Registered IM Charity No. 1228
Registered IM Charity No. 1228

Found a baby bird? 

If you find a baby bird that is sick, injured or has been picked up by a cat, get them to safety and then Contact Us. If you have found a healthy baby bird, read on...

A young sparrow nestling

Young nestling - needs urgent help!


Young nestlings have areas of bald skin and cannot regulate their own body temperature when out of their nest. They die very quickly unless rescued. Pick them up before something eats them and keep them warm in your hand or on a covered hot water bottle, then Contact Us immediately. Waiting half an hour could mean the difference between life and death for the bird. Do not try to give them any food or water, it could kill them. 

A robin nestling unable to stand upright

Nestling - needs help!


Nestlings may be fully feathered but they are too young to perch, walk or hop properly - they can only crawl slowly around on their hocks/ haunches. It is not recommended to  try to place a nestling back into the nest (1), as this could disturb the parents and could cause the other chicks to abandon the nest before they are ready. Disturbing a nest in any way is also illegal for some species of birds. Instead, pick  the nestling up and put them somewhere safe such as in a cardboard box indoors, and then Contact Us.

Do not try to give them any food or water unless we advice you to, it could kill them

A robin fledgling with short wings and tail

Fledgling - leave fledglings alone!

Birds such as robins, blackbirds, sparrows and song thrushes often leave the nest before they can fly properly and hop or flutter around on the ground for a few days. They have short wings and a short tail, because the feathers are still growing. Their parents will continue to feed them and warn them about predators. If their parents are away foraging or caring for their other youngsters the baby may be left alone for a few hours. If he has only just left the nest, he may sit out in the open and have no fear of humans or cats, but he should look alert, be mobile and be able to perch on a branch or on your finger. You can help a healthy fledgling by moving them to a safe area nearby where their parents will still be able to hear their calls and find them. If it is going dark, you can bring them inside in a box overnight and put them back outside in the morning. It is a myth that their parents will abandon them if they have been touched by a human. Inside a dense, prickly bush is ideal so cats can't see them. Keep your cats and dogs indoors or supervised if a fledgling is in your garden, and if their parents do not return in three or four hours, or they seem sick or injured in any way, Contact Us.

Don’t give them any food or water unless we advise you to, it could kill them.

Examples of fledglings that should be left alone


A pheasant chick - needs help

Birds such as ducks, chickens and pheasants leave the nest soon after hatching and follow their mother, who provides them with constant protection and warmth. They are fluffy, run around and peck at food by themselves but if they lose their mother they will soon die. They usually become very distressed when they lose their mother and will be running around looking for her and making "peeping" noises. They need help - reunite them with their mother if possible, or if not possible, get them to safety and then Contact Us.



A swallow and House Martin fledgling

Swallows, house martins and swifts should be able to fly when they leave the nest. If you find one that can not fly, it is either injured or has fallen out of the nest too soon. Do not throw them in the air to see if they can fly - if they have an injury and fall to the ground it could make it worse and mean that they won’t survive. Move them somewhere safe, do not give them any food or water and Contact Us for advice.  



Collared dove youngster

Pigeons and doves should also be able to fly when they leave the nest. Their parents usually will not feed them on the ground, so if you find one that can’t fly they will need help. Take them to safety then Contact Us.



This young blackbird's long wings and tail show he is old enough to fly - if he can not fly, he needs help

Many fledglings who should be left alone can be recognized by their yellow gape (the fleshy corners of their beak) and short tail and wings. If they have a long tail and wings they really should be able to fly and may have an injury. Conversely, adult birds who have been caught by cats but managed to escape  often have their tail plucked out, but will not have a yellow gape. If you aren’t sure if a bird needs help or not, Contact us and and a us a photo or video of the bird if possible so we can see what age they are and tell if they seem sick or injured. 



1. RSPCA, “Living With Nesting Birds”, accessed 02/02/2019. Link:

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