Worried about bird I saw

I was in my city centre last night and I watched a flock of little birds fluttering around a tree. I think they were wagtails but it was dark apart from the streetlight and lights from passing cars so I'm not entirely sure. Then I noticed one bird was fluttering around the base of the tree and had a large autumn leaf seemingly caught around its legs. It kept trying to fly but it couldn't get far off the ground because of the leaf. It flew across a busy road, not able to get further than a few feet off the ground, and around the shops and restaurants on the other side. It was flying in circles very low and obviously in distress. I chased after it and thought about trying to catch and rescue it but it kept flying out of reach and I wasn't sure how to do so without hurting it. I lost sight of it when it flew back onto the road and crawled under a parked bus.

The whole thing was very upsetting. Has anyone else seen anything similar? Was there anything I could have done to intervene?

  • Unfortunately birds will get caught up in litter etc occasionally, and unless they can be caught and the offending article removed they inevitably will be caught by predators or fall foul of traffic. It's particularly a problem with those plastic things that hold 4 cans of beer together, i've seen birds with these caught on a foot several times. As it was only a leaf that was snagged on your bird chances are it will have shaken it off eventually.
  • Hello ButterflyFan, as Mr.B says, it is one of the dangers birds face when they occasionally get caught up in some sort of debris but being leaf litter it stands a much better chance of being able to free itself eventually although I can understand how upsetting it was to witness and the danger to the bird who could not fly at normal height whilst tangled with the leaf in tow. I have seen larger birds like Crows and Jackdaws who have stepped on a leaf and their toes have pierced it and it has ended up around the base of their foot but being larger birds they have always managed cleverly to free themselves. Sadly there is nothing you can do but hope nature takes care of it and the leaf is eventually nibbled off by the bird or rots sufficiently to become loose. Being possibly a Pied Wagtail it does also feed off the ground for insects and other invertebrates so may still be able to find food to keep its energy levels up; if it can gain a few feet in flight it should also be able to take cover in shrubs. Thank you for trying to help the bird and if it was a leaf then it certainly has a better chance of it coming loose, rather than it having picked up some sort of discarded dangerous plastic or litter. .


    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again"