What to do if you find a fledgling bird

Jess Price from the Sussex Wildlife Trust provides handy advice about what to do when you come across fledglings


While February and March are all about amphibians, as we move into April it’s the turn of birds. During April and May I usually get an influx of calls about baby birds that have been found on the ground. I realise it can be distressing to see a baby bird flapping around trying to get into the air, but more often then not these birds are absolutely fine.


People want to know how they can help these young birds and in most situations the answer is Do Nothing. We all know that it takes time to learn how to do new things. No one would expect a toddler to be able to walk perfectly the first time they tried, we accept that a child will stumble and trip, sometimes over and over again. Similarly very few garden birds manage to fly on their first attempt. In fact it is common for fledglings to spend two or three days on the ground waiting for their feathers to completely develop before they can fly.

Fledglings may look like they have been abandoned by their parents, but this is very rarely the case. You may not see them, but they are usually there, hidden away in a hedge or a bush spurring their offspring on. These hard working parents give their young the best chance of survival by encouraging each of their brood to fly to a different safe location. By spreading them out, the parents reduce the risk of a predator finding them all.

Now, of course, there are exceptions to the Do Nothing rule. Sometimes birds fall out of the nest before they are ready to fledge. These young birds are easy to recognise because they don’t have any feathers. Without human intervention these bird will die, so if possible put the baby bird back in its nest. If you find a fledgling that is in immediate danger, you may want to consider moving it to a nearby sheltered location such as a hedge. Birds can’t really smell that well, so you don’t need to worry that handling a chick will cause the parents to abandon it. But they do need to be able to hear its calls.


Basically it is all about common sense. Baby birds that are taken into captivity have a much lower chance of survival then those that are left with their parents. So please don’t be too quick to intervene. Of course not all the fledglings from a nest will survive to become breeding adults. But this is how it should be. This is nature’s way of keeping the species population at a level that the habitat can sustain.