RSPB issues warning not to help birds found on the ground

Helping fledglings found on the ground could do more harm than good, the RSPB has warned.

The RSPB reminds the public that most fledglings found on the ground do not need to be rescued, saying this is actually part of the natural fledging process.

Morwenna Alldis, spokeswoman for the RSPB, said: “Just before the fledglings are ready to tentatively spread a wing, wag a tail feather and take flight for the first time, they leave their nest – “fly away” as it is called.

“The chicks then spend a few days on the ground and around the nest developing their final flight feathers.

“The baby birds will appear fully feathered and jump around your garden in broad daylight – which is why members of the public are convinced they need rescuing.”

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However, Morweanne added: “Another common fear is that the youngster has been abandoned by his parents. But youngsters are extremely unlikely to be abandoned.

“Removing a baby bird from the wild greatly reduces its chances of long-term survival – so please don’t accidentally kidnap the baby bird, even in a well-intentioned way.”

According to the charity, there are just a few situations where the public should lend a friendly helping hand:

Immediate danger:

If the baby bird is found on a busy road or path, and it is safe to do so, the RSPB advises picking it up and moving it a short distance to a safer location – this should be at a distance hearing of where the youth was found.

Likewise, if you discover that your cat or dog is looking young, the charity recommends that you keep your pet indoors as much as possible.


If the youngster is injured or caught by a cat, the quickest way to get medical help is often to take them to your local vet, most treat wild birds free of charge, but call first.

The chicks:

If a baby bird is discovered on the ground without feathers or covered only in its fluffy down, it likely fell out of its cozy nest sooner than expected.

Very occasionally it is possible to put these babies back in their nest, but only if you are 100% sure of the nest from which it fell.

barn owl chick:

White Barn Owls Peek and Boo at Blair Drummond Safari Park (Andrew Milligan/PA)

If found on the ground, confirm first that it is a barn owl and not a tawny owl (light colored, dark eyes and eyelids). Write down the exact location where you found it.

It is not normal for young barn owls to be out of the nest before they can fly, if left they will likely be ignored by their parents and not survive. Contact a local lifeguard, the Barn Owl Trust or the RSPCA for help.

Nests of swallows or broken swallows:

If you find a nest that has fallen chicks, you can use a shallow ice cream or margarine tub with drainage holes in the base, or a low plastic planter will also work. Place as much of the old nest inside the container with hay and put the chicks inside.

Place the nest as high as possible, but if you can’t fit the new nest under the eaves, you’ll need to put some kind of cover over it to keep out the worst of the weather.

Parents should hear the chicks and continue to feed them, but if they do not, they will need to be cared for by a wildlife rehabilitator.

Sometimes a parent bird will intentionally eject a chick from the nest if it senses it has an underlying health problem or is dying. It’s a hard truth to bear, as humans we want to work things out, but sometimes we have to let the law of nature take its course.

Morwenna said: “It is also very important to remember at this time of year that more than half of England’s most endangered breeding birds nest on or near the ground.

“We therefore ask everyone, when exploring the wilderness, to follow the country code of following the trails, adhering to all signs indicating nesting birds on the ground and keeping dogs on a leash.

“By watching your steps this breeding season, you can help save the lives of some very vulnerable feathered friends.”

To find out how you can help nature on your doorstep, visit:

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