As the weather warms up, it’s common to spot young birds learning to fly on the ground. If you come across a baby bird, it’s important to know when to offer help and when to let them be
Identifying nestlings and fledglings
The first step is to determine whether the bird is a nestling or a fledgling. Nestlings are very young birds with few or no feathers. If you find a nestling on the ground, it needs your help to survive. Fledglings, on the other hand, are older and have a mix of fuzzy down and adult feathers. They’re often found hopping along on the ground or perching on low branches. If a fledgling appears healthy, it’s best to leave it alone.
Checking the health of the bird
If you find a baby bird on the ground and suspect it may be injured or ill, there are a few signs to look out for. Healthy birds will stand upright and tuck their wings tightly against their bodies. If you notice any of the following signs, offer some assistance:
- Bloody wounds or wet feathers
- Legs that aren’t bearing weight
- Drooping wings or highly ruffled feathers or matted feathers
- Tilting of the body or head to one side
- Blood around the nostrils
- Cold to the touch or shivering
- In an open area away from trees or bushes
- Being stalked by other animals
How to help an injured or orphaned bird
If you’ve identified an injured or orphaned bird, here’s what to do:
- Use clean or gloved hands to place the bird inside a cardboard box lined with paper towels and sufficient padding. Make sure this container is kept far away from potentially dangerous animals.
- Use a heating pad or hot water bottle to keep the bird warm while you seek help.
- Do not give the injured bird any food. Due to the shock of their injuries, they are prone to becoming hyper and can choke on the food provided to them. Giving a little water is fine, but ensure that the amount is small and not enough to choke on.
- Contact your local animal protection group or forest department immediately and get help.
How to save uninjured birds
If you find a healthy bird that has fallen out of its nest, here’s how to help:
- Try to find the nest. If you can reach the nest, gently place the bird back inside and monitor it for a few hours.
- If you can’t locate the original nest, create a new one out of a basket or container that is closest to a cereal bowl size with holes punched in the bottom. The nest should not be slippery as it can hurt the baby bird, and it should be well padded and soft. Fasten the make-shift nest to the closest sheltered area from where you found the bird — in a place where other animals cannot get to the bird.
- Keep an eye on the nestling for a few hours to ensure that its parents return to feed it. If they don’t, seek help from a local animal protection group or forest department
Not all young birds need our help. By learning to identify the signs of distress and offering assistance when needed, we can ensure that these young birds have the best chance of survival.