Marsh tit with pox

Sick and injured birds FAQs

Frequently asked questions about sick and injured birds.


I've found an injured bird, what should I do?

For most injured birds, place them gently in a box and keep them quiet, dark and cool. It may be that the bird is in shock and will soon recover so you can let it go. If it is more seriously injured, this will reduce stress on the bird until you can get advice on how you can help it.

The RSPB does not have bird hospitals or a rescue service because we are a conservation charity. The RSPCA (England and Wales), SSPCA (Scotland), USPCA (Northern Ireland), your local vet or a local animal rescue centre, have the expertise to help and advise you about sick and injured birds and animals. The HelpWildlife website also offers advice on what to do and provides links to wildlife rescues near you. 

What should I do with an abandoned baby bird?

Probably nothing. A young bird alone on the ground has not necessarily been abandoned. The young of many birds will fledge after they grow feathers, but before they are able to fly. 

They spend a day or two on the ground before their feather development is complete. It is really best not to interfere. The parents will be close by and come to feed the bird as soon as it is safe.  

If the bird is in a vulnerable position it will do no harm to move it into shelter but not too far away as the parents will then be unable to find it. Touching a bird will not make the parents abandon it.

Watch carefully - if the parents don’t return and the youngster has definitely been abandoned then please contact the RSPCA, your local vet or a local animal rescue centre. They have the expertise to help and advise you about sick and injured birds and animals.

Why do some birds have growths on their feet?

Birds that have growths on their legs are usually suffering from a disease. Avian pox can cause deformed feet in house sparrows, starlings and pigeons. Chaffinches can develop tumours caused by a viral infection.

Bumblefoot, which affects large birds, is caused when cuts become infected and often makes it difficult for birds to perch or walk. 

Should I feed a baby bird bread and milk?

No. These are not suitable foods for young birds most of which will be fed on soft insects, worms and grubs in their early days. Scrambled egg, with a little moist cereal, is fine to begin with but more suitable food, for both seed and insect eating birds, is available from pet shops.

Will touching a baby bird make the parents abandon it?

No, birds have little or no sense of smell, but do keep contact to a minimum. It is often easier to pick a bird up by gently covering it with a cloth first.

My garden has several dead birds. Could it be food?

Not necessarily. There are many causes of birds dying, the most usual being an outbreak of an infectious disease, such as salmonella. If you clean your feeders and bird tables regularly you will help prevent infections from spreading.

If this problem persists, please contact our Wildlife Enquiries team for further advice. 

Why are the collared doves in my garden dying?

Sadly, collared doves are one of the main sufferers of a disease called trichomoniasis (canker). It affects the upper digestive tract causing lesions in the birds’ throats making it difficult to feed and eventually to breathe. 

The infected bird may die of starvation or possibly choking. It is not caused by anything that you have done. 

However, you can help to prevent it from spreading. The best course of action is to stop feeding for at least a month. Sweep up and dispose of any left over food and, if possible disinfect all feeding areas. 

In summer, natural food is plentiful so the birds will not suffer.  Your feeding area ought to be free of any infection by the time the birds return, in search of food, at the onset of cooler weather. In winter, place food in hanging feeders only. Sweep up any that falls to the ground each day, to prevent the spread of disease.

How can I do to stop my cat catcing birds?

Giving your cat a collar fitted with a bell or a sonar device will reduce the number of birds it catches. You can buy collars that are fitted with a quick release mechanism which is safer for your cat. Keeping your cat indoors at dusk and dawn, when birds are most vulnerable, will also help. 

If you keep your cat well fed, they are less likely to hunt and are more likely to stay close to home which may curb their hunting instincts.  

How can I stop birds flying into my windows?

You can fix something to the outside of your windows to stop birds from flying into them. Birds fly into windows because the reflections confuse them. Some see the reflection of trees and the sky and don’t realise it is glass. By fixing something to the window you will reduce the reflection and birds are less likely to be confused.

You can purchase a range of plastic window stickers from the RSPB shop which are ideal.  

Can fireworks be harmful to wild birds?

There is little evidence to suggest that fireworks harm wild birds or affect their conservation status. However, the RSPB is working closely with the RSPCA and the National Campaign for Firework Safety to reduce the negative impacts of fireworks on people and animals.

We particularly urge firework display organisers to avoid locating near to sensitive wildlife areas, such as nature reserves and roosting sites for wild birds.