Expert advice if you find a baby bird alone and looking helpless

Baby blue tit. Photo: Justin Hoffman
Baby blue tit. Photo: Justin Hoffman

The RSPB is urging everyone to leave baby birds alone, as interfering could do more harm than good and the kindest thing to do, is nothing at all.

The baby blue tit pictured above has become the poster bird for young chicks around the UK this breeding season as it yells for its mum while looking helpless, dishevelled and desperate.

The wildlife charity’s phones are red hot at this time of year, with worried callers who have seen chicks they fear have been abandoned and need help.

The advice they are given is to rest assured that mum and dad are probably close by and most definitely know best.

This precarious period when birds first leave the nest may look harsh, but is all part of the process of a young bird learning to survive on its own.

Justin Hoffman, who captured the different stages of this blue tit leaving the nest, says: “We’ve been very lucky to have a pair of blue tits nesting in our garden for many years. While drinking my morning coffee, I could hear some earnest cheeping outside, so I peered out the back window towards our garden nest box. I could see a little head peeking out the nest box hole. The chicks were fledging!

“I grabbed my camera and my longest lens, so I wouldn’t get too close and disturb the birds. I watched the chicks fledge the nest one by one. One of the chicks got caught up in a garden plant below the nest box. The baby eventually freed itself with the encouragement of the parents. The chick clumsily made its way to a sturdy perch and began calling out loudly as one of the parents returned with a juicy meal!”

Tim Webb, of the RSPB in the South East, says: “Justin’s image sums up perfectly what many of us think when confronted with similar spectacles. This leads to an annual flood of calls to our reserves and offices in early spring. The understandable urge to help is almost palpable, but it’s not cruel to leave baby birds alone. They need to figure out and learn how to survive by themselves, because within days they’ll be out of the family nest without their parents support.”

“We really do empathise with people who are confronted with a seemingly helpless looking chick. They just seem so vulnerable. But it’s important they are left alone. Parents rarely abandon their chicks and although you may not be able to see or hear them, they will always be close by and likely to return soon. Sometimes people report baby chicks on pavements or in roads. In these circumstances, there are grounds to gently move the chick to the nearest hedge, shrub or natural cover. But don’t move it far as the nest, and parents, will be nearby. If it looks in imminent danger you can contact the RSPCA.

The RSPCA’s Lucy Cooper says: “It’s lovely that so many people care for wild birds and naturally want to help if they find a fledgling, but we do advise people to watch from a distance and if chicks are in immediate danger, place them in a sheltered spot a short distance away.

“RSPCA wildlife centres care for more than 1,000 fledglings each year as they’ve been picked up by well-meaning members of the public during the spring months because they are concerned they have been abandoned by their parents. However, if you see a baby bird with only a few feathers, or none at all, it is a nestling and will not survive for long outside the protection of a nest. Please take it to a local vet or wildlife rehabilitator.”

If you are worried that a bird is genuinely injured, visibly sick or in danger, check out this infographic