The Bird Breeding Season Is Upon Us

The Bird Breeding Season Is Upon Us

It’s been delayed by changeable weather, but the increase in phone calls from worried members of the public about baby birds leaves no doubt in the minds of RSPB South East staff that the bird breeding season is now well underway.

Tim Webb of the RSPB in the South East says: “At this time of year we get hundreds of calls from concerned members of the public about baby birds they’ve discovered on the ground. It is vital that people resist the urge to intervene. It’s not mean and it’s not cruel; this is a natural part of the bird’s development and their parents will be nearby.”

Baby birds deliberately leave the safety of their nests before they are 100 per cent ready. It’s called fledging and is a natural part of their development. They will soon learn how to fly, how to feed themselves and how to stay safe. Fledglings will spend a couple of days on the ground and around the nest developing their final flight feathers. This is the point when where they spark concern as they look like they’re ill or injured.

Tim continued: “Another common fear is that the fledgling has been deserted by its parents. But fledglings are extremely unlikely to be abandoned. The parents are either off gathering food or are hiding nearby with a beady eye on their young, waiting for you to leave. Our best advice is for people not to intervene. Removing a fledgling from the wild significantly reduces its chances of long-term survival.”

There are only a couple of situations when the public should lend a friendly helping hand:

  • Immediate DangerIf the baby bird is found on a busy road or path, and if it is safe to do so, we advise it is picked-up and moved a short distance to a safer place. This must be within hearing distance of where the fledgling was found. Similarly, if you discover your cat or dog eyeing up a fledgling we recommend you keep your pet indoors for a couple of days; or at least around dawn and dusk.
  • InjuryIf an injured fledgling is discovered this should be reported immediately to the RSPCA on: 0300 1234 999. Sometimes local vets treat wild birds for free, but please check with them first.
  • NestlingsIf a baby bird is discovered on the ground that is either un-feathered or covered only in its fluffy nestling down, it has likely fallen out of its nest ahead of schedule. Very occasionally it is possible to put these babies back in their nest, but only if you are 100% sure of the nest it has fallen from.

Tim said: “Sometimes a parent bird will intentionally eject a chick from the nest if they sense it has an underlying health problem or is dying. It’s a harsh truth to stomach. As humans we want to fix things, but sometimes we need to allow nature to run its course.”

Another common call to RSPB and RSPCA offices at this time of year is about nests in seemingly inappropriate locations, such as ducks on high balconies or rooftops. This is quite normal and once fledged, ducklings easily survive drops of four or more storeys.

To find out how you can give nature a home in your garden, visit: www.rspb.org.uk/myplan

Photo by Justin Hoffman