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A bird (possibly a sparrow) somehow got into my house, and cannot get out (I think it wants to get out). It flies in circles near the ceiling, like some moths sometimes do.

I turned off the lights and opened the window, but my window doesn't go all the way to the ceiling, and the bird won't seem to find the exit. It's currently night outside.

What to do?

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  • 1
    This is a great question (I've had birds enter my home at least three times in the last two years, fortunately only during the day and they found their way out soon enough), but... I'm afraid I don't really see the outdoors aspect of it. Maybe it fits on Lifehacks?
    – gerrit
    Oct 4 '21 at 8:54
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    @gerrit - the bird's indoors, you want it outdoors?
    – davidbak
    Oct 4 '21 at 23:11
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    If it’s constantly flying in a circle near the walls but never hitting a wall, it could very well be a bat, not a bird. Oct 5 '21 at 4:15
  • @ToddWilcox I agree; the times birds have flown into my apartment, they would land on a high furniture in a corner and sit there unmoving until chased away.
    – gerrit
    Oct 5 '21 at 7:50
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    put some bird food on the ledge outside the window maybe? Oct 5 '21 at 12:55
31

I have never had to do it but my mother used to do it like this:

  1. Switch off all lights that show in the room, close the door.
  2. Close the curtains. When it goes dark the bird will sit down. All birds that are active in the day do.
  3. You can than catch it with a towel or other piece of cloth thrown over it or a box you put over the top of it, and a board slid under the box, or if the position asks for it, pick it up in your hands.

As it should be pitch dark you will need a weak light to help you to see, like the screen of a phone, not the light on the back. Or as suggested in the comments, use a red light, some torches have the option and you might be able to get a mostly red screen on your phone if you search for one.

If it is dark outside, keep the bird in that box till daylight, so it can see where to fly when you release it.

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    Instead of picking it with your hands, trowing a towel or a blanket over the bird might make it easier to pick and hopefully make it less stressful for the bird. This has worked well for me with common swifts that often enter my house.
    – Pere
    Oct 3 '21 at 15:56
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    Well, probably domestic canaries don't have a strong instinct to flee, but my impression is that catching a healthy bird is hard (even for a swift, which is not adapted to fly in enclosed spaces) and therefore it would be easy to hurt the bird in the fight. Under a piece of cloth, darkness and probably cloth weight make the bird stay put.
    – Pere
    Oct 3 '21 at 16:03
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    @Pere, notice that my advise was to make the room as dark as possible to start with. But I have seen my mother handle 'wild' bird as well, injured or motherless young ones, and when hold properly they will not fight.
    – Willeke
    Oct 3 '21 at 16:08
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    About picking up the bird with your hands: it's wise to take the species of the bird in consideration. Sparrows (and most sparrow-sized birds) will be scared and temporarily freeze when caught, but tits, despite being of a similar size, will peck at your fingers very aggressively and can cause painful wounds.
    – vsz
    Oct 4 '21 at 10:02
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    This method also works for bats, but wear thick rubber gloves as they can carry rabies. You might also want to put all the lights ON in the case of a bat.
    – Burgi
    Oct 4 '21 at 11:07
15

I took a large wooden board and started waving at it, to make it fly in a more chaotic manner. After several minutes, it finally found the window!

I think it started to get tired, so it started landing on various objects for a few seconds. Maybe this actually made it find the exit.

Anyway, I'd be happy to know what to do next time this happens.

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    I use pretty much the same procedure as you: lights-off in the rooms you don't want it to go to, with lights on when you do, and I use brooms to keep it moving. I think brooms make pretty big volume-covering hands that help the birds choose wisely.
    – Dave X
    Oct 2 '21 at 21:27
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    @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket: I think OP has done a correct thing to post it as an answer. Because it is okay to answer your own question (and at the same time seek for better/other probable answers).
    – WedaPashi
    Oct 4 '21 at 6:32
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    This option can give you some bird s..t also
    – yngabl
    Oct 4 '21 at 20:05
4

Having dealt with this a time or two, the best plan of action in my opinion is as follows.

Attach a blanket or large towel to two brooms, mops or anything with a long handle. You can use binder clips, hair clips or anything else as long is it secures it well.

I have attached a rudimentary drawing for further explanation.

enter image description here

Now that you have your net device, there are two options. If the bird or bat is flying in a predictable circle, you can stand beneath it and thrust the net device upward in front of it.

Or you can stand at one end of the room, with the net extended upwards and slowly walk toward the creature.

When the flying creature hits the towel or blanket, bring your arms together in front of you catching the bird or bat in the net. Quickly transport it outside and open the net up to set it free. Mission accomplished.

This is an effective safe way of handling the situation and the least likely to cause injury to the animal or yourself. Especially with bats that could bite etc.

2

For a few years I lived in a house that had two screened porches with open doorways. Small birds, about the size of sparrows, would find themselves "trapped" in them several times a year. They would become trapped because they would ignore the open doorway they came in from, and try to fly out another opening that was covered by screen.

Usually I would discover a trapped bird after it had been flying in circles in a panic for a while, close to exhaustion, hardly able to fly. I think a small bird can exhaust itself in less than an hour if it tries to fly as much as possible. I would just gently try and trap the landed bird in a corner with my body, and then gently grab it with my hand. If the bird had the energy to keep flying, then I would wait another ten or fifteen minutes and try again. Eventually I was always able to catch the bird that way, or it would finally discover the open doorway. I tried waving large flat objects with the idea of diverting them to the open doorway, but that just made the birds panic more.

Once I had the bird in hand, I would walk out the open doorway, and then toss the bird up into the air. The bird then always found the energy to fly to a nearby tree branch and rest.

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