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Ground Dwelling Birds

Ground Dwelling Birds: Roadrunners, Quail, Burrowing Owls, Poorwills

The Living Desert accepts native injured or orphaned ground-dwelling birds.

How to identify an injured roadrunner, quail, burrowing owl, or poorwill:

. Bleeding
. Animal attack
. Lethargic/not standing up/leaning – except poorwills (see photo)
. Vertigo-like symptoms
. One wing is being held lower than the other
. Severe limping (the bird cannot walk)

*If a chick is injured, bring it to an animal rehabilitator immediately*


If you see this bird sitting on the ground in a ‘daze’ with no apparent injuries, LEAVE IT ALONE. Poorwills are nocturnal ground dwelling birds that depend upon their camouflage and ability to stay very still to avoid predators.

How to contain an injured ground dwelling bird:
If the bird is injured enough to need an animal rehabilitator’s help, it should be easy to catch. If the bird only has a slight wing/leg problem and can escape you, leave it alone, it may be a small injury and may heal on its own. Call The Living Desert Wildlife Rehabilitation line at 760-568-2330 if you have concerns.

. Obtain a box with air holes, line it with a paper towel or fabric
. Pick the bird up (throw a towel over the bird if you cannot pick it up easily) and place the bird in the box
. Keep it in a dark, quiet, warm area away from pets
. Transport to an animal rehabilitator immediately

Do not offer the bird food or water. If you have to house the bird overnight, place a shallow dish of water in the box with the animal. Transport the bird to an animal rehabilitator first thing in the morning.

Ground dwelling bird chicks
Occasionally, you may run into a chick that appears to be abandoned. Most of these chicks, however, are not true orphans. You may not see the parent as they may be hiding in a nearby tree or bush. To them, you are a large predator and they will not approach if you are near the chick. It is in the birds’ best interest to leave them alone.

Test to see if the chick is a true orphan
Hide as far away from the chick as possible (indoors, watching from a window is best) and watch for 1 hour. Remember, to the parents you are a large predator and it is not safe for them to expose themselves to you. It is important to maintain a visual of the chick the entire time. If you see the parents approach the chick during this time, it is not an orphan.

If the bird is still without a parent after an hour, bring it to a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.

Bird identification:,14/

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