How to Catch a Wild Bird in My Backyard

Have you ever wanted to know how to catch a wild bird in your backyard? Wild birds exist almost everywhere. They sing in the morning, eat pests that attack the garden and play an essential role in local ecosystems.

Sometimes, though, wild birds can become a nuisance. To help you handle the wild bird population in your backyard, we have come up with some of the easiest ways to catch them.

Before deciding to catch a wild bird, remember that trapping birds is illegal in many states and countries unless you are experiencing a specific set of circumstances. To avoid potential damage and legal repercussions, check local laws in your area.

Once you know you are in the clear, then you can try one of these methods to ensnare the animal.

Trapping Methods

Before picking one of these options, make sure you know what to do with the bird. Some of these methods are lethal, while others are designed to catch a live bird to help it handle injuries.

Catching an Injured Wild Bird

If there is a wild bird in your yard with some kind of issue, you can use this method to capture in a safe and humane way.

Just follow these simple steps.

1. Make Sure the Bird is Actually Injured

A common problem among people is that they try to help in situations where assistance isn’t needed. If you just watched a bird fly into a window or smack against something, wait a few minutes. Sometimes the bird is just dizzy and will get back up like normal.

An easy way to tell if the bird is injured is to look at the wings. If one is bent at an odd angle, there is a good chance it is sprained or broken.

If the bird remains on the ground or has a damaged wing, then you can move to step two.

2. Check if the parents are around

Birds are different from humans. While they are young, birds will often go on excursions from their nests to learn how to fly. These babies might not have all of their feathers yet and can end up on the ground. However, their parents are often nearby and are watching. There is a good chance the baby was not abandoned.

If there are adult birds – of the same species – watching the baby, leave it be. You can continue to keep an eye on the bird to make sure it doesn’t get picked up by predators. However, chances are the baby will be alright.

3. Call a wildlife rehabilitator

There are trained professionals all around the globe who can tell you what to do with a wild bird. Ring them up and describe the situation. They can then tell you whether or not you should help the bird or leave it alone.

Wildlife rehabilitators are also the individuals you will want to contact once the bird is captured. They provide valuable information about feeding, nesting, and keeping the small creature safe and healthy.

In many cases, the rehabilitator will take the bird from you and can bring it to the bet.

4. Put on gloves

Birds are dirty. They carry diseases that can be passed to humans and can also have pests like mites or parasites. Before picking one up, put on a pair of thick, sturdy gloves.

These avoid skin contact, and can also stop you from being injured if the bird pecks you. Remember to wash the gloves when you are done to prevent the transfer of pests.

5. Get a piece of fabric and approach from behind

You don’t want to scare the bird and will need something to wrap it in. Get a soft piece of fabric like a dishcloth or pillowcase and approach the bird from behind. Avoid letting it see you.

6. Gently drape the cloth over the bird and pick it up.

When picking up the bird, use one hand for small ones and two hands for full-grown adults. Do not apply pressure to the neck. Instead, wrap your fingers gently around the body and leave room between your fingers for the head to poke through.

Be careful when holding the feet. They are easy to break.

  • If the bird is startled during this step, do not chase after it or grab it roughly. Both actions can panic and hurt the creature further.

7. Put it somewhere safe

Use a cardboard box to hold the bird. Use a washcloth or piece of fabric to create soft bedding and make sure there are air holes. Until you know what to do with the animal, keep the box closed. The darkness will help reduce anxiety and panic.

8. Call a rehabilitator

Once the bird is in a safe location, call the wildlife rehabilitator in your area. They can help the bird and give it proper medical attention.

If you can’t get ahold of a rehabilitator, provide the bird with some seed and water. If it is only lightly injured, the bird will be able to leave the box after a couple of hours. If the situation is more serious, call the rehabilitator again.

How to Build a Wilderness Bird Trap

If you are interested in this method, then you should know it will kill the bird. Be careful when doing this, as many areas have laws against hunting and trapping wild animals. Do not try to harm the animals in your yard for fun.

A wilderness bird trap can be used at home or when out camping as a supplemental food source. You will need a couple of objects to complete this method, including:

  • A pocket knife
  • 3-4 ft. of cord or rope
  • A rock
  • A thin stick
  • A long branch (several finger-widths thick)
  • A drill

This type of trap is called an Ojibwa Bird Pole and has been around for thousands of years. It is still often used by hunters and survivalists. It requires a knowledge of basic carpentry and knot-tying to be finished properly.

Once the Ojibwa Bird Pole is complete, though, you can reuse it. It is also easy to transport, so you can move it around the backyard as needed.

You will need to make a wooden “L” shape with an attached cord that will wrap around the wild bird’s legs, catching and holding it in place.

  1. Use a knife to sharpen both ends of the branch
  2. Use the drill to make a hole through the long branch several inches from the top point
  3. Slip the smaller stick through the hole

During this step, do not force the stick all of the ways in. Instead, only have a few inches sticking out on one side. The goal is that this perch will fall when the bird lands on it, allowing the trap to work.

  1. Tie your cord or rope around your large rock
  2. Thread the loose end of the string through the hole along with the smaller stick

This is a difficult step. You want the string and smaller stick to both be in the hole, but just enough to stay in place. The rock should be hanging alongside the central pillar. This step will involve some trial and error to find the right balance.

  1. Once the loose end of the string is through the hole, tie it into a loose slip noose knot

Many people don’t know what a slip noose knot is. This is a type of knot that will tighten when exposed to some type of force or pressure on the string.

  • To make one, first, double the string back on itself into a “U” shape.
  • Then, run the string back towards the top of your “U” loop.
  • The result will look like an “S.”
  • Wrap the end of the rope around the base of the doubled line 2-3 times depending on your preference.
  • You can then pull the rope tight.

If you are struggling to tie a knot with written instructions, check out this video.

  1. Run the end of your rope around the pole and through the slip noose knot
  2. Identify the point where the two sticks of the trap meet
  3. Tie an overhand knot at this juncture

An overhand knot is one of the simpler ones. Simply make a loop out of the rope and then pull the rope through. This needs to be done so the bird does not get jammed into the hole in the central pole.

Again, if you are struggling to tie the knot, watch this video for visual instructions.

  1. Test the trap

You should not have an “L” shaped trap made out of the two sticks with a loop of rope on the smaller one. This rope should go through the hole in the central pole. At the other end should be your rock dangling from the string. If you have set everything up correctly, you should be able to test the trap.

To do the testing, gently push down on the perch. When you do so, the string should tighten around your finger because the stick has moved and the rock is pulling the string. This loop will wrap around a bird’s legs when it tries to sit on the perch.

This is a difficult trap to complete. It will most likely take multiple tries to get right. Because of the time constraint, this is not a good way to catch wild birds if you are in an emergency situation or need an immediate answer.

If you are having trouble visualizing the steps of this trap, check out this video for a look at a complete model.


Once you have finished making the Ojibwa Bird Pole, you can place it in your backyard. We recommend you set the trap in an open area without any other nearby perches. Do not use bait because seeds will attract squirrels.

One of the beauties of the Ojibwa Bird Pole is its simplicity and efficiency. Depending on how much time you have, it is possible to make more than one trap and place them all around your backyard. However, be careful. Sometimes you will accidentally attract large prey like crows or ravens.

The Ojibwa Bird Pole relies on the weight of potential prey. People who are unfamiliar with this type of trap might struggle at first to catch birds that are lightweight.

If you are worried that you are not catching any prey, increase the size of the rock attached to the rope.

The Bucket and Cage Method

What if you are not rescuing an injured bird, but also do not want to catch one to eat it? Believe it or not, there are other ways to ensnare wild birds in your backyard without needing to use your own hands or kill the creature.

One of the most labor-intensive but rewarding ways to catch wild birds is using the old-fashioned bucket and cage method. This will require some construction skills since you do not want to put live birds in hard metal traps. The poor animals will often beat themselves bloody against the sides trying to get out.

Instead of using hard metal, invest in a softer mesh wire. Chicken wire is a great alternative because it has already been shown to be effective for birds.

Creating one of these traps can take several hours. To make a bucket and cage trap, gather the following materials:

  • Mesh wire
  • A plastic bucket with a cover
  • Plastic straw rope
  • An empty plastic water bottle
  • Birdseed
  • A knife
  • Wooden planks
  • Styrofoam

Your first step, and often the most difficult for many people, will be constructing the wire cage. You will need the mesh wire and the wooden planks, and might also need some screws and a drill. You can make a simple model by following these steps:

  1. Make sure the pieces of wood are the same length
  2. Create a rudimentary frame by placing the pieces alongside one another into a rectangle.
  3. Screw the first rectangle together. This will be the base.
  4. Place four more pieces of vertical wood at each corner of the base. Screw these down.
  5. Wrap the mesh wire around the vertical pieces of wood. This should form a box shape with an open top.
  6. Next, cut a large rectangle out of the Styrofoam so that it fits as a lid for the cage. You can nail it down to the pieces of wood.
  7. To finish the cage, use the knife or a pair of scissors to carve a hole in the Styrofoam. It needs to be large enough to fit the bucket.

You should now have a lightweight wooden cage made out of wood, mesh wire, and some soft Styrofoam.

If you intend to keep the wild birds you capture for a while, consider placing some blankets or soft bedding at the bottom of the cage. You can also choose to place mesh wire down there or not. Your next job will be managing the bucket.

The easiest type of plastic bucket to use is empty and washed paint or varnish container. You will want to heat up your knife and then use it to cut out rectangles on the side of the bucket. Leave the bottom and top intact.

Once you have finished cutting the bucket, wait for it to cool down and the plastic to harden. You can then loop the plastic straw rope around the handle of the bucket. This way, it can be lifted and lowered into the cage to catch the birds.

Time to Make a Lever

Your next task will be making a simple wooden lever. This can be accomplished using two long, thin pieces of wood and a dowel. All you need to do is form a cross with the pieces of wood and drill a hole through the point where one is on top of the other. Insert the wooden dowel. You now have a lever capable of going up and down on either side.

You are going to turn this simple lever into a scale. Using the plastic straw rope, tie the bucket to one side of lever and put it near the hole of the cage. On the other side of the lever, tie the plastic water bottle. Fill it with enough liquid so it is even with the bucket.

You can now move the lever so it stands next to the mesh cage. Place the bucket over the hole. It should remain above the cage at this point because there isn’t a bird inside to push it down.

Setting the Trap

Now you have all of the elements of the trap prepared to capture the birds. Place some seed or feed in the bucket at the bottom. This will tempt birds to step through the holes you cut into the bucket to eat the food. When they do this, the bucket will be lowered into the mesh cage.

With no other way out of the trap, the birds will exit the bucket into the cage. When they do so, the lever will pull the bucket back up to the top, trapping the bird.

One of the best elements of this trap is that it is both humane and reusable. If you are trying to trap a nuisance bird or even one of your own that has gotten loose in the backyard, it is a great option that causes no injuries and little panic for the animal.

This type of trap also includes a major pro. Once one bird has been captured, more are likely to take the bait.

You can replace the birdseed as often as necessary. If you need to remove birds from the cage, simply lift it up to expose the bottom. You can also remove the Styrofoam lid as needed.

Finally, remember to replace any parts of the trap that seem worn down. Larger birds might peck at the sides of the bucket, causing damage. Depending on how often you intend to be capturing wild birds, you might need regular cage maintenance.

The Cartoon-Box Trap

This is the final type of trap we recommend for wild birds, especially ones that have been injured.

Have you ever watched old-fashioned cartoons? You might have seen a character employ a box trap made out of a cardboard box, a piece of string, and a stick.

This method of catching birds and other animals is as old as time and surprisingly effective. It also requires little work or preparation. You might spend a long time outside waiting for your prey to come by though.

You will need the following objects:

  • A cardboard box OR a plastic laundry hamper
  • A 6-8 in. stick
  • A long piece of string
  • Birdseed

Once you have these items, you are ready. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Make sure there are no holes in the box or hamper
  2. Identify an open location in your backyard
  3. Tie one end of the rope to the stick
  4. Bring the box to your desired location and flip it upside down
  5. Prop one side of the box on the stick
  6. Place the stick firmly in the ground
  7. Spread the birdseed underneath the open box in a desirable location away from the edge
  8. Take the other end of the string and lie in wait

While this method seems cartoonish, it is a great way to catch a bird when you don’t have a lot of equipment or time to DIY a more complex project. Plus, you can feel like a certain wily coyote while waiting for your prey.


There are numerous reasons why you might need to catch a wild bird. Maybe there is an injured animal in your yard. Maybe your pet got loose and you want to get it home. Perhaps you are out in the wilderness and need to supplement your diet.

Whatever the case may be, you need to know how to make a trap.

There are multiple ways to trap birds. Some are more complex than others, while a couple of options are so simple they are straight out of a cartoon.

When it comes to catching a wild bird in your backyard, you have four options:

  • Your hands
  • The Ojibwa Bird Pole
  • A bucket and cage
  • A basic box trap

The first method is ideal when handling injured birds. Remember to wear gloves and have a piece of fabric to wrap the injured creature in.

The second is more complicated and great for survival or hunting. Remember to bring enough rope to tie the knots.

The third is ideal for someone with a lot of time and DIY materials available. It can be reused and requires no resetting once complete.

The fourth is the simplest and can be made in a matter of minutes.

Whichever option you choose, and whatever reason you may have for capturing a wild bird, we wish you luck.