Protected Species

Animal name: Birds

Type: Birds

Habitat: Bird nests will be found in different habitats, depending on the species; from trees, near or on the rooftops of buildings, on the ground, or on cliffs.

Diet: Insects, seeds.

Active: During day unless nocturnal species.

Family: Baby birds are either a fledgling or a nestling.


Where do you find baby birds?

Nestlings need to stay within their nest. Depending on their stage of development, they can be bald or have a few fluffy feathers starting to come through.

If the bird has fallen from their nest, it may be possible to put the bird back into the nest long as the nest has not been destroyed. This should only be done if you are sure the bird is not injured in any way or been caught by a cat and only if you can safely reach the nest.

If you find a featherless or sparsely feathered nestling out of their nest that cannot be returned or is injured or in need of help, please contact our helpline on 03000 999 999 for advice.

Fledglings are birds that have left their nest. They are found fully feathered, but can still be fluffy. In most instances they will look like adult birds at this stage, but they are unable to fly and are still dependent on their parents for food and protection.

During this phase of their lives, fledglings will develop skills on flight, foraging, and fending for themselves. It is crucial to their development that they are left alone where possible.

What do they eat?

Baby birds in the wild have a diet similar to their parents which consists of worms, insects and seeds.

What threats do they face?

Birds are most vulnerable when in their nests. Any unnecessary disturbance from humans or other animals could cause parents to abandon their young, or cause injury.

What common problems/reasons lead to baby birds being cared by the Scottish SPCA?

One of the most common reasons baby birds come in to our care is because well-meaning members of the public disturb or accidentally rescue a fledgling bird which doesn’t actually need any help. Moving a baby bird away from the area where they are learning to fly can permanently separate them from their parents. Whilst we are able to care for and release young birds at our National Wildlife Rescue Centre, we would much rather as many birds as possible grow up with their parents in the wild.

Baby birds can also come in to our care because they are sick or injured. If this is the case, the bird will often display the following signs:

  • Their eyes may be closed, or look dull and sunken.
  • They may demonstrate a 'fluffed' up appearance.
  • The bird may have an obvious wound.
  • A leg may be hanging loosely or being held elevated.
  • One, or both wings may be hanging down or sticking out from the body.

If you believe a baby bird to be injured, please contact our helpline. If you are unsure, please monitor the bird from a safe distance so not to disturb them or a returning parent.

I've come across...

An injured or sick bird

If a bird appears injured or sick, you should call our helpline immediately on 03000 999 999

Orphaned fledgling/nestling

A nestling will likely need our help, a fledgling probably does not.

Dead bird

Contact your local authority to safety remove the body.

Bird living in my garden

It is not unusual for a bird to visit your garden. There are even ways that you can make it more habitable for them, such as having a bird feeder or bird bath.

It is an offence to:

  • Destroy, damage, or take the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built.
  • Kill or injure any wild bird.
  • Capture or keep any wild bird.
  • Destroy or take the eggs of any wild bird.
  • Sell or advertise the sale of any wild bird or their eggs.

All birds, their eggs and their nests are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.