Skip to main content

This page will tell you how to help birds larger than a pigeon or crow: ducks, geese, loons, gulls, swans, etc.

If the bird you’ve found is the same size as a crow or a pigeon, or smaller, click here. If it’s a bird of prey, like a hawk or an owl, click here.

Signs that a large bird is sick or injured

If you think the bird might be a baby, click here to check the difference. If the bird is an adult, the following signs indicate that it needs medical attention:

  • There are obvious wounds or blood on its body
  • It looks fluffy or sleepy and lets you walk right up to it
  • It cannot fly
  • One or more of its wings, legs, or head look like they’re pointing in the wrong direction
  • The bird limps or favours a leg when walking
  • There are string, fishing line, or fish hooks/lures on some part of the bird’s body
  • The bird looks “wet” – this can indicate oil or other contamination

If you’ve determined that the bird needs help, the next step is getting it safe and secure until you can find help for it. If you already have it contained, click here for help finding a wildlife rehabilitator.

Containing a large bird is not that different from containing a small one – you just need to know what to look out for. If the bird is a bird of prey like a hawk or an owl, click here instead.

Be careful with large birds

When containing a large bird, keep in mind these safety considerations:

  • Large birds can have strong wings. Once you cover the bird with a towel or blanket, pick it up by holding its wings firmly to its body to prevent it from flapping.
  • Some large birds can have dangerous beaks. Loons, herons, and cormorants will all stab with their beaks if they feel threatened. Wear eye protection (e.g. safety glasses or ski goggles) and heavy gloves when handling birds with large beaks. Once the bird is covered with a sheet or towel, carefully and gently get control of its head before picking it up.

Remember – human safety first! If at any point you feel afraid or uncomfortable, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice. They can give you species-based tips and tricks, or talk you through a tricky rescue.

They’re not as big as they look! Feathers can make a bird appear much larger than it is. Even the formidable Canada Goose only weighs about 6-7lbs.

How to contain a large bird

You will need:

  • a container big enough for the bird to fit inside: a large cardboard box, a big rubbermaid tote, a recycling bin, a garbage can, or a dog kennel or crate
  • a large towel, a blanket, or a bedsheet (in a pinch, a jacket or a sweater will do!)

Approach the bird calmly and quietly. Once you’re close enough, toss the towel over its body, making sure to cover its head and eyes. If the bird is still able to walk or run, you may need to corral it into a corner by a fence or building before you can get close enough.

Pick the bird up holding its wings to its body, place it in the container you’ve prepared, and close or cover the container. OR place the container you’ve prepared over the bird and slide a piece of plastic or cardboard underneath, like you would to catch a spider.  Once the container is secure, put it in a dark, quiet place (a closet or heated garage is perfect!) and contact a wildlife rehabilitator.

If the bird is near a body of water and keeps swimming away, or if the bird is still able to fly but you’re sure it needs help, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.  They can give you species-based tips and tricks, or talk you through a tricky rescue.

When trying to contain a large bird, see if you can find a friend, family member, or concerned bystander to help you out. Just owing to their size, big birds are easier to catch as a team. 

Containing a bird diagram

Temporary care

While you are waiting to hear back from a wildlife rehabilitator, keep the animal contained in a dark, quiet place. Don’t give it any food or water until you have spoken to a rehabilitator. Further temporary care instructions can be found here.