Found a baby bird

If you find a baby bird, keep pets away and follow the advice below. Birds take far better care of their babies than humans can, and should only be taken into care as a last resort.

When to help and when to leave alone

This usually depends on whether it's a fledgling or a nestling, so we've created visual guides for what to do if you've found a baby bird out of the nest.

Found a sick or injured bird?

If you find a baby bird on the ground and unsure if you should help or how - get professional advice first.

Nestlings

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, as birds take far better care of their babies than humans can.

Avoid handling wildlife unless absolutely necessary, always wear sturdy gloves and don't give baby animals food or water.

Fledglings

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.

Found a nestling

Found a nestling © RSPCA

Found a fledgling

Found a fledgling © RSPCA

Species-specific advice

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

Check if the baby bird is orphaned or not

Our wildlife centres care for over a thousand 'orphaned' fledglings each year, picked up by well-meaning people. Most of these birds aren't orphans and would've been better off left in the wild, as their parents know how to look after them better.

Help for orphaned birds

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

  • they are sick or injured
  • it's known the parents are dead
  • 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. This is often the quickest way to get help for birds as our officers may be out of the area attending other calls. If neither is available, or you're unable to transport the baby bird, please contact us.

Young birds can't be cared for at home - they need specialist care and facilities to survive.

Capture and boxing baby birds

If it's safe to catch and handle the bird then, wearing suitable gloves, place it into a secure ventilated cardboard box, lined with a towel or newspaper. Don't offer food or water as they require a specialised diet.

Keep the bird somewhere warm and quiet and take it to your nearest wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible. Always contact them first to make sure they can take the bird.

Take to your nearest wildlife centre

It's often faster to take an animal to a wildlife rehabilitator yourself, as our officers may be out of the area attending other calls. If you're unable to transport the baby bird, contact us.

Find your nearest wildlife rehabilitator

Why wild birds can't be cared for at home

It's understandable that anyone finding a young bird out of the nest would wish to help it, but young birds need specialist care if they can't be returned to their parents. Without such specialist care, young birds can get sick and die, or may become dependant on people and can't be released back into the wild.

Any animal in human care must have their needs met by law under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and successfully rehabilitating wildlife requires specialist training and facilities, along with significant cost and time investment.

Wild animals should therefore always be taken to experienced professionals, such as wildlife rehabilitation centres or vets, for rehabilitation.

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