by Wildlife Carer Rachel Aspinall
As winter gradually draws to an end and spring begins, the air starts to fill with the calls of newly hatched baby birds. At this time of year, wildlife hotlines run hot with callers inadvertently taking these baby birds away from their parents.
Small birds such as magpies, currawongs and noisy miners leave their nest well before they are able to fly upwards. This is normal behaviour and the bird is usually being closely monitored by parents nearby whilst they are learning to fly.
It can take up to a week for some birds to develop the skill to fly from the ground. However, occasionally a young bird may be in danger or injured and need your help, so it is important to identify when to get assistance and when to leave the bird alone.
If a bird has no feathers or only fluffy down, then it is a nestling and needs to get help straight away as it cannot keep itself warm. If you find a sick or injured bird, contain it in a quiet, dark warm place such as wrapped in a towel in a ventilated box or carrier with a lid.
However, if you see a sick, injured or orphaned raptor or bird of prey e.g. eagle, owl or hawk, please keep your distance, do not touch it or try to contain it. Call your local wildlife rescue group for assistance.
If the bird has its flight feathers, then it is a fledgling. Check that the bird can perch on your finger or a stick, ensure the bird is bright and responsive and can call or make a noise. The bird should also be able to spread its wings evenly. If all of these are true, then try to reunite the bird with its parents.
You can place it on a branch or bush and watch from a distance to ensure that parents continue to feed their baby. Alternatively you can make a makeshift nest to provide more protection for young birds. Contrary to popular belief, parents of baby birds will continue to care for their babies even if they have been handled by people.
One thing you can do to help look after a fledgling while waiting to see if its parents will return is to create a bird bucket with drainage holes to place it in. Just search online for ‘RSPCA bird bucket’ for details and a diagram.
If it’s a cold, wet night, you can take the baby bird into your house to keep it warm and dry, just put it outside in the bucket or other makeshift nest the next morning. Birds do not feed at night so you don’t have to worry about trying to provide it with food or water.