Whilst it can be a startling discovery, and your initial instinct may be to go to its rescue, this might not always be what is beneficial for an injured bird. A rescue effort, whilst well thought out and with the best intentions, may not be required and could even cause more distress to the bird.
Birds can go into shock easily, so knowing when to step in is extremely important; however, if you feel that the bird will struggle to recover on its own, we have put together a guide to help you navigate assisting an injured bird.
This could be a dangling leg, a wing drooping or hanging at an angle, limp, broken or damaged feathers and sometimes even wounds. The eyes can also show signs of injury. The bird is likely injured if the eyes are closed, swollen, crusted or squinted.
This is extremely important if it is a baby bird. It is not uncommon to see a baby bird on the ground, so do not be alarmed. Fledglings often spend a few days on lower ground before their feathers develop, as they curiously take in their surroundings before learning how to fly. Likely, their parents are nearby, and it does not need to be rescued. However, if it is in immediate danger, you can move it to a safe place within the garden. Contrary to what you may believe, its parents will not abandon it once a human has handled it.
If you are not content that the bird will recover on its own, you can step in and try to help. This means learning how to handle the bird safely and correctly. Do not attempt to treat any injuries. At this stage, your aim is to transfer the bird to a recovery box and make it as comfortable as possible. You can then take it to the appropriate authorities for treatment if necessary.
Before handling the bird, ensure that you have prepared a recovery box. Placing birds in a warm, dark, quiet place while they recover is critical and will help to keep them calm.
Once the box is ready, you must handle the bird carefully and move it to the rescue box. Before handling the bird, consider its size, as this will determine how you must handle it. When handling any bird, always use a form of padding like gloves or a tea towel to protect the bird and yourself. Birds are incredibly fragile, and you don’t want to cause any additional stress.
The best practice for picking up a bird is to support its entire weight and always have its wings held against its body while supporting its feet.
For a smaller bird, you should hold it in one hand, positioning your hand over the bird so that its head sits between your fore and middle fingers, and use the rest of your fingers to cradle the rest of its weight.
For medium-sized birds, use both hands to cover the wings, securing the entire body. Offering support for the bird’s feet will also provide comfort and support. Do not handle it for any longer than you need to.
After resting, you can try taking the box outside, removing the lid, and allowing the bird to fly out.
If the bird cannot fly out of the box after some time and a few attempts, then it's best to contact an animal welfare charity.
You can also learn more about the wild birds you will likely see in your garden here.