It’s that time of year when the Northern RSPB Wildlife Enquiries Team receives lots of calls from the well-meaning public about the cute, helpless baby birds they have discovered on the ground.
Kate Whitehead, speaking for the RSPB Northern England Region, says: “It’s vital that people resist the urge to intervene – this is a natural part of the bird’s development, so keep your distance and step away.
“Just before baby birds are ready to tentatively extend a wing, wiggle a tail feather and take flight for the first time, they leave their nest, or “fledge” as it’s called. Fledglings then spend a couple of days on the ground developing their final flight feathers.
“The fledglings will appear fully feathered and spend these days hopping around your garden in broad daylight – hence why so many members of the public are convinced they need rescuing.
“Another common fear is that the fledgling has been deserted by its parents. However, fledglings are extremely unlikely to be abandoned. The parents are probably off gathering food, or more likely hiding nearby with a beady eye on their young, waiting for you to back away. The parents know best and are more than capable of looking after their own.
“Removing a fledgling from the wild significantly reduces its chances of long-term survival – so please don’t ‘kidnap’ the baby bird. There are only a couple of situations when the public should lend a friendly helping hand:
“If the baby bird is found on a busy road or path, it would then be advised to pick the bird up and move it a short distance to a safer place - this must be within hearing distance of where the fledgling was found. Similarly, if you discover your cat or dog eyeing up a fledgling in your garden we recommend that you endeavour to keep your domestic pet indoors for a couple of days – or at least around dawn and dusk.
“If an injured fledgling is discovered this should be reported immediately to the RSPCA on: 0300 1234 999. Sometimes local vets will treat wild birds for free, but please call and check with them first.
“If a baby bird is discovered on the ground that is either unfeathered or covered only in its fluffy nestling down, it has likely fallen out of its cosy nest ahead of schedule. Very occasionally it is possible to put these babies back in their nest, but only if you are 100% positive of the nest it has fallen from and it’s safe to do so.
“It is also important to remember that sometimes a parent bird will intentionally eject a chick from the nest if they sense it has an underlying health problem or is dying. It’s a harsh truth to stomach, as humans we want to fix things, but sometimes we need to allow the law of nature to run its full circle.
Adam Grogan, Senior Scientific Officer for the RSPCA says: “Our wildlife centres care for more than a thousand fledglings that people think have been orphaned each year, picked up by well-meaning people. Most of these birds are not orphans and would have had a better life in the wild.
Unless a baby bird is clearly a nestling, or is a fledgling that is injured or in immediate danger it is best to leave them alone.”