As nesting and fledgling bird season begins we ask the public to be aware of baby birds

Baby birds out of the nest infographic © RSPCASpring has sprung and as fledgling birds attempt to spread their wings and leave the nest, members of the public are being urged to leave them be.

Depending on the age of the bird human interference could be causing more harm than good.

Many fledglings discovered by members of the public are mistakenly thought to be injured or abandoned, and subsequently moved from their natural habitat.

Young garden birds, or fledglings, usually leave the nest two weeks after hatching and during this vulnerable period of their lives they are fed on the ground by their parents. Tawny owl fledglings are even able to climb back up to their nests on their own.

Most of the birds are not orphans

No matter how well-meaning, human interference can reduce a young bird’s chances of survival. Handling can cause extreme stress and being fed an inappropriate diet can cause development problems.

We are aiming to prevent thousands of baby birds from being handled unnecessarily.

Senior scientific officer at the RSPCA Adam Grogan said:

“Unless a baby bird is clearly a nestling, or is a fledgling that is injured or in immediate danger it is best to leave them alone.


“Our wildlife centres care for more than a thousand ‘orphaned’ fledglings each year, picked up by well-meaning people. Most of these birds are not orphans and would have had a better life in the wild.


“Our advice would be to leave a fledgling alone and watch from a distance. It’s likely that the parents are still around to take care of the bird.


“As well meaning as it is no one should try to return a bird to the nest. You may have the wrong nest, it may disturb the other young birds and may be illegal. If a fledgling is in immediate danger, place it in a sheltered spot a short distance away.”

Top tips to remember:

  • Keep an eye on it! – We advise anyone concerned about a fledgling to firstly observe. A bird will usually move of its own accord, or a parent will return to provide it with food.

  • If it’s a fledgling leave it be! – Fledglings are young birds that have grown most of their feathers but have not yet developed the ability to fly. The parents are usually nearby and will still be feeding the bird.

  • Nestlings need help – Nestlings are baby birds that only have a limited number of feathers. They are different from fledglings in that they are totally dependent on the security of the nest and will not fare at all well if left. Never try to care for young birds yourself – they need specialist care to survive.

  • Leave nests alone – Never return a fledgling to the nest as unsettled siblings could evacuate ahead of time, and this may also disturb the nest’s camouflage, leaving it exposed.

  • Don’t touch! – Don’t touch a baby bird unless you are sure it genuinely needs help.

  • Birds like warm and quiet – If a bird is genuinely orphaned or clearly sick, it should be put in a dark, warm box with a minimum of handling. If it’s safe to catch and handle a bird in need of help then, wearing suitable gloves, place it into a secure ventilated cardboard box, lined with towel or newspaper (do not offer food or water). Keep the bird somewhere warm and quiet and take it to your nearest wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.

Find out more about what to do if you’ve found an orphaned baby bird, and see our infographic about baby birds out of the nest.

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