Home Environment To do or not to do – help those birds to live

To do or not to do – help those birds to live


We’ve already seen the start of the bird breeding season which will go on for the next few months. Some ideas on how to help what appears to be a ground stranded bird might be useful.

Ideally young birds should be returned to their nest site and parents where possible. Statistics show that about 80% of birds coming into care will die from incorrect feeding or stress from being handled.

Depending on the type of bird there are three stages in a chick’s life – altricial which is a newly hatched bird totally dependent on its parents for food, warmth and shelter. The next stage is precocial when the chick is covered in downy feathers, can move around the nest but can’t fly. The final stage is a fledgling which is a bird fully feathered and ready to fly. At this stage the bird will be flapping its wings and jumping up and down readying for taking off.

Birds fall from the safety of their nests for many reasons especially in windy weather. However, an over exuberant chick may try out its flying skills only to discover take-off is much more difficult from ground level. The fluttering chick may well attract predators such as domestic cats and dogs, plus lizards and birds of prey. At the fledgling stage the bird can be “rescued” and placed on a branch and then monitored to see if the parents return to feed it.

At the altricial and precocial stages the chick may be returned to or near the nest site in a container lined with paper towels and hung in a bush or tree. The rescuer can then stand back and observe the site to see if the parents return to feed their chick. This all takes time and requires patience but is often very successful. However, if the weather turns windy and wet it may be best to take the chick to an experienced carer who will know how to identify the bird and feed it the appropriate food

When transporting a young bird place it in a small box lined with paper towels. Holes need to be punched in the box for air. The chick will be less stressed if left in a dark warm place until a carer can be contacted. No need to feed or give water at this stage.