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...
Young nestlings have areas of bald skin and can not 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: