WWT’s wetland centres are unable to take in injured or orphaned animals. We’re a wetland conservation charity - we do not have the facilities, bird housing or staff to offer a separate animal rescue service alongside our wetland conservation work. If you think a bird does need to be removed from the wild for its own welfare, please speak to your nearest animal rescue centre, veterinary clinic, or the USPCA in Northern Ireland, SSPCA in Scotland or RSPCA in Wales and England.
Here’s our general advice to help you judge what you should do if you find an injured or orphaned bird.
Finding an injured bird is obviously awful for the bird, and can also put you in a difficult situation.
If you try to catch it, it will perceive you as a predator. You will cause it stress and potentially further injury as it tries to escape from you. But equally it would be heartless to ignore any suffering animal.
Assess the situation and be prepared to walk away if you might inadvertently cause it to suffer more.
The mother is usually not far away, and if you interfere she will probably think you are a threat. The best thing to do is to let the mother and chick find each other again in their own time.
The young of most wetland birds in the UK will quickly grow full flight feathers and begin to venture away from mum by themselves. This is normal – and in fact necessary in order for the youngsters to become independent and self-sufficient.
If a stranded bird is in immediate danger then common sense can obviously prevail. If it is on a busy road, you could take action like shooing it to safety. Or if you are a cat owner and it’s in your garden, lock your cat in temporarily or shoo other cats away if they are interested.
Picking up or catching a bird is a last resort. You can reduce the risk of mishandling if you can place a ventilated container directly over the bird then carefully slide the lid underneath. A non-transparent box will help to reduce its stress as it won’t be able to see out.
To pick up a small bird which isn’t moving much by hand, place your hand down onto the bird so the head protrudes between your forefinger and middle finger, and wrap your fingers around its wings and body – firmly but not too tightly as to damage it.
Ensure the receiving container is ready so that you are holding the bird for as few seconds as possible.
If you’re not used to handling a bird, use the technique for larger birds such as ducks. Cup the body firmly between both hands from both sides to enclose the wings.
Large geese and swans can be difficult to catch and may injure you as well as themselves. Consult with a rescue specialist or be prepared to walk away.
If you think a bird does need to be removed from the wild for its own welfare, please speak to your nearest animal rescue centre, veterinary clinic, or the USPCA in Northern Ireland, SSPCA in Scotland or RSPCA in Wales and England.
If possible, do so before you catch the bird – as they may advise you not to and if they are unable to take in the bird, you will be left with it.
Remember, many other organisations offer help or advice but none are legally responsible for wild birds - no one is. So if you capture any injured wild animal, you assume responsibility for its future. While it is a legal defence to take an animal from the wild if it is injured, it is illegal to move or keep an animal that is fit to be released.