Nature on our doorsteps: Leaving the nest

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Birds have been very busy since early April, building nests and feeding chicks. 

While chicks face many challenges as they hatch and develop, one of the riskiest times for them is when they first leave the nest.

Fledglings like this Grey Crow still need to be fed by their parents 1

Fledglings like this Grey Crow still need to be fed by their parents

It is at this time that we sometimes find them on the ground.

If the chick is bald or is covered in soft fluffy down, it is a nestling and it has accidently fallen out of the nest.

Hand-rearing small nestlings like this is a specialist job and it is not often successful. 

If the location of the nest is known, it might be possible to quickly put a nestling back. There is no guarantee that it will survive, or that the parent will not push it out again because it now smells differently.

This Thrush fledgling is well camouglaged in the brown grass 1

This Thrush fledgling is well camouflaged in the brown grass

If the chick is larger and has proper feathers, it is likely to be a fledgling and it has left the nest deliberately.

Some fledglings leave the nest before they can fully fly, flitting between the ground and tree branches to build up their flight muscles. 

If a fledgling is out in the open where a cat or dog might get it, it could be carefully moved under some nearby bushes where the parents will continue to feed it until it is strong enough to fly away by itself.

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