Birds

Baby Birds

Baby birds are best left to be brought up by their parents. Often
people find a baby bird and take it to a rescue centre when it is
simply a fledgling – ie, has rightly left the nest but is still being
fed by its parents and may not be able to fly strongly. Such birds
are too wild to rear easily in captivity and may well die if brought
in and, besides, it is not in the best interest of the bird, its
parents, or the rescue centre to take it in.

However, each case must be judged on its own circumstances,
and many baby birds do need to come in for help. Please follow
this checklist.

1. Is the baby bird injured? (eg by a cat) If so, it needs help.
2. Is it uninjured, up on its legs and able to walk or hop about? If so it is ready to
  be out so leave it.
3. Is it completely covered in feathers? If so it should be left out.
4. Is it only partially feathered, or not at all? If so it definitely needs help.
5. Was the bird in the road when you found it? If so, as long as it is feathered and
  hopping around, it should be placed as near to where you found it but in a safe
  place, eg a nearby garden. Its parents need to be in earshot, but it does not
  need to come in.

Adult birds.
Adult birds are a different story. If an adult bird allows you
to catch it then something is wrong. In this case please
ring us or bring the bird to us.

Herring gulls – adult
Adult or juvenile herring gulls – the big white gulls with grey wings, or the juveniles with browny/grey speckles – frequently suffer broken wings from road traffic accidents. In these cases we can often mend the wing by strapping them up for a few weeks and then giving them time to be able to fly strongly in an aviary.

If the wing is completely smashed, with bone sticking out, the wing, twisting right around, or loads of blood, then it will never mend. We feel it is not fair to keep the bird for maybe another 30 years unable to fly, so euthanasia is the only answer. If you are able to take the bird directly to your local vet it will be quicker for the bird to be out of its suffering.

Some gulls appear paralysed but otherwise have no signs of injury. This can be either botulism, or spinal injury. Botulism we can usually cure. The birds get food poisoning, especially in very hot weather, and get to the stage where they can’t even swallow for themselves. Intensive nursing will get them over this in a few weeks.
Spinal injuries, probably from car accidents, also paralyse the birds’ legs, but they can still eat and flap their wings. Typically, their legs are out behind them and they constantly flap to try and move along. The usual outcome of this is euthanasia, but if you are not sure then please bring it to us to check.

Herring gulls – babies
The following is for uninjured gulls – obviously if they are injured you will need to bring them to us.

Baby gulls are born from around the end of May and immediately
we start getting calls about those that have fallen from roofs. At this
age they are tennis ball sized and must go back on their nest if at
all possible. They are too small to walk back and, contrary to many
people’s belief, the parents cannot pick them up and carry them
back. If the baby cannot be returned to the nest then it needs to
come in for help as soon as possible.

Sorry, but we should only take them if the roof is several storeys high, has no balcony or window opening out onto it that you can put the bird through, and it is an absolute impossibility to put them back. Please ask neighbours or family to help you if you are unable to put them back yourself. We get upwards of 300 young gulls in a year, all within about 2 months. They soon become overcrowded and will be unhealthy if we do not spend all day, every day cleaning out and feeding. It makes a huge amount of work for the two of us, and is not in the best interest of the birds. Please make every effort to put the gull back, but feel free to call us if, after everything, the bird needs our help.

Middle sized gulls
Those who are walking around and starting to get feathers, can be put on the edge of the roof and will walk back up to their nest if found on the ground. Again, please call us if there is no way of doing this, as a gull at this size left on the ground will not survive.

Later in the summer, baby gulls are starting to take their first flights
and often end up on the ground. At this stage we do not take them
in unless they are injured. Ideally, the baby needs popping back up
on the roof where its parents are. Second best would be a nearby
roof – garage, shed or anything high to get it safely off the ground
and give it a better chance of lift off, but please make sure you do
not put it on another roof where a different pair of gulls are nesting.
Third best is to put it out nearby on a more open piece of land to give it a better chance of taking off. The last resort is to leave it. It will go eventually. Baby gulls often sit around in gardens because they are being fed, or they are interested in what is there, or they are in too enclosed a space to fly out.

We will not take these older birds because: they do not need our help
they need their parents to help them fly away they will be too overcrowded if we took them all.

Please remember, we are here to help you and the birds, but we cannot do it all. If we are to spend all our time caring for them, then we need you to help with putting them back if possible, and with bringing birds to us when you can instead of asking us to collect. You may be busy, but we just never stop!

Deterring gulls
Most important – from the moment a gull has started building a nest it is totally illegal to remove it or harm them unless you have a licence from DEFRA. All birds’ nests are protected. If you remove eggs or a nest or harm the parent birds then you could be reported to the police or RSPCA and may be prosecuted.

The time to stop gulls (and pigeons) nesting on your property is when they are not nesting. Companies like “Clean Dimensions” will put up netting, spikes etc to prevent birds nesting and also undergo cleaning work. Please make sure that whichever company you use, they must fix it so birds do not get trapped and starve to death. Again, you could be prosecuted.

If you have to live with gulls nesting on your roof, try not to worry, flap at them or look suspicious! If you carry on your normal life and ignore them they will usually ignore you. It is usually only when you shout and wave things at them that they start to get defensive. Obviously if they are nesting right over your front door it can be disconcerting so if you are worried wear a hat and walk as you normally would so as not to arouse their attention.

Racing pigeons
If you have a racing pigeon feeding with your local pigeon flock, or find
an injured one and are able to catch it, it is always a good idea to
gently spread out the feathers on the wings. Many owners stamp their
name and phone number on the wing feathers so you, or we, can
contact them direct. Occasionally the phone number is on the ring on
the bird’s leg. The bird should also have an identification number on its
leg ring. It is possible to trace an owner with this number through
racing pigeons associations.If you cannot catch a racing pigeon it must be fit and well so it is best left. Eventually it will either return home on its own or join up with feral pigeons and live wild.

Baby birds waiting for food
rescued pheasant
Rescued baby herring gull
Rescued adult gull
Roger holding rescued racing pigeon

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