Abandoned Baby Birds
The biggest problem we come across in practice is people bringing in baby birds which they think have been abandoned. What should you do if you come across a baby bird that has been abandoned by its parents? Probably nothing. A young bird alone on the ground has not necessarily been abandoned. The young of many birds will fledge after they grow feathers, but before they are able to fly.
They spend a day or two on the ground before their feather development is complete. It is really best not to interfere. The parents will be close by and come to feed the bird as soon as it is safe.
If the bird is in a vulnerable position it will do no harm to move it into protection/shelter but not too far away as the parents will then be unable to find it. Touching a bird will not make the parents abandon it; birds have little or no sense of smell, but do keep contact to a minimum. It is often easier to pick a bird up by gently covering it with a cloth first.
Watch it carefully, and if the parents don’t return and the youngster has definitely been abandoned then contact us or the R.S.P.C.A. for help and information.
Offer food and water, but baby birds are hard to feed and need special foods. Ideally they would eat soft insects, worms and grubs in their early days. Scrambled egg, with a little moist cereal, is fine to begin with but more suitable food, for both seed and insect eating birds, is available from pet shops. Do not feed them bread and milk as this is completely unsuitable and would do more harm than good.
Nests are best left alone. If they do need to be removed from houses, etc. then the best time is once the fledglings have left. The nest will be quiet and shouldn’t have any adults returning to it. Remove the nest and if it’s inside a building then block any entrances so that they can’t return the next year. House martins will return each year no matter what, so if you remove the nest they will build again the following year, unless you put something in the nest place to prevent them.
If there are any eggs in a nest they can only be removed outside the breeding season, recommended times are October or November. It is illegal to keep any unhatched eggs. If there are unhatched eggs in the box, you can legally remove these between 1st August and 31st January, and you must throw them away.
Providing nesting boxes in your garden is a way to reduce nesting in unwanted places and to help protect birds from local cats.
Adult birds will only be approachable if sick or injured, if you are unsure it’s best to observe them for a few hours and only then if no movement, look to help them.
Use a cloth to gently pick them up and put them in a box, try to handle and stress them as little as possible. Offer food and water if possible, some kind of seed is best even pet bird seed for the short term, then replace with a wild bird seed from a pet shop. Contact the us or the R.S.P.C.A. as soon as possible for help and advice.
The take home message from this article is to watch first and help second, give wildlife a chance to help itself.