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When is it Right to Rescue a Young Bird?

During the spring, you may come across a young bird on the floor. It is tempting to pick the bird up as it will inevitably look vulnerable but this might not be the best thing to do. It is easy to assume that the little chap has been abandoned or has fallen out of its nest but this may not be the case. So how do you determine the right course of action?


Many of the birds that you may find on the floor are actually fledglings which are learning to fly. It takes some time for youngsters to master the art of flying, between 12 hours and 5 days, in fact. Their first attempt will inevitably result in failure and some time spent on the ground. The parents leave them there deliberately to encourage them to learn.

The parent birds will most likely remain close by and will probably have seen to it that their offspring spread out to make life harder for predators. Both the chicks and the parents will have hiding places in which to conceal themselves. This system has worked well for thousands of years. Some young birds are inevitably taken but many will prosper. Youngsters which are on the floor because they are learning to fly should not be picked up.

Dangerous Situations

However, there are certain situations when you should rescue these birds. If you discover a bird which is in imminent danger because it is in the road or you have established that both parents have been killed, then you should pick the bird up. Do not pick up a bird just because you think there are predators about as there always are! Cats, birds of prey and foxes will always be on the prowl, this is simply nature at work. The predators need to eat too.

The fact is that in most cases a bird will be better off taking their chances with the predators than being reared in a rescue centre. Many rescued birds simply don’t make it when returned to the wild as they have not had the benefit of their parents’ lessons in how to survive.

Identifying a Fledgling

Fledglings can be identified easily as they will be fully feathered with no fluff and bald patches. In most species, the wing tips, when at rest, will be touching and crossing just above the base of the tail.

Younger Chicks

If you discover very young chicks on the ground, you should pick them up and take them to a rescue organisation as they will not survive on their own. These birds can be recognised readily because they are generally bald or covered in fluff. They would not be able to fly and have probably fallen from their nest.

Caring for a Young Bird

If you do rescue a little bird, provide it with water but nothing else, certainly not milk. Keep handling to a minimum as it is important that the birds do not become too tame. Get the bird to an expert as soon as possible as you are unlikely to be successful in rearing it yourself.


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