Here at Atlas Aquatics we take nature conservation seriously. This year we have received more calls than ever regarding injured and abandoned baby birds. If you find a baby bird the chances are that its parents are close and just gathering food for it. Taking in a bird is an absolute last resort and should only happen when there are no other options.
Is it best to help or leave it alone?
A baby bird that has no feathers or very few is known as a nestling. These are usually less than two weeks old and can’t yet regulate their own body temperature. This means that they are defenceless and won’t survive long without mum and dad. A baby of this size shouldn’t be outside of its nest and is unlikely to be able to get back.
Nestling house sparrow found near St Annes Pier
The first thing to do is check the area immediately around where the bird was found and see if there is a nest. Birds of this size can’t walk far so the nest is often close. The old saying that “its mother won’t take it back if it has your scent on it” isn’t true. This is something your parents told you to stop you bringing birds back home all the time. If you do locate a nest then call your local wildlife rehabilitation centre and tell them. It may be illegal for you to interfere with the nest so for now, keep the baby safe and warm.
Sometimes the nestling may have been carried by a predator and dropped and could be far from home. These are the ones that need your help. You will need to catch the bird and confine it in a well ventilated box that has been lined with paper towels.
Once the bird is safely contained and in a warm area you should call a local wildlife rescue. We work with Wolfwood Animal Sanctuary and they can be contacted on 07931220094
For a list of your local wildlife rehabilitators please click this link.
What do I do with it while I’m waiting?
Nestlings are still kept warm by their parents and without them they can loose body heat fast. They don’t yet have insulating feathers so heat must be provided via a warm water bottle wrapped in towels or a heat pad and thermostat.
Throughout the spring/summer we will offer the baby bird mat and stat kit for £36 and offer daily free delivery within a 10 mile radius of FY4 5EA if it is to be used to care for local wildlife.
Feel free to email a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org if you aren’t sure what species of bird you have found. Different species require different foods.
Baby birds usually need feeding every half hour through the day. Finches and sparrows feed on insects at this age whereas blackbirds need a little soft fruit. If you are unsure then most young birds will accept mashed tinned cat food gently offered to them on the end of a plastic straw. Do not try to give them water as they can easily drown if it goes down the wrong way. moist food should be enough.
“Captain Jack” the sparrow accepting a waxworm
Nestlings grow insanely quickly and this photo shows captain jack on the day he was found and then again three days later!
Not all birds are born quite so helpless. Presumably due to the strong winds this year we have rescued several Gull chicks. These are officially the cutest animals on earth! They look like little spotty penguins and warble when contented.
“Steven Seagull” was with us for a few days before being transferred to Wolfwood Animal Sanctuary for rehabilitation.
It is also worth mentioning that baby Gulls bite, scream when hungry and constantly fire poo backwards up to about three feet!
A baby bird is called a fledgling once it has grown its feathers. Many birds leave the nest at this point but are still unable to fly properly. Their parents continue to teach them to feed themselves outside of the nest.
“Grayson” the fledgling Robin who was placed into a shallow box until his mother returned to collect him.
Fledglings should be left alone. Watch from a distance as the parents are usually close by but may hide if they know you are watching them. Only if a fledgling is in imminent danger should you intervene.
Caring for a baby bird yourself is never a good option. They need very specialist care and to be raised with others of their own kind. Wildlife centres are absolutely inundated with thousands of birds every year, most of whom would have been better off left where they were.
Due to the heat, many of the birds that we have helped this year were simply dehydrated and starving. The best thing to do if you find a bird with no obvious injuries is to place a shallow bowl of water close to it and leave it. In extreme weather, you may relocate the bird to a shaded area to speed up its recovery.
If a bird does appear to be injured then it is unlikely to survive without some help. Call your local widlife centre and ask for their specific advice. It is usually just a case of keeping the animal contained to your garden and keeping a watchful eye out for cats until the help arrives.
We found “Bert” the young Blackbird with a suspected broken wing that turned out to be a sprain.
He spent a few days with us after his visit to The Veterinary Health Centre before being moved to a rehabilitation centre.
How Else Can I Help?
Wildlife centres are often extremely busy at all times of the year and are run by hugely dedicated volunteers and staff. If they think that a bird may require admitting then you can always help by offering to take it to them rather than wait for collection. If this isn’t possible please feel free to email us at email@example.com. Through the spring and summer months, we will be making weekly trips to Wolfwood Sanctuary and can collect any animals local to us to take to them.
It may seem obvious but every donation that you make to your local wildlife centre can save a life.
Life is hard for parent birds at this time of year. They have lots of little mouths to feed and teach the ways of the world. By far the best thing that you can do is to offer them fresh water and food daily.
This is a bigger commitment than many people realise as birds will become reliant on these food sources. If you regularly provide food and then suddenly stop it could be worse than never having offered it in the first place. Please keep the feeders full and wash them regularly.
Mother Starling feeding her babies on one of our bird feeders.
The Bird featured at the top of this article is a rescued, one-winged Jackdaw named Boris. He’s going to feature in his very own article soon! He was a rescue that it seemed had no hope until he decided to make himself part of the family!