Baby Birds

Abandoned robin's nest

Over the last couple of months, we've been very busy on the nature reserve where I work answering phone calls from people who have found a baby bird and don't know what to do with it.  And the answer we normally give, unless it is injured, is do nothing and leave it where you found it.  The often harsh-seeming law of nature is that a third of baby birds don't make it, and that's why songbirds lay somewhere between 5 and 12 eggs, depending on the species.  The bigger the bird the fewer the eggs, with birds of prey only laying 2-3, or even just one.

Mink taking off with a goose egg

The bird breeding season is balanced to perfection, with birds delaying the laying until the optimum time and then prioritizing the raising of their brood according to conditions. If food is plentiful and predators few, then most if not all the chicks will make it; if food is scarce and predators are many, then the adults will feed only the strongest and biggest chicks to make sure that some at least survive.

Robust baby swallows

 Our 'humanizing' of nature causes our emotional and compassionate reactions, but the best chance of survival for a fledgling that's left the nest early is to let it alone.  The parents are probably nearby and will continue to feed it on the ground.  Granted, a predator might get there first, but that is the law of nature. And the predator is doing what every living thing does, hunting to live and raise its own young.

A proud mother goose!

At the end of the day, by rescuing baby birds, we are robbing them of their best chance of survival, ie, learning to adapt to their surroundings and learn the techniques that only other birds can teach them.  It can be heartbreaking to see predated eggs or fledglings being carried off by magpies. So I always remind myself that magpies are living and sentient beings and are entitled to survive too!

Many thanks to the wardens of RSPB Ynys-Hir for their stunning photographs!


  1. Hi Melissa. I really enjoyed your post. Nature can seem harsh, but I totally agree to leaving well alone. If we put our scent on wild birds, it can sometimes cause the mother to reject the chick.

  2. Hi Sarah, you are quite right. There was a little dunnock chick outside my door yesterday and, sure enough, the parents knew where it was and were feeding it on the ground until it got its 'wings' xx


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