6 July 2010
It's common in spring and summer to find young birds sitting on the ground or hopping about without any sign of their parents.
This is perfectly normal, so there's no need to be worried. The parents are probably just away collecting food - or are hidden from view nearby, keeping a watchful eye.
'Fledglings should be left where they are, in the care of their parents.'
The young of most familiar garden birds fledge once they are fully feathered, but before they're able to fly, they spend a day or two on the ground while their feathers finish developing.
Tawny owl chicks are mobile at a very early age, and can be seen climbing in and around their nest tree before they are even half grown.
If you find a fledgling or young owl, the best thing to do is to leave it where it is.
What if the bird is in danger?
Removal of a fledgling from the wild reduces its chances of long-term survival to a small fraction. Fledglings should be left where they are, in the care of their parents.
If the bird is on a busy path or road, or other potentially dangerous, exposed location, it makes sense to pick it up and move it a short distance to a safer place. Birds have a poor sense of smell so handling a young bird does not cause its parents to abandon it but make sure you leave it within hearing distance of where it was found.
Just because you cannot see the adult birds does not mean that they are not there. They will be in cover, close by, and will tend to the youngster once you move away. Only remove a fledgling as a very last resort if it is injured or has definitely been abandoned.
Can I put it back in its nest?
If the young bird is unfeathered or covered in fluffy down (a nestling) and has obviously fallen out of a nest by accident, it may be possible to put it back.
If this can't be done, the chick is dependent on humans for survival, and it should be passed on to an expert rehabilitator, such as a local vet.
All birds, their nest and eggs are protected by law to give birds the very best chance of long-term survival.
The RSPB does not run bird hospitals or a rescue service. The RSPCA (England and Wales), SSPCA (Scotland) and USPCA (Northern Ireland) are the national charities that help and advise on sick and injured birds and animals. Tiggywinkles and The Swan Sanctuary also take in wild birds in need of care.