RSPCA braced for flood of orphaned, sick and injured baby birds this spring

The RSPCA is gearing itself up for a hectic bird breeding season, as new figures reveal that the charity received almost 9,000 (8,967) calls about orphaned, sick and injured baby birds last year.

The majority of calls from concerned members of the public came in during the peak months of May, June and July.  At its busiest in June 2020, the charity was taking five calls an hour from animal lovers reporting young wild birds in trouble.

Around one third of all the calls (3,330) last year related to orphaned birds and another 3,252 were about sick and injured birds. The majority (4,611) were about fledglings (older baby birds that are starting to fly), which the RSPCA advises can generally be left to be cared for by their parents. The charity also received 1,413 calls about nestlings – the very young baby birds – who will not survive out of the nest. Nestlings are highly vulnerable and more likely to need help.  

RSPCA’s Scientific Officer Evie Button said: “Our wildlife centres are now on high alert as the baby bird season kicks off.  As well as handling thousands of calls – around 9,000 – last year, more than 5,400 orphaned, injured or sick young birds were brought into our four specialist centres. That’s a lot of round-the-clock hand-feeding, monitoring and rehabilitation of all types of young birds, from cygnets, sparrows and swallows to guillemots, goshawks and gulls!

“It’s wonderful that people want to do the best for our wildlife, but sometimes it’s difficult to know when to intervene and when to hold back. It is really important to ensure it is only those that really need help that are brought in, and in most cases, the best thing you can do for them is to help them stay in the wild using methods like re-nesting. If in doubt, our new, downloadable guides – one for fledglings and one for nestlings – are full of advice and can help to identify whether the young bird is a fledgling – which unless sick or injured, is likely to survive outside the nest without human intervention – or a younger, more vulnerable nestling, which will probably need extra help.”

In 2020, the RSPCA’s wildlife centres cared for nearly 3,000 (2788) ‘orphaned’ birds, picked up by well-meaning people. But many of these birds were not actually orphans and may have been better off left in the wild. 

Unlike fledglings, if a nestling is spotted outside their nest, they need assistance.  The RSPCA’s new downloadable guidance provides options on what to do depending on the circumstances. Actions may include creating a manmade nest, taking the nestling to a vet or local rescue centre, or calling the RSPCA. 

The RSPCA also has specific information on their website for some species which may need different types of help, such as gull chicks , bird of prey chicks and ducklings, goslings and cygnets .

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

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