Baby Snipe

Found a baby bird? Here's what to do

In spring and summer, it's common to find young birds sitting on the ground or hopping about without any sign of their parents. If you've found a baby bird and aren't sure what to do, follow our advice below.

Is the baby bird injured?

Does the baby bird have obvious injuries, ie wounds or a hanging wing?

YES

The RSPB doesn't run bird hospitals or a rescue service, so please don't contact us about a baby bird, as we can't help.

The RSPCA (England and Wales), SSPCA (Scotland) and USPCA (Northern Ireland) are the national charities that help and advise on injured wildlife. You can also find an independent local rescue centre on Help Wildlife

Find more advice on what to do when you find an injured bird.

 

NO

Move on to the next section.

Young chick, Conwy RSPB Reserve

Does it have feathers?

YES

This is a fledgling.

The young of most familiar garden birds fledge once they are fully feathered, but before they can fly. These fledglings spend a day or two, sometimes longer, on the ground while their flight feathers complete their growth. The only exceptions are swifts, swallows and house martins, which can fly well as soon as they leave the nest and should never be found on the ground.

Tawny owl chicks are mobile at a very early age. You may see them climbing in and around their nest tree before they are even half-grown. 

Move on to "Is the fledgling in danger" to find out what to do next.

 

NO

This is a nestling who may have fallen out of the nest by accident.

Move on to the "Can you see an obvious nest" section to find out what to do next.

 

Please don't contact us about a baby bird, as we can't help. If you find an injured bird, contact The RSPCA (England and Wales), SSPCA (Scotland) and USPCA (Northern Ireland).

Is the fledgling in danger?

YES

If the bird is on a busy path or road, or other potentially dangerous, exposed location, you can pick it up and move it a short distance to a safer place. Make sure you leave it within hearing distance of where you found it. Birds have a poor sense of smell so handling a young bird won't cause its parents to abandon it.

If you have cats, make sure you keep them indoors until the fledglings are airborne. In any conflict of interest between wild animals and domestic pets, it's always the domestic pet that must give way.

 

NO

Do nothing.

However tempting, interfering with a young bird like this will do more harm than good. Fledglings are extremely unlikely to be abandoned by their parents. Just because you can't see the adult birds does not mean that they're not there. The parents are probably just away collecting food - or are hiding nearby, keeping a watchful eye, or even being frightened away from their youngster by your presence. You should leave fledglings where they are, in the care of their own parents.

Removing a fledgling from the wild reduces its chances of long-term survival to a small fraction, and is a very last resort - only if it's injured or has definitely been abandoned or orphaned.

Captive-bred Corncrakes, Crex crex, at Whipsnade Zoo.

Can you see an obvious nest with similar birds?

YES

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. Only do this if you are sure which nest the chick came from and if it appears strong and healthy. Sometimes parent birds sense there is something wrong with one of their chicks, or that it is dying. In cases like this, they will eject the nestling so they can concentrate on looking after the healthy siblings.

Find out what to do if you suspect the nestling has been abandoned.

 

NO

If you can't return a healthy chick to its nest, it will be dependent on humans for survival and you should pass it on to an expert rehabilitator as soon as possible.

If the young bird is fully covered in feathers, it will have left the nest deliberately and doesn't need help returning to it. You should leave this chick where it is, in the care of its parents.

Yellow wagtail chicks in nest in potato field

Who to contact for help

The RSPB doesn't run bird hospitals or a rescue service, so please don't contact us about a baby bird, as we can't help.

The RSPCA (England and Wales), SSPCA (Scotland) and USPCA (Northern Ireland) are the national charities that help and advise on injured wildlife. You can also find an independent local rescue centre on Help Wildlife

Young house sparrows feeding on garden lawn

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