Baby birds: To help or not to help?
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Baby birds: To help or not to help?

May 1, 2017

Spring has sprung in British Columbia, which means there are plenty of baby animals of all shapes and sizes being welcomed into the world by their anxious parents throughout the province, including birds, who are beginning their nesting season.

From March through July, our feathered friends are busy caring for their young and it’s important for us to help keep them safe.  As these baby birds grow up, there may be situations where you encounter them on the ground instead of in their cozy nests. While you may want to help, it might be best not to intervene.

baby bird infographic“While we may have the best of intentions, lending a hand could actually cause more trouble for baby birds in some cases,” says Meghann Cant, BC SPCA animal welfare educator.

“Knowing what to look for when you see a baby bird is key to decide whether or not you need to intervene. Is the baby a nestling or a fledgling? The answer to that question can determine what you do next.”

A nestling is a featherless, downy or incompletely feathered bird. If you find a nestling on the ground, you can try to return the bird back to his nest, which could be in a nearby tree, shrub or on the outside of a building.

If you can reach, return the young one back home. Rest assured, your scent won’t cause the baby to be rejected. If the nest has also fallen to the ground and you are unable to secure it back in its original position, call you r local wildlife rehabilitation centre for guidance.

Fledglings are older, nearly fully feathered birds who are learning to fly and live out of the nest. When encountering these young birds, it’s important to be certain whether they truly require assistance.

“Fledglings are often clumsy and can appear to be hurt when they’re really just practicing their flying skills,” says Cant.

“When they are first out of the nest, the parents still keep track of them and feed them for several days. So, unless they are in immediate danger from predation or traffic, it’s best to leave them alone.”

The fledgling stage is when baby birds are at their most vulnerable. Making your backyard safer by keeping cats indoors and dogs leashed and out of the area helps protect them during this stage. Another important factor in keeping baby birds safe is to never attempt to care for or raise them yourself.

“You should never try to give food or water to a baby bird. In fact, it is against the law in B.C. to keep any indigenous wildlife without a permit,” says Cant.

“If you ever have any doubts about a bird’s safety, the best move is to contact your nearest wildlife rehabilitation centre for advice.”