What should I do if I find a baby bird on the ground?

, 29 March 2018
What should I do if I find a baby bird on the ground?
fledgling wren © Alan Price

By Charlotte Owen

WildCall Officer

At this time of year it’s quite common to find baby birds on the ground that seem to have ‘fallen’ out of their nest.

If the bird has feathers then it is a fledgling and, unless it’s in immediate danger, the answer is: do nothing. It takes time for birds to learn how to fly and very few manage it on their first attempt. Fledglings often spend a few days on the ground waiting for their feathers to develop completely before they can fly. It can be distressing to see a baby bird flapping around trying to get off the ground but the parents will usually be close by, hidden away but spurring on their offspring with the promise of food. If you find a fledgling at risk from a predator or passing traffic, consider moving it to a more sheltered location such as a hedge. It’s a myth that touching a baby bird will cause its parents to abandon it, but it’s important not to move it too far away so that its parents are still able to find it.

blue tit nestlings © Lizzie Wilberforce

If the baby bird doesn’t have any feathers yet then it is still a nestling and should be returned to its nest. Doing so will not cause the parents to reject it. If you can’t see the nest or you find a baby bird that’s visibly injured, please contact a local wildlife rescue for assistance: sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/injuredwildlife

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Comments

  • Pat McCallum:

    This is very helpful,as I have 6 cats,and worry about baby birds.
    I do try to keep them in as much as possible,but sometimes they squeeze out!

    29 Mar 2018 11:24:43

  • miss ruth tansey:

    Very helpful advice.

    29 Mar 2018 11:47:24

  • Patrick:

    Helpful advice, but very difficult in practice to find a cat-proof place nearby. Cats are relentless. I have tried putting fledglings in open containers on the washing line out of harms way but there’s a risk they jump out and end up back on the ground again.

    29 Mar 2018 22:33:19

  • Thanks for finally writing about >What should
    I do if I find a baby bird on the ground? | Sussex Wildlife Trust <Loved it!

    02 Apr 2018 21:37:43

  • S M Rogers:

    That one would make a jolly useful tea-towel!

    29 Mar 2019 09:34:00

  • Annette Poland:

    Thank you for the information I found a baby wren today my dog was trying to eat and he is not able to fly more then a 6 inches and I was afraid for him so I place him in one of my bird cages put under tree where nest is after he gets strength back I will let him run free under tree and see if parents come.

    28 Apr 2020 23:10:00

  • Fiona Doherty:

    A blue tit nest has fallen to the ground, the parents have flown off. Three nestlings are alive. The nest has broken. What can I do?

    25 May 2020 18:44:00

  • Marilyn:

    I have a wren nest with four babies in a geranium plant by my front doors and I’m concerned my inside/outside cat will kill the birds. I noticed the babies as of yesterday.

    How long does it take for nestlings to be able to fly?

    12 Jun 2022 04:28:00

  • Sussex Wildlife Trust:

    It varies with different species, but usually around two weeks after hatching