It’s the time of year when young birds have hatched and are about to try their wings. But those newborns can be vulnerable to high winds, predators, or injury that force them from the nest before they’re fully prepared.
When people find a young bird that appears helpless, it’s human instinct to want to rescue it. But is that the right thing to do?
The answer depends on whether it’s a nestling or a fledgling. A nestling is covered only with soft down, can’t fly yet, and depends on the parents for food. If a nestling appears orphaned, it can be okay to return the bird carefully to the nest if it can be located. The parents are likely nearby and will still be feeding the youngster.
For a fledgling, though, it's a different story. These birds are ready to leave the nest--they can stand, hop, or flap their wings and have started to grow flight feathers. If you find a fledgling, it may just be trying its wings, so to speak, or the parents may have nudged it out of the nest.
In that case, the best advice is leave the youngster alone unless it’s obviously injured or in immediate danger from a roaming cat or dog. Then it’s wise to contact a local game and fish department or wildlife rehabilitator who can nurse the bird to health and release it.
As with most any wild animal, the best action is, generally, to let nature take its course.