Restrain the urge to ‘rescue’ little chicks tottering towards independence, says RSPB

Jenna Hutber

Tuesday 21 May 2019

The plaintive cries of tiny, delicate baby birds finding their feet are heartrending.

But wildlife charity RSPB is warning bird lovers to resist the impulse to intervene.

RSPB Wildlife advisor Charlotte Ambrose said: “Every year we get inundated with calls from people worried about an abandoned chick in their garden, desperately calling for its mum.

“It’s extremely unlikely they have been deserted and in many cases there is a parent nearby keeping a beady eye on their chick’s progress or collecting food.

“Although it’s natural to want to protect fluffy and fragile creatures hopping around all alone, the most helpful thing you can do is keep your distance.

“Fledglings may appear dainty but they are tougher than they look and typically spend a day or two on the ground before they are ready to spread their wings and take flight for the first time.

“Mum knows tough love is the only way her young will learn to fend for themselves.”

“It is vital the chicks are left alone.”

Removing a young bird from the wild significantly reduces its chances of long-term survival. 

An RSPCA spokesperson said: “During the annual baby bird boom at this time of year, the RSPCA’s wildlife centres care for over a thousand 'orphaned' fledglings each year, picked up by well-meaning people.

“But many of these birds are not orphans and often would have been better off if they had been left in the wild.

“The animal charity has seen a 81% increase in the number of calls to collect fledglings over the past 5 years (from 3,835 in 2014 to 6,958 in 2018), so it is really important to ensure it is only those that really need help that are brought in.”

There are only a few of situations when the public should lend a friendly helping hand:

Immediate Danger

If the baby bird is found on a busy road or path, it would then be advised to pick the bird up and move it a short distance to a safer place (dense shrubbery) - this must be within hearing distance of where the fledgling was found. Similarly, if you discover your cat or dog eyeing up a fledgling in your garden we recommend that you endeavour to keep your domestic pet indoors for a couple of days – or at least around dawn and dusk.


If an injured fledgling is discovered this should be reported immediately to the RSPCA on: 0300 1234 999.  Sometimes local vets treat wild birds for free, but please check with them first.


If a baby bird is discovered on the ground that is either unfeathered or covered only in its fluffy nestling down, it has likely fallen out of its cosy nest ahead of schedule. Very occasionally it is possible to put these babies back in their nest, but only if you are 100% positive of the nest it has fallen from and it’s safe to do so.

It is also important to remember that sometimes a parent bird will intentionally eject a chick from the nest if they sense it has an underlying health problem or is dying. It’s a harsh truth to stomach, but sometimes we need to allow the law of nature to run its full circle.

Tagged with: Country: UK Topic: Birds and wildlife Topic: Garden birds