“There’s a bird in the house!” is not a phrase generally uttered in a tranquil tone. More often, it is delivered with a racing heartbeat and an alarmed cry. Ack! Whether the idea of a bird batting about your head makes you cringe — many people suffer from ornithophobia, and if you do, don’t read 5 birds that could steal your toddler, really — or whether your empathetic side puts you in “Quick! must-save-bird” overdrive, a flapping, freaked-out avian visitor can be cause for panic.

So the first thing to do is calm down. Your nervous yelps and panting are only going to scare the poor thing, and it is probably much more frightened than you are.

Next, usher out any pets that may add to the chaos — or eat the bird — and then close off the room as much as you can. Since the bird is going to head for light, it’s important to close the curtains on all windows; except one, the one you will now open as widely as possible (and remove the screen if there is one). Then turn off any lights to darken the room as much as possible, which will allow the light of the open window to act as a beacon to guide the bird out. If the room has a door to the outside, use that instead of the window for an escape route. Exit the room and the little guy should find its way out.

If a substantial amount of time has passed and the bird remains, you can hold up a spread-out sheet or cloth to try to herd the bird toward the window or door, without touching it. Some suggest tossing a towel on the bird and scooping it up, but birds are exceedingly sensitive to pressure and this should only be done as a last-ditch effort.

If all else fails, seek out the help of a wildlife removal professional; they will have the proper gear and should have species-specific smarts to help get the the trapped bird out.

(And if you have a trapped bat on your hands, see: How to remove a bat from indoors.)

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