So you found a baby bird that fell out of its nest. If the baby bird looks the same age as the Grackle fledgling below – leave it alone!

Many people, my wife included, get very upset when they see a baby bird that cannot fly and is hopping clumsily on the ground. Relax! This is totally natural and watch out, duck! The parents are usually still around and watching after the chick. If you come too close to their baby they will swoop at you to make you go away and leave it alone. Take the hint please and let nature take its course. Here is why…

A fledgling is a young bird that has matured enough to acquire its initial flight feathers and is prepared to leave its nest in attempts to fly. These young birds that have left their nest but have not yet developed all their adult plumage are still fed and watched over by the parent birds.

Fledgling plumage is most visible on a bird’s wings and tail, where the flight feathers will appear much shorter than an adult’s feathers. Fledglings are capable of flying but are inexperienced and may seem reluctant to fly or may show difficulty with takeoffs, landings or distance flight. As the feathers continue to grow, the birds will gain more flying skill and their plumage will become indistinguishable from that of the adult birds’.

Fledglings should not be put back into their nest. They should be put back where they were found or close to it so their parents continue to feed them. If you put them back in their nest they will simply hop out again – this is, after all, what it means to be a fledgling. This is a very important time for the young fledged birds to learn by observing their parents. This learning stage is one of the most dangerous times of a bird’s life, but is a very natural step. Fledglings learn about finding food, avoiding predators, and how to fly by watching what their parents do. Many folks, who mean well, “rescue” these young birds by mistake. If you want to help, the best thing to do is to keep people and pets out of the birds’ territory. It will take about 5-15 days before the baby can fly well enough to begin following its parents.