Discovering Fledglings: Why It’s Best to Leave a Young Bird Alone

Why You Should Resist the Urge to Interfere

Reading Time: 3 minutes

After a young bird leaves the nest, their parents still have a lot of work to do. Like human parents, fledged chicks venture out into the world to explore, but they still rely on their parents for food. 

In this video, a male Downy Woodpecker, who is already twice the size of its dad, is trying to get some food from its parent. Can you imagine trying to feed a teenager who’s already bigger than you? 

But here’s the catch! Parents stop feeding their fledglings after one to three weeks and may even peck at them if they continue begging for food. Talk about tough love! 

This is the approach that bird parents use to encourage their young ones to become independent. So, next time you see a baby bird out in the world, remember that they’re still learning and growing, and their parents are doing their best to teach them how to survive on their own.

Please Leave Fledglings Alone

You may come across fledglings in unusual places, and as bird lovers, we may feel the need to help what appears to be a stranded “baby” bird. However, we advise against it. If you find fledglings, it’s best to leave them where they are, as their parents are usually nearby and caring for them. Even if you don’t see the parent, leaving it alone is still best, as the parent may be nearby. This is important because fledglings can hide from predators and may not be able to fly yet. 

Parents are Usually Close By

Removing a fledgling from the wild can reduce its chances of survival, so it should only be done as a last resort. If you find a grounded fledgling, only rescue it if it is in immediate danger. Otherwise, let the parents coax the baby to fly. If you see backyard predators like cats and dogs, chase them away.

If the bird is in a dangerous location, move it only a short distance to a safer place. Make sure to put it down within hearing range of where it was found so the parents can locate it. Contrary to what we may have been told as children, handling a young bird does not cause its parents to abandon it. Birds don’t rely as much on their sense of smell as mammals do. 

Rescuing a “Baby” Bird

It may be tempting to “rescue” a “baby” bird that seems to be in trouble, but it’s important to remember that adult birds are much better at looking after their offspring than humans will ever be. In most cases, the bird’s parents are nearby, waiting for you to leave so they can care for it.

If the bird is in danger, like in the middle of a busy path or road, move it to a safer place nearby, like a bush or tree where cats can’t see it. Don’t feed the bird. Feeding it what you think is appropriate can harm it. Instead, watch from a safe distance to see what happens. 

If you think the bird has been abandoned, it’s best to contact your local wildlife rehabilitator or the Department of Environmental Conservation for advice. The Humane Society’s website has a list of wildlife rehabilitators in your state. 

It’s always exciting to see bird families and celebrate the continuation of life. So, get out and see some birds!

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