Seen a baby bird outside its nest? Check RSPCA advice online first

Most fledglings are best left alone and monitored

As the peak bird breeding season continues, the RSPCA is urging people to check their expert online advice about wild baby birds before calling the charity, so the line is kept free for emergency calls to be answered as quickly as possible.

New figures reveal that the charity’s emergency line answered 6,019 calls about baby birds last year, and a majority of those calls – 3,398 – came during the peak bird breeding months of May, June and July.

During these peak months, the RSPCA receives an average of 36 calls per day – or three every hour its call line is open. But many of these calls could have been answered by the charity’s online advice which explains that many wild birds – especially fledglings – are not in danger and can be left alone and monitored from a distance.

RSPCA senior scientific officer Evie Button said: “It’s wonderful that people want to do the best for our wild birds, particularly if a baby bird has been found out of its nest. But instead of calling us, we urge animal lovers to first check the expert advice on our website, which explains that in many cases – especially if it’s a fledgling – there’s no need to intervene.

“This will help keep our emergency line free so rising numbers of calls about animal cruelty and neglect can get through as quickly as possible.

“Every time a wild animal is helped by the public it frees up our vital specialist rescuers to reach animals suffering heartbreaking cruelty and neglect, a job no other charity does.”

In 2022, 1,098,806 calls came into the RSPCA’s emergency line – an increase of 1.6% on the previous year, so the charity is asking the public to help them ease the pressure.

At this time of year, RSPCA wildlife centres are on high alert as it’s the peak baby bird season. Last year they cared for 1,416 ‘orphaned’ birds, picked up by well-meaning people.

But many of these birds were not actually orphans and may have a better chance of survival if they are left in the wild.

Evie added: “It is really important to ensure it is only those young birds that really need help that come into our care. In most cases, the best thing you can do for them is to help them stay in the wild using methods like re-nesting, by putting them back into their nest or helping them build a new one.

“The general rule of thumb is that if a young bird is a fledgling, it is likely to survive outside the nest without human intervention unless it’s sick or injured. If it’s a younger, more vulnerable nestling, it will probably need extra help.”

How you can help fledglings

  • If they have all or most of their feathers, they are likely to be a fledgling

  • It’s normal to see them on the ground as they leave the nest just before they can fly

  • Leave the fledgling alone and monitor it for at least two hours, as the parents are usually nearby and feeding the bird

  • If they’re in immediate danger, place them in a sheltered spot a short distance away.

  • Even if you have already confined a healthy fledgling, you may still be able to return them to their parents.

  • Keep your pets away from them

How you can help nestlings

  • Nestlings have no feathers, or only a few, and are more likely to need help.

  • They won’t survive long outside the protection of the nest

  • Where possible nestlings should be placed back in the nest and left in the wild so their parents can keep caring for them – wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards*.

  • If you can’t see a nest in the surrounding trees, or it’s fallen down or been damaged, then you can make a replacement nest to put the nestling back into. This could be as simple as a basket or plant pot with some nesting material inside, securely attached to the nearest tree.

  • If you still have concerns visit our website for more information about how to contact your local vet or wildlife centre

Bird flu – or avian influenza – is now widespread across the British Isles, particularly affecting waterfowl, gulls and birds of prey. Although the disease is considered less of a problem in garden bird populations, the advice remains to avoid handling adult birds.

If baby garden birds are found outside a nest and need to be handled, people should always wear gloves and wash their hands thoroughly immediately afterwards to reduce the risks of disease transmission. For advice about bird flu and other diseases, the public can visit the RSPCA website.

The RSPCA has created an animation to explain how people can best help animals in need. Every time a small wild animal is helped by the public it frees up the charity’s vital specialist rescuers to reach animals suffering heartbreaking cruelty and neglect, a job no other charity does. The RSPCA urgently needs more people to help so we have produced some quick and easy tools at to support people to get wildlife the help they need as quickly as possible.

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit our website or call our donation line on 0300 123 8181.

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