Notification: Parks and Wildlife Service is part of the new Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).

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Helping baby birds

In spring and summer you often see young birds sitting or jumping on the ground, with no parent in sight. This is normal behaviour and is not a cause for concern.

As tempting as it is to 'rescue' a young bird on the ground, in most cases it is not necessary, and may, in fact, drastically reduce its chances of survival.

Only remove a bird as a last resort when you are certain it needs your help, such as if it is:

  • injured
  • definitely abandoned
  • definitely orphaned.

If you are unsure, leave the bird where it is and contact the Wildcare Helpline on (08) 9474 9055 for advice.

Baby New Holland honey eaters
- Photo © trevorsbirding_com

Fledglings

If the bird on the ground has feathers, leave it alone and watch it from a distance.

It is likely to be a fledgling, and usually the parents are not far away and will return with food. They may be a while—possibly hours—but it is perfectly normal for young birds to leave the nest before they can fly, seeming to be left alone.

Nestlings

If it is a nestling with fluffy down and no feathers, it is likely to have fallen accidentally. If it looks healthy and uninjured, place it back in the nest if possible.

If this is not possible, make a makeshift nest (such as from a hanging basket or small shallow box)  and carefully place it as high in the tree as possible, on a nearby branch or somewhere off the ground and out of danger.

Contrary to popular belief, parent birds will not reject their young if you pick them up—birds generally have a very limited sense of smell.

Again, the parents won't be far away. If you are unable to place a healthy chick back in its nest or out of danger nearby, then you need to get it to an expert rehabilitator as soon as possible if it is to survive.

It is very unlikely for parents to abandon their young. However, sometimes parent birds will reject young if they are unhealthy or if there is not enough food available – they concentrate their efforts on the strongest and healthiest ones.

If you believe the bird is injured, contact the Wildcare Helpline on (08) 9474 9055 immediately. They will give you contact details for your nearest wildlife rehabilitator. Be aware that survival rates for very young birds are low, and many rehabilitators cannot take them.

Feeding wild birds

Do not feed wild birds. Wild birds do not need supplementary food to survive or to raise their young.

However, try to always have a fresh water available in a bird bath. NEVER feed wild birds bread or milk—they can be harmful to birds.

If you are unsure, or just need further information, call the Wildcare helpline on (08) 9474 9055 for advice and contact details of your nearest wildlife rehabilitator.


Life stages of nesting birds

Hatchlings

  • Altricial - newly hatched, sometimes unfeathered with eyes closed and confined to the nest. Usually passerine (perching birds), such as finches or ravens.
  • Precocial - newly hatched with feathers/down and can leave the nest almost immediately, such as ducks.

Chicks

Young or 'baby' birds are known as chicks.

  • Nestling - a bird that is too young to leave the nest – usually unfeathered or downy
  • Fledgling- a young bird that has fledged—it has left the nest, but still may not be fully flying.
    They are usually feathered and may be jumping around or flying erratically. This is them learning to fly and is perfectly normal.
  • Juvenile- a young, fledged bird that can fly but has not yet reached sexual maturity

Most garden birds will take between 14 and 28 days from hatching to leaving the nest (fledgling).