Birds of Prey is a charity run advice website which is part of the Starlight Trust

Common Kestrel (Eastern Canary Island sub-species), "El Rubicon" plains, Lanzarote



Birds of Prey refers to birds such as kestrels and hawks as well as owls.

Whilst these pages are primarily concerned with wild animals, it is not uncommon for captive bred birds to fly away from their handlers and become disorientated so we also touch on what to do in that situation.

This page covers adult birds. If you need help with a baby bird of prey or owl, please see here.


When to help

TickIf the bird has been attacked by a dog or hit by a car
The bird will need to be assessed for injuries and is likely to be in shock.
TickIf the bird has been caught by a cat.
It doesn’t happen often that a cat brings in such a prize but any bird bitten by a cat needs antibiotic treatment within a few hours or it may develop fatal septacaemia.
TickAny bird with an obvious injury
Any visible wound or apparently damaged wing, leg or beak will need treatment.
TickAny adult bird which can be approached
Any adult bird of prey should see a human as a threat and try to get away. If it makes no effort to fly off or is unable to then it’s in serious trouble.
TickA bird with leather straps round its legs.
This is a captive bird which has flown away from its handler. It probably won’t survive in the wild and if it does it will have a negative impact on the local ecosystem. If the bird has a ring it may be a captive bird, though some wild birds are ringed for monitoring purposes. You can find out more about ring types and who to report ringed birds to here.

Capture, Care and Containment

Birds of Prey are unlikely to peck you but can do considerable damage with their powerful feet and sharp talons. Cover the bird with a thick towel or similar to protect yourself and minimise stress to the bird. Have something ready to put the bird straight into before you catch it if possible.

A large, sturdy cardboard box may be sufficient here but a carry box designed for cats might be better if the bird is still lively and determined. If using a cardboard box, ensure the lid is secured to prevent escape and make sure to provide air holes. Place the box somewhere warm and quiet and keep children and pets away. If it’s a baby bird, please minimise your contact with the baby as much as possible as they imprint very easily.

If the bird has been caught by a cat then you must seek urgent help. The bird will need to be given antibiotics within a few hours of being bitten or it may develop fatal septicaemia. Some wildlife rescues are available 24/7 for this sort of emergency and we try to give some indication of availability on our listings. You could also contact local vets – although they will not have facilities for the long term care of the bird, they may be willing to provide a one off dose of antibiotics. Some may even do so free or at a much reduced price.

It is not generally necessary or advisable to provide food and water if you are getting the bird to a rescue quickly. Never attempt to force feed water to a bird as it is very easy to drown them and never offer cow’s milk or alcohol.

It is likely that the bird will be shocked or weakened so supplementary heat can be very helpful here. You can 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. If the bird begins to pant, remove the heat source immediately.

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.