Found a baby bird out of a nest?

It's very common in the spring and summer to find baby birds on the ground. Birds take far better care of their babies than humans can, so if you find a baby bird, keep pets away and follow our advice below.

If the baby bird has no feathers

Two nestlings © RSPCA

Nestlings are baby birds that have no feathers, or only a few. Nestlings won't survive long outside the protection of the nest and where possible nestlings should be re-nested and left in the wild.

If you can't see a nest in the surrounding trees, or it's fallen down or been damaged, then you can make a replacement nest to put the nestling back into. This could be as simple as a basket or plant pot with some nesting material inside, securely attached to the nearest tree.

If the bird is injured the quickest way to help is to contact your local wildlife rescue centre or vet.

More information

Helping a nestling step by step guide

If the baby bird has feathers

Two fledglings © RSPCA

Fledglings have all or most of their feathers and leave the nest just before they can fly, so it's normal to see them on the ground. Keep pets away, leave the fledgling alone and monitor, as the parents are usually nearby and feeding the bird.

Even if you have already confined a healthy fledgling you may still be able to return them to their parents. If they're in immediate danger, place it in a sheltered spot a short distance away.

More information

Helping a fledgling step by step guide

Found a nestling

Found a nestling © RSPCA

Found a fledgling

Found a fledgling © RSPCA

How to protect a baby bird from danger

If the baby bird is out of their nest and in immediate danger, then you can pick it up (using gloves) and move it a very short distance to somewhere safe, no more than a few metres away.

Look for somewhere with shelter for the bird, and where the parents will still be able to find them easily.

How to tell if a baby bird has been orphaned

Baby birds should only be taken into captivity as a last resort if:

  • they're sick or injured
  • it's known that the parents are dead
  • or they've been continuously monitored from a distance for more than two hours and the parents haven't returned.

In these cases, you should contact your local wildlife rehabilitation centre or vet as soon as possible.

The baby bird is visibly injured

An injured baby bird will need specialist care and rehabilitation to survive, so the best thing to do is to contact a local wildlife rehabilitation centre or a vet as soon as possible. This is often the quickest way to get help for birds as our officers may be out of the area attending other calls.

You may be asked to take the bird to the centre yourself, if you need to handle the bird follow our advice about handling and boxing the animal up.

If the wildlife centre or vets are unavailable, or you're unable to transport the baby bird, please contact us.

Eggs and nests should be left alone

Birds are at their most vulnerable when nesting. Any disturbance could cause death or injury to wild birds and their young - or cause them to abandon their nests, eggs and young.

Birds' eggs are also legally protected, so please don't touch or move them even if you want to help the birds, as you might be breaking the law.

If you've found a nest that you think needs to be moved, check you're legally able to. 

Species-specific advice

Not all species nest in trees or remain in the nest until they're a fledgling.

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