Helping or harming; should you rescue baby birds?

A fluffy baby bird seemingly abandoned on the ground will prompt many people to rescue it. However this is often unnecessary, as they are not as hopeless as they appear!

The young of many Australian birds leave the nest before they can fly. Usually the parents are nearby, or will return shortly with food. Often the parents are just waiting for you to leave before they return to their baby.

How do you know if the chick needs help?

Ask yourself – Is the chick visibly injured? Is it in real danger of being killed or injured?

If the answer is no, please leave it alone. It is in the chick’s best interest to be looked after and learn to feed and fly from its parents, not a carer.

Masked Lapwing chicks.jpg

Masked Lapwing parents are very dedicated parents and will not leave their chicks alone.

If you find a nest that has been blown onto the ground, replace it and its contents in a nearby shrub so the parent birds can find it. If you spot a young bird such as the Tawny Frogmouth below, which was sitting on the ground, simply put it in a nearby tree to keep it safe from dogs, cats and traffic.

Tawny young returned to tree_WC_20161128_2.jpg

This tawny Frogmouth chick was found on the ground and was placed in a nearby tree

If in doubt, leave the chick on the ground and monitor for some time at a distance so you are not keeping the parents away. Please contact your local wildlife rescue group for assistance if the chick is

  • clearly unattended, AND
  • in imminent danger from cats, dogs or traffic, AND
  • there is no safe places such as shrubs to place it

You may help the bird by putting it in a dark, warm and dry place, such as a box with air holes and a towel for padding, while waiting for help. Do not attempt to look after the chick on your own as parental care is best.

Magpie chick with parent Herb Elliot_20161006.jpg

Case in point: a ‘rescued’ young Magpie presented to the Authority was returned to where it was found. After waiting from a distance, the parent showed up to feed it.

To find out more resuing baby birds visit Birdlife Australia.


Ecology Project Officer, Sydney Olympic Park Authority

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Posted in Places & green spaces

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