Caring for garden birds
The felling of trees with nesting birds is only legally permissible between November and January, and violations can result in hefty fines for disturbing nests - £1,000 per nest and an additional £1,000 per bird or egg.
Our plea to everyone is to NOT cut down trees or hedges, at all, during spring months, but if you really do need to remove a tree, please, make sure you get a survey done, first, and that you have permission from the local council to do so, and do so at the right time of year. This is all subject to very strict regulations – and those regulations are there for good reason.
Baby birds can often be placed back in a nest (using gloved hands) if the nest can be located. If no nest is visible, a makeshift nest should be fashioned from a tissue box or similar, and can be hung from a tree/washing line, etc., (out of the reach of cats).
Monitor from a distance to see that the parent birds return. Baby birds are fed pretty constantly throughout daylight hours, so, if a parent bird does not return within an hour or so, you should probably intervene.
Keep the bird warm and quiet and take it in to your local wildlife centre, as soon as possible, for feeding. Do not try to feed it yourself, as it is easy to suffocate young birds with chunks of food that are too big for them to handle. Please do not wait for too long before seeking help, as a couple of hours could make the difference to a small bird’s survival.
It will depend on the type of bird. If you are having trouble identifying it, call local experts for help.
Finches and Dunnocks
Should be left alone and observed from a distance. The parents should visit them at least every hour or so. They should only be brought in if orphaned or abandoned with no parental contact for 3-4 hours or if in imminent danger from a cat.
Small & Speckled
Robins separate their young, park them under bushes and feed them regularly. If there is no danger from cats, leave them alone and observe from a distance, to make sure the parents are still around. It may take some time to see if all is well, as the youngsters are well camouflaged.
Blue Tits & Great-tits
Are sometimes seen alone in bushes. Parents separate broods for safety, once fledged, and make the rounds, feeding them in turn. If found on the ground, put in a dense bush or hedge nearby and watch from a distance to see if the parents come with food.
Swifts, Swallows & Housemartins
Adult birds found on the ground will not be able to take flight again, un-aided, due to the shortness of their legs and the length of their wings. The bird may simply need some food and rehydration before being released, but should be checked over by someone qualified. Keep it in a high-sided box and line the sides with kitchen roll so that the swift can grip onto it, vertically.
Most grounded swifts are likely to be fledglings that have fallen out of the nest before they are ready to fly, so they will need fostering. If you find a grounded swift, do not handle it with bare hands, as the oils from our skin can damage the feathers; the priority is to make it safe by carefully picking it up and putting it in a box, then closing the lid to enable it to calm down. Swifts are difficult to care for, as they need a special diet. Swifts are not for beginners, so your next step should be to get in touch with someone who is a specialist in this field - this includes a list of carers in the UK.
To release a swift, take it to an open space and hold it high up in the air on the flat of your palm. The bird should fly away and instinct will soon take over.
Youngsters may have fallen from a perch or not be proficient enough at flying to get back into a tree. They spend a lot of time on the ground, as they feed on worms, snails and bugs, so need to be observed to make sure they can escape a predator and are being looked after by a parent.
Corvids - Crow/Jackdaw/Jay/Magpie family
NB it is VERY easy to imprint on corvids, so take them to a rescue centre, asap, where they can be with other corvids, if their condition requires it.
Youngsters leave the nest when fledged (fully feathered) and are looked after on the ground by attentive parents for several days, until able to fly properly.
They should not be "rescued" if the parents are still around.
A lot of their time is spent on the ground, learning to find food; they can hop up into bushes to get away from predators. They have to spend time on the ground to enable space to practice flying and building the strength in their wing muscles, this is perfectly natural and normal, as they cannot do this in the confines of their nest.
If you really feel that the corvid could be in danger from cats or other predators, then pick it up, gently, with a tea towel or gardening gloves, and place it into a cardboard box with the lid open. The box can then be hung from a tree/washing line, etc. (out of the reach of cats). Pet cats should be kept inside until the birds have moved on, which is usually only a couple of days, maximum.
Monitor from a distance to see that the parent birds return. Juvenile corvids are fed pretty constantly, throughout daylight hours, so, if a parent bird does not return within a few hours, contact your local rescue centre for help.
Seeing blood on a young corvid’s mouth is not a reason to worry, as these birds often eat pieces of meat, brought to them by their parents, and this could be the blood you can see. As long as the bird is active, lively, and has no other obvious signs of injury, it is far better to leave them alone.
Most years, we get approximately 30 – 40 juvenile corvids, of all species, brought in to us that simply did not need to come in, due to the reasons stated above.
Keep the bird quiet and dark and get it to your local rescue centre, as soon as possible; it will need antibiotics, as infection (from even the tiniest of scratches, barely visible to the human eye) is very quick to spread and will kill within hours, if left untreated.
The bird is probably concussed. Place it in a dark, ventilated box, such as shoe box with holes punched in it, and keep it quiet for no longer than 1 hour. Check on its progress and if it seems to be improved, try opening the box in the garden. If the bird is not quite ready to fly, take it to your local wildlife rescue.
Please, bring the bird to us in a ventilated box. Some broken wings can be mended, but, if this is not the case, we will euthanise the bird to prevent further suffering.
Firstly, is there a fire at the bottom of the chimney? If there is a gas fire, then, unfortunately, we cannot attend until the fire has been disconnected by an authorised person. If you are able to clear the fireplace, then you should leave the room dark and quiet for a couple of hours to see if the bird makes its way out of its own accord. Close all the curtains in the room, but leave just one window clear and uncovered. Birds like to head for light, so when it falls into the room, it should make its way to the window. If this doesn’t work, then, please, contact the Wildlife Aid Foundation and we will try and come out to rescue the bird.
Please, try and put the nest back in a suitable tree, close to the original location, and observe for a couple of hours to see if the parents return. If they do not, then, please, bring the nest into the Wildlife Aid Foundation, so that we can get it into an incubator.
Please, try and put the nest back in a suitable tree, close to the original location, and observe for a couple of hours to see if the parents return. If they do not, sadly, we are not able to help, as it is illegal to take, possess or control any wild birds’ eggs, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Sadly, the eggs must, therefore, be left to go cold.
If there are no obvious injuries, it may just be stunned and will, therefore, move off after about 20 minutes, once recovered. However, if you are unsure or there are clear injuries, please, cover the bird with a towel, and bring it into us or to your nearest rescue centre. Pheasants have spurs on their legs; please, use caution when handling.
Some useful telephone numbers
RSPB: 01767 693690