It’s an unusual situation to find yourself in but one that can occur at almost anytime. You’re out walking minding your own business when you spot an injured or baby bird on the ground, what should you do? I myself know all too well after finding a baby seagull with a broken wing during a jog along the beach front.
First of all, remember that it is extremely stressful for a bird to be handled, so before doing so be sure that it is worth it depending on their injuries. It may be good to wear gloves if you are planning on catching a bird.
Catching the bird may be very difficult. Only if one of the wings are injured is it often possible to catch them without having them fly away. When you handle the bird, you must be gentle but doing so firmly with confidence. Small birds such as Blackbirds can be held in one hand. Place your other hand over the bird so that it’s head peaks out of your fingers, the rest of the fingers wrapping around them.
Birds that are too big to fit in one hand are best held with two hands, with one over each wing. Any large birds should be caught and handled by an expert, or risk injury to yourself.
Once you have caught the bird, give it a quick visual check over, and then place them in a well ventilated box. This darker environment will help calm the bird.
Once the bird is safe and in a box they should be immediately taken to the nearest vet, RSPCA or rescue centre so that it can be treated by experts.
The first thing to consider is whether they have all/most of their feathers or not.
Baby Birds with All/Most of Their Feathers
You may find a baby bird sitting or hopping around on the ground with no signs of their parents around. However, don’t be concerned and stay away from them. It is perfectly normal for a fledgling to be in this situation as they have left the nest deliberately before they are able to fly. For most birds it takes a day or more for their flight feathers to grow enough and spend their time grounded instead. It is extremely unlikely that a fledgling will be abandoned by their parents, although you cannot see them, they are most probably around somewhere. They may be looking for food, observing from a distance or even scared of the environment the fledgling is in, maybe because of your presence! Always leave fledglings where you found them and don’t handle them. The parents should feed the bird although it is on the ground, observation is the best solution here. The only circumstances in which you can handle the bird is if it is injured, or that it’s parents are definitely not around. If you find swifts, swallows or house martins on the floor they should be handled as they are never usually found on the ground.
Baby Birds with No/Very Little Feathers
If the baby bird is unfeathered or covered in nesting, and has clearly fallen out of a nest by accident, then it may be possible to put it back. Only do so if you can be certain that it’s the right nest and they are otherwise healthy. If the bird is unhealthy then as cruel as it sounds, it may have been ejected by the mother as to concentrate more on her other birds. However if this isn’t possible then take the bird to your nearest wildlife rehabilitation centre.
Baby Birds in Danger
However, you may find the baby bird in a dangerous situation such as on a busy road. In these cases moving the fledgling is required, but they should be placed somewhere safe nearby, at least within hearing distance. Birds have a poor sense of smell so you’re scent on the bird won’t usually stop the parent from caring from it.
If the fledgling is on your property and you have pets that may interfere with it then please keep them inside until the situation has resolved. Domestic animals should always give way to wild animals.