If you find a baby bird, it is not easy to find definitive advice on what to do. There is not just one ‘blanket’ rule for all young birds, as behaviours differ by species – for example, most young songbirds (blackbirds, sparrows etc) will spend a few days after leaving the nest, hopping around on the ground whilst finding their wings – so unless they are injured, or there is no sign of any parental attendance, it is normally advisable to leave them, as they are doing exactly what they are supposed to. If this same advice was followed for a pigeon however, the baby would likely die – as pigeons do not normally spend time on the ground prior to fledging. They should be able to fly straight out of the nest.
The upshot of this is that there is no hard and fast rule regarding fledglings and baby birds, but here are some pointers:
- If the baby is not fully feathered and has pink skin and/or baby ‘down’ it will definitely need urgent help. It is vital that baby birds remain at a stable temperature at this stage of their development, as they are unable to regulate their own body temperature. Outside the nest, they will quickly get cold and this can be fatal.
- If the baby is a pigeon or a dove it will definitely need help, even if fully feathered – as a rule ANY pigeon or dove found on the ground who doesn’t fly off when approached, needs help.
- If the baby is of a species who fledge from the ground (i.e. they spend a few days hopping around before being able to fly), watch it to see if parents are in attendance. At this stage the parents should still be feeding the baby, and if they aren’t, then the baby will need help. If you are able to, watch for a good hour before intervening.
- If the baby is in danger of being caught by a cat, hit by a car, or some other hazard or complication is involved – but the baby is uninjured – move it to the nearest safe spot, and it should call to it’s parent(s) to enable them to find it – but do watch to make sure that they are reunited.
- A baby bird who is injured – regardless of whether feathered not – will always need help. If the baby has been cat-caught, it is vital that it receives antibiotic treatment to counteract the bacteria from the cat’s mouth, even if there are no visible injuries.
- If you are at all in doubt as to the species of the bird, or what to do about it – call your local wildlife rescue for advice.