How to Care for an Injured Red Cardinal

How to Care for an Injured Red Cardinal
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The Northern Cardinal is one of the most familiar visitors to backyard bird feeders. The males of this species are bright red with an orange beak and a black mask. Females, although not as brightly colored as the males, are brown with an orange beak and red accents on wings and crest. It is not uncommon for conflict, in the form of accidents, to arise between cardinals and the human world around them. Vehicles, windows and neighborhood pets all pose potential risk to the wild bird population.

    Approach the bird slowly and calmly. Birds stress very easily and simply approaching an injured bird can add to its stress and further complicate its condition.

    Pick up a wild bird with gloves or a towel. They can be carriers for mites and other illnesses that can be transmittable to humans.

    Place the injured bird in a shoebox on top of a heating pad set on low. Add shredded facial tissue to the box for the bird’s comfort. Sometimes, all a bird requires is a few hours of rest to recuperate.

    Contact your local wildlife rehabilitation facility. Songbirds are protected by federal law and it is illegal for individuals to possess them. Additionally, this type of facility is trained to know exactly what to do and how to care for the injured cardinal.

    Transport the cardinal to a wildlife rehabilitation facility in the same box. Place the box in a secure location in your vehicle or have a family member hold it while you drive to protect the injured bird from further jostling.

    Explain to the wildlife officer what you have done to care for the bird and any information you know about how it was injured to assist them in caring for the bird appropriately.

    Dispose of any gloves or towels that came in contact with the injured bird to insure that no parasites or illnesses are passed on to you or your family.

    Things You'll Need

    • Towel or gloves
    • Shoebox
    • Shredded facial tissue
    • Heating pad


    • If you observe a wild bird fly into a window, wait a few minutes to allow the bird to recover if it was only stunned.

      Before attempting to rescue an injured bird determine that it is, in fact, injured and not a juvenile by observing it for several minutes prior to approaching it.


    • Do not try to force feed an injured bird, this carries a high risk of forcing food or liquid into the bird’s lungs.

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