I found a baby bird! What should I do?

We see a baby bird on the ground and we think it is alone, helpless, small, cold, clumsy and fluffy… it is hard to resist the urge to rescue. But often people intervene when in fact most chicks are "fledglings" that should be left alone.

Stop. Think. Is interfering the best thing to do in this situation? We might have the best of intentions, but taking a chick with you can be a bad thing, it is messing with nature, and can even make things worse for the chick.

Top tips:

  • If the bird is a "fledgling"… it is best to leave it alone, even if it looks awkward and cute and can’t fly properly (see graphic inside). Unless, in the very rare cases that:
  • The bird is bleeding or visibly injured by a cat/car/window… call your local wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian (not a conservation organisation)
  • It is in immediate danger… (e.g. from a road, cat about to pounce) move it a few metres to somewhere safe (e.g. into a bush off the ground) where parent birds can still hear/see it.
  • Hand-rearing a bird… is only ever the very last resort – it must be done by an expert, and often is not successful.
  • Wild birds are not pets… taking them to rear is often illegal
  • Only 30% of songbirds survive their first year… but this is a natural strategy so the strongest survive

Myth buster:

  • Birds do not abandon their chicks because of how they smell, so if you do have to handle a chick, it is ok!
  • A bird is better in nature than in your care!

For more advice on injured birds… Use the internet to find your local wildlife rehabilitator!

What does the bird look like?

Hatchling (0-3 days old)

  • No feathers (bald)
  • Eyes not yet open
  • Can hardly move
  • It is recently hatched and needs to be in a nest

Nestling (3-13 days old)

  • Eyes open
  • Some tiny feathers & maybe in tube-like sheaths
  • It is young and still needs a nest

"Just put me back in my nest; let nature do the rest"

Fledgling (13-14 days old or older)

  • Scruffy, can hop, flutter wings, grip its feet on a perch
  • Has feathers (but may be shorter)
  • It has left the nest can almost fly, but parents are still feeding it

"If I’m a little feathery, leave me be, I’ve got my mum looking after me"

Common Swift Apus apus

  • This fast-flying bird should never touch the ground its entire life. They are not very good at walking either.
  • Correctly identify the species.
  • Assess the situation: swifts need a high platform to take off!

Nature is harsh sometimes (but is still amazing!)

  • Unfortunately, despite our best efforts sometimes chicks do not survive, or are abandoned because of illness or lack of food. Often birds lay lots of eggs so the strongest survive.
  • It is sad, but sometimes a bird is a good meal for another wild animal’s family (like a bird of prey or a fox – not a cat) and is all part of the circle of life.
  • You can increase chances of nesting success by planting bird and insect friendly native plants in your garden.