As the RSPCA gears up for a hectic bird breeding season, they have offered advice to well-meaning animal lovers on what to do about baby birds.

Before taking any action or making a call to the charity, they are urging people to first check the expert advice on its website – this will help keep their phonelines free for emergency calls.

New figures have revealed the charity’s emergency line took almost 11,000 calls about baby birds last year - an average of five calls an hour flooding in during peak times.

However, many of these calls were unnecessary, as the charity’s online advice explains many birds - especially fledglings - are not in danger and can be left alone and monitored from a distance.

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RSPCA calls relating to birds

Bournemouth Echo: Last year the RSPCA received 170 calls relating to birds of prey including owls. Picture: RSPCALast year the RSPCA received 170 calls relating to birds of prey including owls. Picture: RSPCA

Last year, the majority of reports from concerned members of the public came in during the peak months of June and July.

Around one third of all the calls (3,792) related to sick and injured birds and another 3,297 were about orphaned birds.

They ranged from birds of prey including owls (170 calls received) to garden favourites such as blackbirds (369), sparrows (384) and tits (117).  Gulls generated the most calls of all (2151), closely followed by pigeons (1544).

RSPCA Scientific Officer Evie Button said: “It’s wonderful that people want to do the best for our wild birds, particularly if a baby bird has been found out of its nest.

“But instead of calling us, we urge animal lovers to first check the expert advice on our website, which explains that in many cases - especially if it’s a fledgling - there’s no need to intervene. This will help keep our emergency line free so urgent calls can get through as quickly as possible.”

What to do if you find a baby bird

The RSPCA expects to receive more than 3,600 calls per day during its busiest time over the summer so needs to prioritise animals in need of urgent care and attention.

Ms Button said: “Our wildlife centres are now on high alert as we approach the peak baby bird season.

“Last year they cared for well over 3,000 ‘orphaned’ birds, picked up by well-meaning people. But many of these birds were not actually orphans and may have been better off left in the wild.

“It is really important to ensure it is only those young birds that really need help that are brought in. In most cases, the best thing you can do for them is to help them stay in the wild using methods like re-nesting.

“If in doubt, our downloadable guides - one for fledglings and one for nestlings - are full of advice and can help to identify whether the young bird is a fledgling - which unless sick or injured, is likely to survive outside the nest without human intervention - or a younger, more vulnerable nestling, which will probably need extra help.”

How to help fledglings

Bournemouth Echo: A pair of fledgling blackbirds. Picture: RSPCAA pair of fledgling blackbirds. Picture: RSPCA

Fledglings have all or most of their feathers and it is normal to see them on the ground as they leave the nest just before they can fly.

If you see a fledgling out of the nest, leave it alone and monitor it for at least two hours, as the parents are usually nearby and feeding the bird.

If they are in immediate danger, place them in a sheltered spot a short distance away. Even if you have already confined a healthy fledgling, you may still be able to return them to their parents.

Of course, it’s important to keep your pets away from fledglings.

How to help nestlings

Bournemouth Echo: A tiny sparrow nestling. Picture: RSPCAA tiny sparrow nestling. Picture: RSPCA

Nestlings have no feathers, or only a few and won't survive long outside the protection of the nest.

If you see a nestling out of the nest, where possible, they should be re-nested and left in the wild so their parents can keep caring for them.

If you can't see a nest in the surrounding trees, or it's fallen down or been damaged, then you can make a replacement nest to put the nestling back into. This could be as simple as a basket or plant pot with some nesting material inside, securely attached to the nearest tree.

Where baby garden birds are found outside a nest and need to be handled following RSPCA guidance, the handler should always wear gloves and wash their hands thoroughly immediately afterwards to reduce the risks of disease transmission.

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If you find a sick or injured young bird, the quickest way to get help is to take them to a local wildlife rescue centre or vet - but call first to make sure they can treat the bird.

For more advice on what to do if you find a baby bird out of the nest, visit the RSPCA website or to support their work rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need you can make an online donation or call 0300 123 8181.