What to do if you find a baby duck, goose or swan

Baby ducks, geese and swans don't normally stray far from their parents, so the mother will usually be close to them. If their parents are dead, or they don't return within two hours, contact your local wildlife rehabilitation centre or vet for advice. If neither are available, call us on 0300 1234 999.

Bird flu warning

Due to the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) currently in place across the UK, some baby birds can't be handled. Please follow our bird flu and baby birds advice to check which species can be handled and what to do.

If you've found ducklings in a high nest

It's not unusual to see wild ducks nesting high in trees, or on a high ledge or balcony. Ducklings are light with a fluffy down, which protects them when they leave the nest from heights like this. If the nest is directly above hard flooring like concrete, you should also pile some soft materials (e.g. straw, leaves and grass) under the nest to cushion them if they fall.

However, if the nest is higher than four metres (that's higher than the first floor of a normal house), they may need help. If it's safe, gather the ducklings in a box and take them to the ground below, releasing them as a group as the mother is likely to be nearby.  If this isn't possible, call your local wildlife rehabilitation centre. If they're unable to help call us on 0300 1234 999.

If you've found ducklings on the ground

On the ground, it's usually best to leave a family alone. The mother will know what she's doing and is best placed to care for her young. Interfering carries the risk of the mother flying away and abandoning the babies.

However, if they're in an enclosed area, you can provide an easy route for them to leave safely by placing a ramp over a fence or wall. If there's no safe route out and the area is suitable for them to stay (i.e. there's some vegetation and a shallow water pool, or one could be provided), you can leave them in the area until they're old enough to fly away.

If the ducklings, goslings or cygnets need to be moved

If neither is possible, the ducklings, goslings or cygnets may need to be moved to the nearest water body. However, the mother would need to be caught first, and this can be very difficult and risks her flying off and abandoning the babies. If you think the ducklings need relocating, or the mother flies off and abandons them, contact your local wildlife rehabilitation centre and ask if they can help. If they aren't able to help, call us on 0300 1234 999.

You can find more detailed advice on what to do if you find abandoned ducklings, goslings or cygnets at the RSPB.

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