Well, I am still conflicted about this step, which seemed very exciting and heroic at first. Clarissa said, "Mom, there's a really fat bird in the yard!" and when I went to look, realized it was a baby bird hopping along. We went out to look and it barely moved even though we were 3 feet away, and it would seem to be sleeping between hopping as if exhausted. When it hopped over to the alley (with some breaks in between), I decided to go get a box (the "house of God" box was handy), line it with newspaper, and see if it would hop in. I didn't want it to get run over!
So he fluttered a little when I approached and maybe went a foot off the ground but landed with his wings out. They didn't look strange or injured, just like he wasn't able to really fly yet. But I scooped him into the box when he fluttered up, and he seemed to really relax (it was a windy, rainy day) and fell into a good sleep with his head tucked around into his back feathers. BTW, he was fully-feathered and extremely plump, so he did not seem to urgently need warmth or a meal.
Robert got home soon after I "rescued" him from the alley, and I called my mom who has raised a few robins in her day. I remember as a girl the smell of baby meat and feeding some birds who had hatched from eggs with a dropper thing. But these birds we raised were not fledglings who had left the nest; they had no feathers and needed to be in a yogurt maker incubator etc. This little bird was clearly older and about ready to fly, even if he had taken off/fallen out prematurely. We looked for the nest, but could not find any sign of it. Our tree is so tall, we wouldn't have been able to get him back in it anyway. We put a tee shirt over the box so he wouldn't try to fly out the top and hurt himself.
Meanwhile, Robert looked online and found some info about what to do in this kind of situation. He said that the bird's mom probably hadn't abandoned it, and she needs to be able to find it visually (not just hear it chirping). So we decided to turn the box on its side so the little bird could hop out if he wanted to, and the mom could see him if she was looking for it. Or he could stay in there if it liked the shelter from the wind. I had to leave to take the kids to see my mom graduate from a program, but before Robert left for praise team, the birdie was hopping around under our tree, at least safe from the rain.
Here is another webpage about caring for baby birds and how usually the best thing to do is to leave them alone. I didn't read this, of course, until I had already intervened. On the other hand, I know that the alley was not a safe place for him, and there are plenty of cats roaming around in our neighborhood, so I'm not sure he would have been safe hopping around like a sitting duck. Hmm, somehow that analogy doesn't work. But the mom came back to look for him, and I wanted to yell, "He's over here, momma!" Clarissa got to see him sleeping in the box, later naming him "Little Fly," but we couldn't find any worms for him in our garden before we left. Robert and I were going to decide later that night what to do if the momma didn't find him. To be continued...you can listen to the CD "You are My Little Bird" by Elizabeth Mitchell in the meantime. It is a sweet children's album.