Please leave fledgling alone

Spring is in the air and East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service's rescue line is hot with calls for help from people finding fledgling birds.

"It is very easy to assume a bird has been abandoned when you find it on the floor, but quite often it is a fledgling learning to fly. When a fledgling takes its first flight it is going to be unsuccessful, it is natural for them to spend anything up to a week on the floor sometimes before they can fly properly. Mum and dad will normally be near by but they do not always fly down to feed every few minutes as they are trying to encourage the youngster to fly. Both the youngster and the parents are good at hiding themselves" said Trevor Weeks founder of WRAS.

Parent birds will encourage their young to disperse into different hide-aways where they will carry on feeding them. This is nature's way of spreading the risk of the youngsters getting taken by a predator. Clustered in the nest they would be easy prey for any bird or other animal that detected it.

"This natural system of dispersal has worked for millions of years and has worked successfully. Some will be taken as these small garden birds form part of natures food chain, helping other wild animals and birds to survive. For this reason, young and fledgling birds should be left alone." Said Trevor.

However there are some situations of man-made origin that means you should intervene.

There are two stages at which birds are found. As a chick and as a fledgling.

If you find a fledgling (a feathered bird) you should leave it alone unless:

  • They are in environmental hazards like roads, pools etc in these situations they should be moved to out of harms way to the nearest garden, hedge or bush
  • The fledgling is injured in anyway
  • Both parents have definitely been killed or incapacitated
  • The fledglings are of a species known to be ignored once they have left the nest prematurely, e.g. heron or swifts

This is a complex issue, some species of baby birds like ducklings and pheasant chicks are able to fed themselves straight after hatching but other species like moorhen and partridge need help.

"You can reduce the chances of a young bird surviving by bring it into care and hand rearing. It is surprising how many avoid capture by cats and other prey by hiding in bushes and vegetation" said Trevor. "The risk of being caught by a cat or prey is frequently less than the risks of feeding the wrong type of food or giving it the wrong moisture content. Its mum is best at preparing the fledgling's food, we can only guess at what it is used to and can easily get it wrong."

Do not feed milk

Every year we get calls from people who have fed a baby bird milk. Birds do not have breasts and do not produce milk. This is bad for their digestive system. Seek advice as soon as possible.

Do not attempt to hand rear a bird on its own

Every year WRAS is asked to take on birds which have been hand reared on their own or as a pair and have become domesticated. It is important that birds are not reared on their own but with others of their own species to ensure they learn life survival skills and compete for food. Handling should be kept to a minimum to ensure they are not tamed and can be released back into the wild.

"It is not just fledgling that should be left alone. If you find baby deer, leverets, tawny owls, fox cubs hidden in bushes or long grass leave them alone, mum does not spend that much time with them to avoid attracting predators. If in any doubt call a rescue organisation first before touching one." Said Trevor.

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Press Contact: Trevor Weeks, Director, East Sussex WRAS, 07931 523958

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