Resist the ‘cute factor’
Seeing a helpless baby bird stranded out of its nest tugs at the heart-strings of most people, but there is a simple message—leave that chick alone!
Spring is a time when many birds breed, which inevitably results in plenty of fluffy chicks in the neighbourhood, and some of them give a good impression of being abandoned and helpless when they’re on the ground.
However, don’t be fooled—you should resist the urge to rescue the bird, because usually they don’t need your assistance at all. Most just need to be left alone, and removing a baby bird from its environment is not always in its best interests.
People should ignore the ‘cute factor’ and dispassionately assess whether the bird really needs your help. Ask yourself these questions: Is the chick visibly injured? Is it in real danger of being killed or injured? If the answer is no, leave it alone—it’s the best thing to do.
Sometimes baby birds land on the ground when they’re learning to fly, but that doesn’t mean that they need your assistance. Usually their parents are nearby, waiting to feed and look after their young once you’ve left the scene.
If you find a nest that’s been blown onto the ground, replace it and its contents in a nearby shrub or tree so that the parent birds can continue to attend it. They will find it.
If you find a young Tawny Frogmouth on the ground, simply replace it in a nearby tree. It’s the safest place for it.
If you find a baby Masked Lapwing or plover on the ground, leave it where it is; after all, the ground is where they live. Its parents will be nearby (they’re probably swooping you right now).
If you find a chick on the ground and it is:
- clearly unattended by its parents (watch this from a distance for some time so you’re not keeping them away); and
- it’s in imminent danger from cats, dogs or traffic; and
- it can’t be left in a safe place nearby: do not attempt to look after the bird on your own. Place it in a dark, warm, dry place (such as a cardboard box with plenty of air holes, and padding such as a towel inside), keep it safe from the family cats and dogs, and then contact your local wildlife rescue shelter or vet straight away.
Remember, cute is not the same as helpless.