We are now coming up to fledgling season. Most of you have reported seeing nesting material being taken, nests being guarded and even more food being collected by our birds. The Essex Wildlife Trust announced this week that it had it’s first brood of Blackbird fledglings, fantastic news and sights all around.
With all this newborn love in the air, our attention has turned to how we can help the parents but also how we can help fledgling birds. What should you do if you see a fledgling bird in your garden? The idea strikes panic in the hearts of many but actually there are some solid steps you can take to make the whole process easier for you and the new ball of fluff that finds itself potentially a bit out of sorts and confused!
Is the bird on it’s own?
It is quite common throughout Spring and Summer to find baby birds hopping around your garden on their own. They spend a lot of time once they’ve fledged the nest, on their own waiting for their parents to return and feed them.
Baby birds on their own are not a sign of a something going wrong, it is very unlikely at this stage in the fledgling process that they will have been abandoned by their parents. If you cannot see the adult birds it does not mean that they are not there. The parents are probably just away collecting food — or are hidden from view nearby keeping a watchful eye, they may be waiting close by for you to move so that they can attend to their baby. Fledglings should be left where they are, in the care of their own parents.
Removal of a fledgling from the wild has to be a very last resort — then only if it is injured or has definitely been abandoned or orphaned. You should be absolutely sure that something has gone wrong and this baby bird is need of your support before doing anything.
The young of most familiar garden birds fledge once they are fully feathered, but before they are able to fly. These fledglings spend a day or two, sometimes longer, on the ground while their flight feathers complete their growth. The only exceptions are swifts, swallows and house martins, which are able to fly well as soon as they leave the nest and should never be found on the ground.
But I think the baby bird is in danger
Removal from the wild is a real last resort. Taking a baby bird from it’s parents can reduce it’s life chances and it won’t be the best start in life for the bird. They should be left where you have found them so that their parents can look after them.
With that said there are a few instances where the bird could be in direct danger; if the bird is on a busy path or road, or other potentially dangerous, exposed location, it makes sense to pick it up and move it a short distance to a safer place. Make sure you leave it within hearing distance of where it was found. Birds have a poor sense of smell so handling a young bird does not cause its parents to abandon it.
I think it has fallen from the nest
Birds leave their nests deliberately when the time is right, if you find a baby bird and it is fully feathered then this bird is ready to be outside of the nest, you shouldn’t put it back in that would just be hindering it’s growth and natural fledgling cycle.
If the bird has no feathers or it is covered in a down then it may have fallen from the nest, these birds are too young to have decided to leave the nest themselves.
However, in some cases, if the parents feel a bird is dying or there is something wrong with it they will choose to eject it from the nest so that they can care for the rest of the brood. This sounds awful to us humans but these are wild birds and they know what is right for them, so we shouldn’t interfere.
If a healthy chick cannot be returned to its nest, it will be dependent on humans for survival and should be passed on to an expert rehabilitator as soon as possible.
Who can help me
If you do need to contact experts then the best places are the RSPCA (England and Wales), SSPCA (Scotland) and USPCA (Northern Ireland) are the national charities that help and advise on injured wildlife. You can also find an independent local rescue centre on Help Wildlife.
You should note that the RSPB do not have the ability to help with baby birds and therefore you should ring the experts listed above rather than them.
What food is good for new fledglings
There is lots of food that fledglings need, they particularly need fat, protein and calcium to grow up strong. We suggest adding suet to your feeders, mealworms that have been soaked (or live ones), seeds and healthy seed mixes without lots of fillers and only put peanuts out if you put them inside a feeder, you should NEVER put them out whole at this time of the year.
If you are looking for a specialist bird food for fledglings we have one called Nest and Fledge that is great for baby birds. It contains blue maw (poppy seeds) which offers lots of calcium and helps them to grow strong and colourful. It has added suet that is also wheat free and offers the birds lots of nutrition!
Make sure that would you are putting out for your baby birds has some nutritional value, avoid seed mixes that are just wheat and dari based, this will do nothing to really help the birds. It is a bit like eating a macdonalds, it might fill you up for a short while but it offers very little value to your body.