RSPB's Morwenna Alldis reminds us that at this time of year most baby birds found on the ground, don’t need rescuing – it’s part of the natural fledging process. Morwenna explains the few instances when baby birds may need help and the steps that we should take.
At this time of year we get hundreds of calls from well-meaning members of the public about the seemingly helpless baby birds they’ve discovered on the ground. And with the past two years of lockdown spurring us to pay closer attention to our gardens and greenspaces, our now expert nature eyes may spot even more chicks than usual. But most of the time it’s important that we resist the urge to ‘rescue’ the baby bird – this is a natural part of the bird’s development, so keep calm and step away.
Photo above: baby bird on the ground by Gerard Harris
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 – “fledge” as it’s called. Fledglings then spend a couple of days on the ground and around the nest developing their final flight feathers. The fledglings will appear fully feathered and hop around your garden in broad daylight – hence why members of the public are convinced they need rescuing.
Another common fear is that the fledgling has been deserted by its parents. But fledglings are extremely unlikely to be abandoned. Mom and dad are probably off gathering food or hiding nearby with a beady eye on their young, waiting for you to leave. Parents know best and are the experts in rearing their young. Removing a fledgling from the wild significantly reduces its chances of long-term survival – so please don’t accidentally kidnap the baby bird, even in a well-meaning way.
Photo above: juvenile wren perched on a branch by Verity Hill (rspb-images.com)
There are just a few situations when the public should lend a friendly helping hand:
Photo above: Swallow fledglings being fed by parent bird on a branch by Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
Occasionally, 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 course.
It’s also really important to remember at this time of year that over half of England’s most threatened breeding birds nest on or near the ground. So we’re asking everyone when out exploring nature, to please follow the Countryside Code by keeping to footpaths, adhering to any signs flagging ground nesting birds, and please keep dogs on leads. By watching your step this breeding season you can help save the lives of some very vulnerable feathered friends.
To find out how you can help the nature on your doorstep, visit here. To help us continue our vital work and help give nature a home, please donate or become and RSPB member - we couldn't do any of it without your generosity and support.
Photo above: Three skylark chicks in their ground nest.
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