Baby Garden Birds provides advice on what to do if you find a sick, injured or abandoned wild bird or animal

Baby bird
By garden birds we mean passerines, the birds most commonly found in your garden such as Sparrows, Blackbirds, Starlings, Tits, Robins etc, including corvids such as Crows, Magpies and Jays.

When to Help

TickIf the bird has been caught by a cat.
Any bird which has been bitten by a cat, regardless of its age, will need rescue and treatment. There are bacteria on cat’s teeth which will pass into the bird’s bloodstream when it is bitten. Without antibiotics within a few hours of the attack the bird may develop fatal septicaemia. Urgent action is required here.
TickIf the bird is obviously injured
If you can see a wound, or a wing or leg is obviously damaged then the bird needs help. Survival in the wild is unlikely with an injury.
TickIf the bird is out if its nest and is not feathered.
If you know where the nest is, try to return the baby to the nest and watch to see if the parents return. If you can’t find the nest, try making a replacement nest and placing it in a bush or hanging it from a tree branch. For example, take an ice cream tub, make a hole in each side and thread some string through, and then hang it from a low branch. Wait for an hour or so to see if the parents return. If there’s no sign of the parents, it will need rescuing. Birds of this age are very fragile, so you must take urgent action and ensure the baby is kept warm and fed (see “Capture, Containment and Care” below)
TickIf the bird is out of its nest, only partially feathered (its tail is short and it still has a fluffy appearance) and there is no sign of any parent birds for a couple of hours.
The baby is less vulnerable at this age but still needs to be fed by Mum and Dad. Make sure baby is safe, placing it in a bush or hedge if needs be, and keeping pets and humans well away. Watch to see if the parent birds return and attend to their baby. If not, it will need rescuing.
TickIf the nest has been destroyed and the occupants are not fully feathered.
Try placing the babies in a makeshift nest as above and watch to see if the parents return. If not, the babies will need rescuing.
TickIf the bird is in immediate danger from a cat, cars or any other threat.
Try placing the bird in a safe place such as a bush or low branch of a tree but if it is still in danger it will need rescuing.
TickIf both parents have been killed.
CrossIf the bird is fully feathered, not injured and not in immediate danger.
The bird is probably a fledgling taking its first flight. If possible place the bird in a hedge or low branch of a tree to keep it safer. Observe to make sure the bird remains safe.


You’re unlikely to be bitten or otherwise harmed by a baby bird but you can pick the bird up with gloves or a light towel if you prefer. Any small bird needs to be handled with care. Their bones are very delicate, and it would be easy to injure them by handling them roughly. They will usually feel more secure if you hold their wings against their body and support their feet.


If the bird needs to be rescued, place it in something like a shoebox or ice cream tub lined with tissues. If you need a lid to keep the bird contained, don’t forget to provide plenty of air holes. Place the box somewhere warm and quiet and keep children and pets away.


Any baby bird which needs rescuing should be taken to a wildlife rescue as soon as possible, ideally within an hour. The baby is likely to need supplementary heat, especially if it is not fully feathered. An airing cupboard may suffice for partially feathered birds but, for younger ones, put a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel at one end of the box, either inside, underneath or next to the box, ensuring the bird can get away from the heat if it wants to. As a rule, the baby should feel warm to the touch. If it feels cold it needs more heat, and if it is panting or feels very hot, it may need less.
Baby birds need feeding very regularly and can quickly die through lack of food. Do not attempt to feed a baby bird without first seeking expert advice based on the age and species of your casualty. Never attempt to force feed water to a bird as it is very easy to drown them and never offer cow’s milk, worms or alcohol.

NB – this advice is designed to cover the first hour or so. If you are not able to get the bird to a wildlife rescue within this time, please at least speak to someone by phone for further advice about care beyond this period. If you want to care for the casualty yourself rather than taking it to a rescue, please read the information here.