The two most common times that you will find baby birds on the ground is after a recent storm or during the fledgling season. If it is a fledgling, it is almost ready to fly and it is part of the normal process to be fed on the ground a few days as it learns to fly. Place these young birds into a hedge or tangled shrubbery nearby, and the parents will respond to its calls and continue to feed it. Put up any housecats for a few days and ask the neighbors to cooperate.
It is imperative for the wild young bird to continue to receive the proper socialization from its parents and siblings. Otherwise the bird will not know how to interact with its wild colleagues and will not produce future generations of native birds. So, the young bird must be reunited with its mother as soon as possible.
If it is not a fledgling (most likely found after rough weather), try to locate the nest. Most bird nests will not be very high. They are usually 6-8 feet above the ground in a small tree or thick vines or shrubs. If you can replace the bird into the nest the parents will resume feeding it as soon as your presence is removed. They will not shun the bird as commonly thought (this is a wife’s tale). If no nest can be located, or if the entire nest is on the ground, punch some drainage holes in a small bucket or pail and line the pail with some shredded paper or soft leaf litter. Place the bird or the entire nest if available, into the pail and hang the pail under a shaded tree or fence line, 5-6 feet from the ground. Tangled vines are the best habitat, if they are nearby. The parents will respond to the calls of the baby bird and will resume feeding. You can check on the bird 8-12 hours later. If it is still vibrant, someone is feeding it. You are unlikely to see the parents feeding the young, because if you can see the baby bird’s location, the parents can see you, and they will stay away. You can, however, check on the baby or babies every 8-12 hours as needed to ensure that a parent is feeding them.
Resist the urge to hang around or check too often, as this will disturb the parents. If the bird is wet and has lost its ability to be insulated, you can temporarily place the bird in a small dark cardboard box on top of a heating pad on the low setting until it is dry. If it is obviously injured, or too weak to stand, it should be presented to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. The animal control department of your local police should have a current list of these volunteers. Although it may require a little more effort than calling a rehabilitator, you will be doing the most good for our native bird populations if you can reunite the baby birds with their distressed parents. And think of the fun you will have watching them mature in your yard!