A young bird’s best chance for survival is with its parents. First, we need to assess whether we need to do anything.
If the little bird does not have most or any of its adult feathers, it is called a nestling (see photos of nestlings below).
Nestlings sometimes fall from the nest, or the nest may have been disrupted by weather or predators. If the nestling is found on the ground, we can help it by returning it to its nest or back in a substitute nest so that its parents can continue to raise it. Here is more information about making surrogate nests.
A fledgling is almost all feathered out, can hop around and tries to fly (see photos of fledglings below).
It is normal for young birds, called fledglings, to come out of the nest a little bit before they can fly and fend for themselves. Its parents are usually very attentive, and if you can observe it from a distance you will see the parents feeding it and encouraging it to fly. Though very vulnerable, the fledging stage is a very important part of the bird’s development. The best thing to do for a fledging is to leave it alone, keep the cats and dogs inside or on a leash, and keep people, small children and lawn mowers away. In some cases, it may be best to place the fledging off the ground in a bush, but it may not stay put.
After making sure the fledgling is safe, you need to observe and wait patiently to see if the adult birds are attending the little one. This can be the hardest part – waiting and watching from a distance so as not to disturb the parents. Quite often, it is hard to observe a nest from all 360 degrees, but if the little bird seems content and you see adult birds in the area, assume the bird is being cared for. Leave it alone. Again, a baby’s best chance for survival is with its parents.