FACT SHEET… Abandoned / orphaned baby birds From April onwards, right through to the end of the summer we take in hundreds of young birds which have been 'abandoned' or 'orphaned'. Although this is sometimes true, more often than not the bird is perfectly okay and should have been left alone. Usually the parent bird is somewhere close by, although probably not visible while people are around, and the baby will be fed regularly whilst it is on the ground. With a lot of species, particularly pigeons, doves and garden birds such as blackbirds, thrushes, robins etc, there is always a period of a few days after the youngster has left the nest, when it spends most of the day either on the ground or hopping amongst shrubs and trees. During this time it will regularly exercise its wings to build up the muscles and will gradually start to spend more and more time in flight. If you spot what appears to be a lone baby bird, which is fully feathered (apart from the fact it has shorter than normal wing feathers and a stubby tail), please do not rush in and pick it up, even though your instinct will almost certainly tell you to do this. Leave it where it is and watch it from a discreet distance and you will almost certainly see a parent bird bring food to it within a very short time. In this case the bird should be left alone. Only if the bird has been alone for more than a couple of hours should you even consider intervening and if you do then take it in, do not attempt to rear the bird yourself but seek advice from your nearest wildlife rescue centre, or call us for advice. We can often advise on what to feed the youngster for the short-term until you can get it to a rescue centre, but we need to know what species it is in order to do this. In some cases this is not easy e.g. a baby pigeon (squab) looks nothing like its adult counterpart! With the increasing number of cats around, both domestic and feral, it is hardly surprising that a large percentage of our casualties at this time of year are 'catted' birds. Any bird that has been caught by a cat needs an antibiotic injection as soon as possible, even if there appears to be no injuries. Left untreated there is a good chance of the bird dying from septicaemia (from bacteria on the cat's teeth). Many people are worried about doing the bird more damage by actually catching it. The most important thing to remember is to immobilise the wings first by gently picking the bird up with both hands around its body and wings. By preventing it from flapping, you will not only stop it from sustaining any further injury, but the bird will struggle less, making it easier to transfer it to a cardboard box. Please remember that some birds have very powerful beaks. Birds such as seagulls, rooks, crows, jackdaws and magpies will need to be handled using gloves (leather gardening gloves are ideal) as they will use their beaks as their defence. Birds of prey however, like the tawny owlet pictured here, will use their extremely sharp talons to fend you off, as well as their beaks, so beware! Herons, with their long necks, will go for your face and eyes, so make sure that you have a firm grip on the beak at all times and wearing goggles is recommended. The best method of transporting any bird is to put it in a cardboard box with a towel or something similar in the bottom, so that it has something to grip onto. Covering the top of the box, making it dark inside, will help to reduce the stress the bird undergoes during transportation. Wire cages (e.g. cat carriers, budgie cages) should not be used for birds as they will invariably damage their feathers or injure themselves even more.