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 the 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.
Your first step is to check for any external injuries. 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. If they are closed, swollen, crusted or squinted, it is very likely that the bird is injured.
If there are no signs of injury, leave the bird and allow it to recover on its own. 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 will often spend a few days on lower ground before their feathers develop, as they curiously take in their surroundings before learning how to fly. It is likely that their parents are nearby and it does not need rescued. However, if it is in immediate danger, then you can move it to a safe place within the garden. Contrary to what you may believe, its parents will not abandon it once it has been handled by a human.
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.
A shoebox or any other type of carboard box is ideal for this.
Once the box is ready, you will need to handle the bird with care 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 both the bird and yourself. Birds are incredibly fragile, and you don’t want to cause any additional stress.
Best practice for picking up a bird is to support its entire weight and always have its wings held against its body while supporting their 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 its entire body. Offering support for the bird’s feet will also provide comfort and support. Do not handle for any longer than you need to.
There are a few things that should be avoided whilst the bird is in your care
After a resting period, you can try taking the box outside and removing the lid and allowing the bird to fly out.
If after some time and a few attempts the bird is unable fly out of the box, then it is best to contact an animal welfare charity. If you live in England or Wales contact the RSPCA, if you’re in Scotland contact SSPCA and if you find the bird in Northern Ireland contact USPCA.