What to do if you find a lone baby animal
Each year, we experience a high volume of calls about baby animals, particularly fledgling birds, who have been found on their own and presumed to have been abandoned by their parents.
It is very common for well-meaning people to disturb a baby animal which doesn't need rescued at all. In the vast majority of cases there is no welfare issue. Unless the animal is injured or sick, they should be left alone.
If you are worried about the animal, stay well back and monitor, returning to the location over a period of time if possible. The mother will usually return to feed or move her young. If the baby has not been moved after 12-24 hours, call our helpline on 03000 999 999.
What should I do if I find a baby bird on the ground?
A fledgling is a fully-feathered, young bird. If you come across a fledgling on the ground, it’s highly likely that they’re learning to fly and the parents will be nearby.
A healthy fledgling on the ground should be left alone provided there are no immediate dangers around. If the baby bird is on a road or vulnerable to nearby predators, you can move it 10-20ft to safety, staying within range of where you think the parents are. Certain species of birds, such as gulls, magpies and crows, are very protective over their young. If you need to move a baby bird, proceed with caution and consider wearing a hat or using an umbrella to protect yourself.
If you are able to, monitor the fledgling from a safe distance. If there is no sign of the parents after a couple of hours, call our helpline on 03000 999 999.
The baby bird looks too young to be out of the nest – what should I do?
A nestling is too young to survive out of the nest and is highly vulnerable. Nestlings will either be fluffy-looking or have no feathers at all. A nestling should never be out of the nest. Call our helpline on 03000 999 999 immediately.
You can place a well-ventilated box over the nestling until one of our animal rescue officers arrives. For more information about containing animals, click here.
What should I do if I find another type of baby animal on their own?
Animals who live above ground, such as deer and hares, will leave their young in long grass or under bushes to protect them from predators while they forage for food. From a very early age, many species learn to lie very still to avoid attracting unwanted attention but well-meaning people can mistake this for them being abandoned.
Stay well back and monitor the animal from a safe distance, revisiting the location at regular intervals over a 24-hour period if necessary. Keep quiet to avoid alerting them to your presence and keep any dogs on leads.
If the mother has not returned, or is dead nearby, call our helpline on 03000 999 999.
What should I do if I have already taken a baby animal from the wild?
Put the animal back as close to where you found them as you can. Most of the time, the maternal instinct is incredibly strong and the scent of a human will not cause a mother to abandon her young.
However, sometimes human intervention can cause an animal to reject their young or not return for them due to fear. Revisit the location over the next 12-24 hours. If the parents have still not returned, call our helpline on 03000 999 999.
Birds don’t have a sense of smell, so as long as you put a fledgling back as close to where you found it as possible, the parents should come back for them. Have a look around for a nest, or adult birds, and try to move the fledgling to within 10-20ft. 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 remain in the wild with their parents.