Baby raptors (owls, hawks, eagles, and falcons) are covered in white or grey fluffy down feathers. As they get older, their mature feathers start to come in through the down.
Baby pigeons are often confused for baby raptors, because of their big curved beak and large feet. Pigeons colours vary a lot, but most of them have pinkish, reddish, or dark-coloured feet. The feet of baby raptors are usually yellow or light-coloured. If you think you’ve found a baby raptor but its feet are pink, red, or dark-coloured, check out our page on baby pigeons just to double-check.
Are you sure it’s a baby?
Some raptor species are very small, even when they’re all grown up. Northern saw-whet owls, for example, only get to be about 6 inches tall! If the baby hawk, owl, or falcon you’ve found has smooth feathers with no fluffy down poking through, or you found it between the months of October and January, it is probably an adult, even if it seems tiny. Go to our page on how to help adult birds of prey.
Is the baby bird of prey injured?
A baby hawk, owl, or falcon with any of the following signs is injured and needs medical attention:
- There are obvious wounds or blood on its body
- It has had contact with a cat – even with no obvious injuries, this is a medical emergency for baby birds
- The bird is lying on its side and cannot right itself
- It is covered in bugs or insects
- The bird feels cold to the touch when you pick it up
Put the injured baby bird in a cardboard box in a dark, quiet place. Put a heat source like a rice sock or warm water bottle in the box with them. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator right away.
Mom and dad might still be around
If they aren’t injured, there’s a very good chance that baby raptors can be reunited with their parents. If that isn’t possible, they can often be fostered into another wild family of the same species. This is a bit tricky to do, and depends a lot on the species, the age of the baby, and the individual circumstances.
If you’ve found a baby bird of prey, keep it in a cardboard box in a dark, quiet spot. Don’t give it any food or water. Make sure it has a heat source, like a rice sock or hot water bottle. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.
Further information on temporary care instructions can be found here.