Helping Baby Birds

During breeding season it is not uncommon to find baby birds on their own out of their nest. If you find a baby bird you may need to help it to give it a good chance of survival.

Robin Fledgling

The first thing you need to do is decide whether it is a baby bird in need of assistance. Many fledglings will leave the nest a few days before they can actually fly and while their parents are still caring them. You can identify a fledgling bird by its fully formed feathers on the wings and short tail. A hatchling is a young bird and will be almost bald with a few tufts of feathers. They are very small and won’t have as much energy as fledglings.

Observe the baby bird for a few minutes – if it appears active then it is probably fine on its own and its parents are probably close by. Be aware that parents can leave their chicks for up to half an hour so do not approach it and stress it if possible. However, if it is in a dangerous spot or in direct sunlight then you can carefully move it to a nearby safer spot. Try and intervene as little as possible.

If the bird is a hatchling and not moving have a look around for its nest and if you find it return the chick. If you are unable to find the nest or it has been destroyed line a small basket with tissue, wool or grass clippings and place in a tree as near to the nest site as possible. Make sure the nest is secure and the bird can’t fall out. Birds have a poor sense of smell and are unlikely to abandon their chicks even if humans have handled them. It is a good idea to wear gloves when handling baby birds if you can as birds carry mites, lice, bacteria and other parasites that can be harmful to humans. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handing wild birds.

If there are predators are about or the bird is in danger place the bird in a small box lined with soft material and cover the top loosely with a newspaper or towel. Keep the bird indoors in a quiet location until it is safe to return it to its nesting site or it can be taken by a wildlife organisation for proper care.

If you know the baby bird’s parents are dead then call a wildlife sanctuary to take it away. It is illegal to keep wild birds in captivity even if you plan to release it and you can do more harm than good trying to raise it yourself as baby birds need a specialist diet and training to learn necessary skills to survive in the wild when it is eventually released.

The best advice if you find a baby bird is to leave it alone wherever possible and only intervene if absolutely necessary. Many baby birds die and the strongest chicks will survive without human intervention ready for survival as adults in the wild.

Birds in your inbox

Sign up for the latest news and updates