Have you ever happened across a bird’s nest or a baby bird on the ground and not known what to do?
Maybe you’ve heard that if you touch an egg or a baby bird then the parents will abandon it. This isn’t exactly the case, but overall you’ll want to leave them alone except for certain circumstances.
Breaking Down the Myth
Most birds don’t have a strong sense of smell. In fact, it’s usually very simple and limited. This means that they can’t pick up your scent on a baby bird or an egg.1 Birds don’t leave their nests or young behind for no reason. Something big has to disturb them in order for them to leave everything behind, like a predator finding its way into the nest or a human moving it around. Simply touching the offspring isn’t reason enough for them to abandon it.1
What Should You Do?
In most cases, a good rule of thumb is to leave them be. Most likely if you find a baby bird on the ground, the parent is nearby and watching.1 However, there are some circumstances when they might need your help.
If you find a baby bird on the ground, look closely. If they’re fluffy and capable of hopping around, they’re a fledgling. This means it’s normal for them to be out of the nest. You can put them on a perch somewhere if they’re in a place they could get hurt, but otherwise they’re probably fine. If they aren’t able to hop around or walk and aren’t covered in many feathers, they’re a nestling and should be returned to the nest if possible.2
So, no, your scent won’t be the reason a bird abandons its nest or young. However, it’s a good idea to leave them alone when possible. Touching animals can lead to disease passing between yourself and the animal you’re in contact with.3
Check out our article here to learn more about where birds build their nests and what all bird eggs have in common!