At this time of year we get hundreds of calls from well-meaning members of the public about the seemingly helpless baby birds they’ve discovered on the ground.
But it’s vital that people resist the urge to intervene – this is a natural part of the bird’s development, so keep calm and step away.
Just before baby birds are ready to tentatively extend a wing, wiggle a tail feather and take flight for the first time, they leave their nest – “fledge” as it’s called.
Fledglings then spend a couple of days on the ground and around the nest developing their final flight feathers.
The fledglings will appear fully feathered and hop around your garden in broad daylight – hence why members of the public are convinced they need rescuing.
Another common fear is that the fledgling has been deserted by its parents. But fledglings are extremely unlikely to be abandoned.
Mum and dad are probably off gathering food or hiding nearby with a beady eye on their young, waiting for you to leave. Parents know best and are the experts in rearing their young. Removing a fledgling from the wild significantly reduces its chances of long-term survival – so please don’t ‘kidnap’ the baby bird, even in a well-meaning way.
There are only a couple of situations when the public should lend a friendly helping hand:
Immediate Danger: If the baby bird is found on a busy road or path, and if it is safe to do so, we advise it is picked up and moved a short distance to a safer place – this must be within hearing distance of where the fledgling was found. Similarly, if you discover your cat or dog eyeing up a fledgling we recommend that you keep your domestic pet indoors for a couple of days – or at least around dawn and dusk.
Injury: If an injured fledgling is discovered this should be reported immediately to the RSPCA on: 0300 1234 999.
Sometimes local vets treat wild birds for free, but please check with them first.
Nestlings: If a baby bird is discovered on the ground that is either unfeathered or covered only in its fluffy nestling down, it has likely fallen out of its cosy nest ahead of schedule. Very occasionally it is possible to put these babies back in their nest, but only if you are 100% sure of the nest it has fallen from.
However, sometimes a parent bird will intentionally eject a chick from the nest if they sense it has an underlying health problem or is dying. It’s a harsh truth to stomach, as humans we want to fix things, but sometimes we need to allow the law of nature to run its course.
Visit: www.rspb.org.uk/myplan to find out more information.