that the crop appears stretched tight. Ask a more experienced rehabber if necessary. Mix straight formula with water to a consistency a bit runnier than applesauce. It is better to use a finer grained formula for the wee Barred Dove babies. It is easier to tube feed and easier for them, particularly, to digest.

Nestling (pinfeathers or feathers, but not yet flying) - tube feed every two to three hours depending on species and follow same instructions as above except formula can be made to the consistency of applesauce. A switch to a coarser-grained formula is okay at this point if desired, be sure to mix the two together for several days so the baby doesn't experience digestional shock.

Fledgling (limited and strong flight) - feed every three to four hours depending on species and follow the same instructions except the formula can be made to the consistency of pudding. Offer millet sprays at this point and when the spray looks pecked at, put in water and seed cups. Observe the bird and when it starts pecking at seed, slowly cut back on hand feeding. Some doves are happy to be handfed forever and others want to having nothing more to do with you. A rule of thumb is if the baby hasn't started to refuse, then slow down and stop hand feeding when they are a) eating actively, b) nearly in adult plumage, and c) nearly as big as adults. These birds are more likely to refuse hand feeding at a normal rate if they are kept with other doves.

Adult - they do best on seed made specifically for doves but are okay on wild birdseed. Millet can be added if desired.
(Adapted from material provided by Merri Keeton)

Internet Explorer 8

Copyright 2004-2010 Wild Bird Rehab Haven. All rights reserved
Privacy Policy | Disclaimer | Email Webmaster