JULIA CHANGE THE PARENT PAGE.

Killdeer and sandpipers are what we call “precocial” babies. That means that very soon after they hatch, they are able to run around, and eat on their own. They still need their parents to protect them from predators, teach them about the world, and keep them warm.

Baby shorebirds are covered in fluffy feathers called “down”. Often they look like a mini version of their parents. They don’t have webbed feet, and their legs seem very long for their size

If you don’t think the baby you’ve found is a shorebird, go back to our species selection page.

Dark, quiet, and warm

The main thing to know about baby killdeer and sandpipers is that they are VERY fragile. It’s important not to handle them or talk to them or pet them. If you’ve found a baby that looks like this, please keep it in a closed cardboard.

A HEAT SOURCE is critical for these babies, so place one in the box with them:

  • a clean sock filled with dry, uncooked rice, and microwaved for one minute
  • a plastic bottle from the recycling bin filled with hot tap water
  • an electric heating pad set to “LOW” and placed under half of the box.

Put the box in a dark, quiet spot, and read on for further instructions.

Is the baby bird injured?

A baby shore bird 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 cannot stand, walk, or run
  • It is covered in bugs or insects
  • The bird feels cold to the touch when you pick it up
  • It is fluffy, looks “sleepy”, and doesn’t perk up or try to get away when you approach it.

Put the injured baby bird(s) 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.

Baby Killdeer

Baby sandpiper

What’s normal

Killdeer and sandpipers are what we call “precocial” babies. That means that very soon after they hatch, they are able to run around and eat on their own. They still need their parents to protect them from predators, teach them about the world, and keep them warm. Their mother (or father, depending on the species) should always be nearby.

Do you see the parents nearby?

Baby shorebirds are very mobile, and will often run around looking for food quite a distance from their parents. They keep in touch by calling to each other – using with a loud “peeeeep”. Look around — and listen! — for nearby parents. If the baby is bright, alert, good at running, and vocalizes a lot, let it out of the box and back off to a safe distance. Watch to see if it runs to its mother, or if she runs to it.

If the baby can’t keep up with the family, or the family ignores it, or you can’t get it back with them, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice. 

The babies are with their mother, but I’m worried they’re in a dangerous situation

Killdeer especially like to make their nests and raise their babies in parking lots, construction sites, and schoolyards. They’re one of the species that have adapted really well to urban living. If you’re worried that the family is in a location that is just too dangerous, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice. They can help you troubleshoot and maybe come up with some solutions to keep the family safe and together!

MYTH! If you touch a baby bird, its parents will not abandon it. Birds are excellent parents. All they want is their baby back.

I can’t find the parents anywhere

If the baby is found alone with no parents nearby, it should be considered an orphan. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice. In the meantime, put the baby in a cardboard box and make sure it has a HEAT SOURCE — this is even more crucial for baby shorebirds than other baby animals. Do not give it any food or water. Further information on temporary care instructions can be found here.