This young Cooper’s Hawk is in the nestling category: The healthy bird was found on the ground a few weeks ago but is too young to have fledged. While care center staff and volunteers will do their best to raise and release the hawk, we can’t do as good a job as the bird’s parents.
If you find a nestling raptor on the ground, try to place it on a branch in the same tree as its nest. If that isn’t possible, it’s still best to leave the bird in the wild. Its parents are well-equipped to care for a baby that hops out of its nest too early.
How can you tell if a young raptor is a nestling or fledgling? Fledglings are typically the same size as adults and fully feathered, with a short tail and wings. They are able to walk, hop and flap, and they may attempt short flights. Nestlings are smaller than adults and have fuzzy down feathers like this Cooper’s Hawk and the Red-tailed Hawk pictured below. Owls deviate from this pattern, so refer to our baby bird guide if you need to distinguish an owl fledgling from a nestling.
To sum up, young birds should be left in the wild unless they show obvious signs of injury. You can help fallen nestlings of all species by placing them near their nest or by building them a new makeshift nest – learn more.