Trapped birds

In the situation that you have discovered a wild animal trapped in a difficult place such as in a chimney or in netting, there are a number of actions you can take to help the animal and help our animal rescuers too.

Bird trapped in an inaccessible place that I cannot reach

Locations could include under floorboards, behind a bricked-up fireplace or in a cavity wall. In the instance that you've found a trapped bird please call our helpline on 0300 1234 999. Be sure to pass on as much information as you can to the team at the RSPCA early on to help avoid unnecessary delays.

Bird trapped in an unoccupied or rarely visited building

If the building is for sale/to let, make a note of the agent's contact details if known. Pass on anything that you can find out to us.

Bird trapped on ice

In 99.9% of reported occurrences, the bird is not actually stuck, despite appearing to be so. Never attempt to rescue a bird that appears to be stuck on ice. Instead, safely monitor the animal for three hours. If the bird has not moved after three hours (including prior to calling our RSPCA helpline) - let us know and we will take further action.

Birds trapped in netting

Be sure to pass on all detailed information to our call taker. The next steps will vary depending on the specific situation.

  • For building netting, please contact the owners of the building or construction site where the netting is situated as they're legally responsible for maintaining the netting.
  • For hedge/tree/cliff netting - the issue is usually caused by hedges being netted in advance of construction work. In this case, please contact the construction company/developers where the netting is situated as they are also legally responsible for maintaining the netting.

On the occasion of a repeat offence, such as birds becoming trapped in the same netting on several occasions where nothing has been done by the people responsible for the netting, please call our helpline on 0300 1234 999. This would qualify as illegal activity and would need to be reported. In the case of multiple dead birds found trapped in netting, this too would be an illegal act to be reported.

Can I cut or remove the netting myself?

Unfortunately, the use of such netting is currently legal. There is a petition running on this topic to ask MPs to debate the issue and we are awaiting the Government's response.

We advise that you or any other member of the public do not damage, cut or remove any netting as this could leave you or them liable to a charge of criminal damage. Additionally, damaged netting could risk trapping more animals under it.

What can I do to help?

If you're reporting netting over hedges or trees but there's no immediate animal welfare concern (no animals currently trapped in or under the netting), the best action to take it to contact the property developers who are responsible for the netting.

Our stance on hedge netting

Netting is often used in this way by property developers to prevent birds from nesting in trees/hedges which workers are planning to remove for development work. Here at the RSPCA, we don't agree with the use of netting in this way and recommend that any development work requiring the removal of such nesting sites should wait until after the nesting season (if it's required at all).

What to do with a bird trapped in a chimney

Some birds will choose a chimney as an alternative nesting site to one in a tree. Any birds seen nesting in a chimney should be left alone. Wild birds, their eggs and young are protected by law. If the owner of the property doesn't want the birds to return to the chimney to nest the following year, a professional can be called in to prevent the birds from getting back in.

The usual method is to attach a wire mesh guard or cowl to the top of the chimney after the nest has been abandoned, in order to deter the birds from nesting in that location in the future.

Any fully feathered adult bird that is trapped can be removed and released during the day if they're not injured and appear lively, alert and showing no signs of being affected by soot. However, do not remove the bird if they:

  • Appear dazed (which is quite likely)
  • Have been trapped in the chimney for a number of hours
  • Appear to be injured (for example, they have a damaged wing or soot in their eyes)
  • Seem to be young (a partly feathered nestling or fledgeling that is found in the spring or summer).

If any of the above points are applicable, then the bird should be contained in a closed box with ventilation holes and taken to the nearest vet or wildlife rehabilitator.

Birds that have come down a chimney and are active in the room will navigate to the nearest, brightest light source. For this reason, it's advisable to provide only one exit point to avoid confusing the bird by closing all but one window or external door, turning the lights off and drawing curtains over all the other closed windows. You can try placing a torch at the bottom of the chimney (so that the floor is visible, don't point it straight up the chimney at the bird).

Therefore, in the instance that you discover a bird trapped in a chimney, you can help by opening all of the windows and any external doors in the room and making sure that you also pull any curtains all the way back. You should then leave the room and monitor the situation for two hours.

If the bird appears to be sick or injured once free from the chimney, please read our advice on what to do with injured wild animals. In the case that the bird appears to be healthy, see 'bird inside a property' guidance below.

Bird found inside a property

Firstly, give the bird time to find their own way out. Open an external door or window and give only one source of light (block off all other light sources, including the fireplace). It may take some time for the bird to leave, so the room should be left quiet and empty. Follow by monitoring quietly for two hours. If all options fail - pass on all available information to our animal rescuer.

Bird or other animal trapped behind or above a gas fire

Only British Gas Service Engineers or Gas Safe Register engineers are permitted and qualified to disconnect/reconnect gas mains or appliances. You will need to contact one of the above to have a fire disconnected before any attempt can be made to rescue the animal. They will charge for the service with costs varying throughout the country.

Unfortunately, due to limited resources, we're not able to pay for or make a contribution to the disconnection/reconnection of a gas fire appliance. All costs of disconnections or re-connections are the responsibility of the tenant, homeowner or pet owner.

Pensioners may wish to approach Age UK (formerly Age Concern) for assistance. While anyone on benefits should appeal to British Gas Services or make a direct complaint via the Gas Consumers Council.

In the situation of finding a bird in a gas appliance, our animal rescuers are not able to remove the bird themselves. Even if the bird is trapped in or behind a disconnected appliance, a gas safe registered engineer still needs to move the appliance due to health and safety issues. Our RSPCA animal rescuers cannot help remove birds or other animals trapped behind gas appliances because our team are not qualified to work on any gas fittings.

Do I have to disconnect my gas appliance to help a trapped bird?

While we understand that you may not want to have your gas disconnected professionally as a result of a trapped bird, and while there is no legal obligation for a member of the public to disconnect a gas fire to get a bird/animal out - please do be aware that there may be health and safety issues that a rotting carcass can pose to humans. For all concerned, it would be better to do what is needed to release the trapped bird.

Once the bird has been freed, if the bird/animal is uninjured and strong enough to fly, it should be allowed to escape through an open door or window. Alternatively, it may be confined then released safely outside. If the bird is injured or too weak to fly, please read our advice on caring for injured wildlife.

What to do with injured wild animals.

A bird has flown into a window

If you're aware of a bird that has flown into a window, who has no visible injuries but is perhaps a bit stunned, the best thing to do is monitor them quietly for two hours. In the situation of the bird having been confined for monitoring, and if the bird appears to have recovered within the two hours, you should open the box outside, close to where the bird was found, and allow 15 minutes for the bird to fly away. If the bird still seems stunned and unable to fly after two hours, please get in touch and let us know.

How to stop birds from flying into a window

Birds will sometimes fly into windows as a result of being confused with the reflection (which may be of trees or the sky)  and therefore don't realise that it's glass. To deter birds from flying into a window, you can try putting something over the window to minimise the reflection, for example, a stick-on silhouette of a bird of prey.

What to do with injured wildlife

Read more information and advice relating to injured wild animals.

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