Birds, particularly in the spring season, undergo a vital period of their life cycle known as fledging. Fledglings are young birds that have just left the nest but are not yet proficient fliers. Encountering a bird fledgling can be a delicate situation that requires careful handling. Here are some vital steps to follow to ensure their safety and well-being.
- Observe from a Distance
If you find a young bird on the ground, resist the urge to immediately pick it up. Instead, observe it from a safe distance. Fledglings often leave their nests to learn to fly, an activity known as ‘branching.’ Parents usually keep a watchful eye, feeding the fledgling, even on the ground. Quick intervention could interfere with this natural process.
- Identify the Bird’s Stage
Identify if the bird is a nestling or a fledgling. Nestlings are typically younger, less feathered, and unable to hop or flit around. If you find a nestling outside of its nest, it could have fallen out or been pushed out prematurely. In contrast, fledglings possess more feathers and show more mobility. They are often found on the ground as a part of their normal developmental process. If you aren’t 100% sure about the stages, this would be a good time to contact a local wildlife rehabilitation centre as they will be able to tell you. Sometimes all they will need is a picture texted to them and they can identify it for you, but check with your local wildlife rehab centre
- Returning a Nestling
If you are certain the bird is a nestling and if your local wildlife rehabilitation centre instructs you to, try to locate the nest and gently put it back. If the nest is unreachable or destroyed, your local wildlife rehabilitation centre will likely be able to provide you with other options.
- Leave the Fledgling Alone
If the bird is a fledgling, it’s often best to leave it alone. They might seem vulnerable, but their parents are usually nearby, waiting for you to leave before they return to tend to their young. Intervention can disrupt this natural process. If you have time and space, keep an eye on the fledgling from a distance to make sure there aren’t any dangers that present themselves, like the bird moves close to a road for example.
- When to Intervene
Intervention becomes necessary if the bird is injured, in immediate danger (like from a pet or traffic), or if you have waited and observed no parent birds returning for a few hours. In such cases, capture the bird carefully, avoiding direct hand contact if possible. You may use gloves or a soft cloth to gently pick up the bird.
- Contact a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
Once the bird is safe, contact a local wildlife rehabilitation center or a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. They are trained professionals who know how to handle and care for wild birds properly. Provide them with all the necessary information about where and in what condition you found the bird. Remember, it is illegal in many jurisdictions to keep wild birds without proper licensing, and it’s also not in the bird’s best interest.
- Prevent Future Incidents
Finally, work to make your environment less hazardous for birds. Keep pet cats indoors, especially during the spring and summer when fledglings are learning to fly. Cover windows with decals or screens to prevent bird collisions. Avoid trimming trees and shrubs during nesting season to reduce disturbance to nesting birds.
Encountering a bird fledgling can be an opportunity to observe a wonderful aspect of nature’s life cycle. By taking the correct measures and respecting the natural order, we can help ensure these fledglings grow up to grace our skies. Remember, when in doubt, always contact a wildlife professional for advice.