Baby Bird Rescue 101

Wildlife Posted Nov 10, 2020
Every year scores of baby birds are taken to vets and RSPCA Qld’s Wildlife Hospital when in fact they should have been left where they were.

During the spring season, it’s not uncommon to happen across a small baby bird on the ground as they leave their nest for the first time. In most cases, these fledgling birds are being closely monitored by their nearby parents. This is a normal process as the young bird learns how to take flight. In some instances however, the baby bird may be in danger or may be injured and genuinely needs your help. But how can you tell when to intervene and when to leave the bird alone to reunite with their family?

“Sadly this happens all the time,” said RSPCA Qld’s spokesperson Michael Beatty. “People think they’re doing the right thing by “rescuing” chicks that are healthy and being looked after by their parents. They mean well but it often ends up very badly for the chicks.”

So do you know what to do if you find a baby bird? Here’s our checklist of what to do:

Is the bird a nestling or a fledgling?
Does the bird have feathers? If not, or if it has only fluffy down, then it is a nestling, and needs help straight away, as it cannot keep itself warm. If you find a nestling, please take it to a vet or bring it in to the RSPCA as soon as possible.

If the bird has its flight feathers, then it is a fledgling. Before rescuing a fledgling, ask yourself:
  • Is the bird calling or making a noise?
  • Is the bird bright and responsive?
  • Can the bird perch on your finger?
  • Can the bird spread its wings evenly and flutter to the ground when encouraged to fly?
If the answer to all of these questions is a definite “yes” then the baby bird should be able to be reunited with its parents. It is best for a baby bird to be reunited with its parents, as no human carer can teach a young bird all that it needs to learn to survive.

To try to reunite the baby bird with its parents, place the bird on a low branch in a bush and watch to see if the parents come to feed it. You can also place the baby bird in a bucket with a few drainage holes. The ‘home-away-from-home’ will protect fledglings and baby birds from predators. 

Unsure what to do? Call 1300 ANIMAL for advice. Our team can help you with the next steps when you’ve found a baby bird.

What Baby Bird is that? Looking for more baby bird images to help you learn who you might have found? Check out our blog

Download or print this baby bird rescue guide and follow these steps to help you determine the best way to handle the situation.

Cats and dogs can kill and severely wound native birds and wildlife, particularly the young and flightless. Responsible pet ownership includes confining your cat/s and dog/s (particularly at night). Residents can further assist native birds by planting bushy indigenous shrubs and ground cover to provide protection and camouflage. This will help increase the survival rate of young birds, and will significantly reduce the injury and mortality rates of all wildlife species. 

Australia is home to many native bird species, many of which can be found in your own backyard! Baby birds are one of two types. Altricial chicks, such as magpies, parrots, raptors and honeyeaters, remain in their nests until old enough to leave. Precocial chicks, such as ducks, brush turkeys, moorhens and plovers, remain with their parents until complete independence.

Construct a bird bucket

If you find a baby bird that needs to be reunited with its parents, you can construct a "bird bucket" to keep the baby safe until its parents return. See below for a step-by-step guide: 

  1. Find an old plastic bucket, ice-cream container or plant pot, and punch several holes in the underside.
  2. In the bottom of  your plastic container, set down a layer of grass or leaves, so that the baby bird has some warm and comfortable bedding to rest on.
  3. In order to assist the parents getting in and out, place a stick in the container at an angle, and secure it using one of the holes.
  4. Place the baby bird inside the container. The bucket should be hung close to where the baby was found, in a tree or a bush, out of direct sunlight and away from predators.
  5. Keep an eye on the bird in the bucket, and make sure the parents return before dark to tend the baby’s needs. If the parents do not return, the baby bird will need to be placed into care.

Michael Beatty
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