How to help injured birds

Discovered a bird in distress? This page has the information you need to deal with injuries and attacks.

A lone juvenile Guillemot sat on a beach looking weak and possibly injured.
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I've found an injured bird, what should I do?

Most injured birds can be placed gently in a box and put in a quiet, dark and cool space. The bird may be in shock and will soon recover, when you can let it go. If it’s more seriously injured, this will reduce stress on the bird until you can get advice.

It’s best to contact the RSPCA (England and Wales), SSPCA (Scotland), USPCA (Northern Ireland) or your local vet. You could also visit the Help Wildlife website for advice and to find local wildlife rescue centres.  

Birds that have been caught by a cat should always be taken to a vet as a matter of urgency because of the high risk of septicaemia, which is fatal within around 48 hrs. 

Handling small birds

Catching an injured bird can be tricky and care must be taken not to cause the bird further injury. Handling must be firm but gentle.

Small birds up to Blackbird size can be held in one hand. Place your hand over the bird so that its head fits between your forefinger and middle finger. The rest of your fingers will naturally wrap around each wing, holding the bird firmly. 

Handling larger birds

Medium-sized birds are best held with two hands, one over each wing. Handling large birds requires great care because of risk of injury to the handler.

Unless you’re used to handling large birds, it’s best to call an expert rescuer rather than try to capture it yourself. 

A close up view of a screaming Goshawk in a sea of forest.

What should I do with an abandoned baby bird?

Probably nothing. A young bird alone on the ground has not necessarily been abandoned. If the bird is in a vulnerable position, it will do no harm to move it to safety but not too far away, as the parents will then be unable to hear and find it. Touching a bird will not make the parents abandon it. 

Watch carefully – if the parents don’t return, please contact the RSPCA, SSPCA, USPCA, your local vet or a local animal rescue centre.  

A female Goosander swimming near the bank of a pond, with two chicks on her back and two more swimming in the water behind her.

How can I stop my cat catching birds?

Giving your cat a collar fitted with a bell will reduce the number of birds it catches. Make sure it has a quick release mechanism to keep your cat safe.

Keeping your cat indoors at dusk and dawn, when birds are most vulnerable, will also help. If your cat is well fed, it’s less likely to hunt. 

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. Visit the RSPB Shop for a range of window stickers which are ideal.

Injured wild birds and the law

It is legal to take in and keep most injured wild birds for the purpose of looking after them and releasing them as soon as they are fit. 

Before taking and keeping an injured bird, check to see if it is listed in Schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Injured birds of prey should be given to an experienced bird of prey keeper or raptor rehabilitator to look after. Please contact Raptor Rescue, RSPCA/SSPCA/USPCA or a vet for advice on the best course of action. As a conservation group with no welfare expertise or facilities, the RSPB cannot help with an injured animal of any kind.

Some birds of prey, such as peregrines and goshawks, have to be registered before they can be legally kept in captivity. For further information on licensing requirements, please follow the links below to the Defra, Scottish Executive, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Department of Environment websites.

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