Myths and Legends Questions and Answers

Will a Mother Bird Abandon Her Baby if You Touch It

Baby Bird in Human Hand

Photo by [xandert] morgueFile

This is something I’ve heard all my life, that a mother bird will abandon her baby if you touch it, or try to return it to it’s nest.

The story goes that by touching the baby bird you leave your scent on the bird and then the mother will no longer care for it.

Is there any truth to this myth, or is it just a method parents have used over the years to prevent their children from tampering with nature and it’s natural course?

What Does the Baby Bird Myth State

According to folk wisdom, the myth states that human contact may be a fatal encounter for baby animals.

If the baby bird or any young animal is infected with the human scent, and the mother gets a wiff of it, then she may reject her young. Sometimes kicking it out of her nest, labeling it a bad seed.

Kind of like a human mother trying to catch a wiff of her son or daughter carrying the scent of alcohol or drugs.

Is the Myth that the Mother Bird will Abandon her Baby True?

Fortunately for all baby birds of the world, this is nothing more than a myth, or an old wives’ tale.

The Mothers of animals are extremely protective of their young and there isn’t a stink or odor powerful enough to cause her to abandon one of her offspring.

In fact, most birds have a very poor sense of smell, and their maternal instinct to care for their young is much more powerful than their ability to smell a foreign odor.

There are a few birds that have an excellent sense of smell like the parrot and turkey buzzard. Turkey buzzards rely on their sense of smell to detect rotting road kill, which tells them it’s time for dinner.

But the fact is, most everyday birds would never be able to detect the slight scent of a human on their baby birds.

When Should You Intervene With Nature

So now that we know there is no harm in touching baby birds, that their mother’s will not abandon them if your scent is on them. Now let’s talk about when it is ok to intervene with nature to help a baby bird in distress.

If you spot a baby bird on the ground and it doesn’t have any feathers, then this is a good sign it’s fallen out of the nest and may need some help.

It is quite ok and in fact encouraged to carefully pick the baby bird up and return it to it’s nest.  Being on the ground is very dangerous for baby birds as they are exposed to many more elements such as cats or other deadly animals, as well as bacteria and insects.

But if you see a baby bird on the ground that has feathers, this is what’s called a fledgling. Fledglings are pushed from their nest in an attempt to teach them to fly. It is quite normal for a fledgling to spend a few days on the ground flapping around exercising it’s wings in an attempt to “learn the ropes” so to speak.

But I guarantee you the mother bird is close by, keeping an eye on her young. So trying to rescue a fledgling with feathers is not such a great idea. You will probably do more harm at this point because it is a part of natures learning curve for a fledgling to make its way on its own.

Is this a myth you’ve heard growing up, or do you have anything to add to the discussion, please share in the comments below.

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7 thoughts on “Will a Mother Bird Abandon Her Baby if You Touch It
  1. It is very interesting and very nice.Thank you very much to share with us this nice picture and this good article.Really it is looking very nice.

    1. Ya Gautham, it would really suck if our Mothers abandoned us simply because someone else touched us…lol

  2. Robert, where do you get this information? I have always heard this ‘myth’, too. Great to add when you should be looking to help nature, too. Thanks for the fascinating post.

    1. You’re quite welcome Sam, and thank you for reading. I’m a big guru or anything odd or interesting so it’s my duty to seek out interesting topics for discussion, I have many sources for the things I write about. 🙂

  3. it would really suck if our Mothers abandoned us simply because someone else touched us…lol

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