Help Baby Birds

Fledglings in Danger

Many wonder how fledglings can survive outside of the nest when they cannot fly - after all, there are many dangers on the ground, such as cars and people and cats and dogs.

Certainly they are vulnerable before they can fly, but leaving the nest is a normal part of bird development. Bird nests are small - they are built to accommodate babies only up to a certain size. In fact, it is actually better for baby birds to leave the nest as soon as they are physically able as they are even more vulnerable to predators while they are in the nest (because a predator has access to the entire nest of siblings at once, and the babies are unable to hide or get away).

In order to exercise their muscles, grow out their flight feathers, learn how to find food and evade predators, baby birds must leave the nest. Sometimes babies hop around the branches or platforms surrounding the nest, and other times they wind up on the ground and hop around there. Both are normal, and countless thousands of baby birds make it safely through this process every year. Their parents keep close watch over them through this teenage stage, and food to the babies while they grow. Between feedings, babies may hunker down in the grass, hide under bushes, or explore their environment.

It is very important not to remove fledgling birds from the area where you find them, since they rely on their parents to feed them as they learn to forage on their own. If you feel that a fledgling is in danger on the ground and there is a tree or shrub nearby, you may place the baby up on a low branch, however he or she may not stay there for long.

One thing you should NOT do with healthy fledglings is remove them from their parents' care. It can be very tempting to “rescue” these little babies from the dangers of the world, but we do not do them any favours to do so. This is a critical learning period for babies, where they are learning the social behaviours that will help them survive in the wild - such as foraging for the correct foods, avoiding predators, and communicating. If they are in their parents' care, the kindest thing you can do is leave them be.

Note: there are rare situations where birds get into situations where their parents cannot feed them, such as onto the middle of a busy road. If it is possible to move the baby to a safer area near the road, do this and monitor from a good distance away for one hour to see if the baby gets fed by its parent. If there is no such area to move the baby to, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for further advice.