When to Help Baby Birds of Prey and Owls

This page covers babies of species such as kestrels, sparrowhawks and owls.

When dealing with baby owls in particular, it’s important to be sure of the species. If you’re unsure what species you’ve found this information from the Barn Owl Trust is very helpful. If in doubt as to whether to intervene, retreat to a safe distance and call a rescue for advice.

You should also be aware that even baby owls and birds of prey have dangerous talons so always use gloves or a towel to handle them.


When to rescue #

If the bird has been caught by a cat or dog
Any bird which has been bitten by a cat, regardless of its age or species, will need rescue and treatment. There are bacteria on cat’s teeth which will pass into the bird’s bloodstream when it is bitten. Without antibiotics within a few hours of the attack the bird may develop fatal septicaemia. Any bird caught by a dog should be properly assessed for injuries.

If the bird is obviously injured
If you can see a wound, or a wing or leg is obviously damaged then the bird needs help. Survival in the wild is unlikely with an injury.

A bird has been hit by a car
This is common as they learn to fly. The baby may just be stunned but make sure it’s safe and contact a wildlife rescue for advice.


When to take other action #

A barn owl chick out of the nest
Baby barn owls need to be returned to the nest or the parents won’t feed it. Place the baby back in the nest if you can but contact a rescue if you cannot find the nest or you need help.

A Little Owl chick out of the nest
Ideally, they should be returned to the nest which should contain other babies. But their nests can be hard to spot so contact a rescue for help if in doubt.


When to leave alone #

A fledgling bird out of the nest
If the chick is largely feathered it is probably just taking its first few practice flights. Only intervene if in immediate danger and then try to simply place it in a safe place. It’s fine to handle the baby to move it to safety, this won’t cause the parents to reject them.

A tawny owl chick at the bottom of a tree
It is normal for tawny babies to leave the nest before they can fly. If the baby is in danger, you can place it on a tree branch so it’s out of harm’s way. It is not necessary to return them to the nest. If the baby is unresponsive or laying on its side, it may be hurt or unwell – seek advice from a rescue.

Finding Help #

You can find details of rescues in your area by searching our directory. If you're unsure whether to intervene or you have difficulty finding a rescue who can help, we have information about sources of bespoke help. We also have articles with detailed, practical advice about capturing an animal, providing short term care, contacting a wildlife rescue, and getting the animal to them.

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Updated on May 6, 2024