Naturally cliff nesting birds, gulls have adapted to nest on roofs inland to take advantage of available food. They begin nesting in May and aren’t great nest builders so it’s not at all uncommon for their babies to fall off roofs and end up on the ground. Although they may need some assistance, in most instances it’s possible to help without calling on an already stretched wildlife rescue.
When to rescue #
If the bird has been caught by a cat or dog
Any bird which has been bitten by a cat 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 flown into a window or 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 fluffy or partially feathered baby on the ground
These babies are at risk and should be placed back in the nest or as close to it as possible e.g. on a nearby house or garage roof. Take care to place them as close to their original nest site as possible and not near to neighbouring gulls’ nests or they may get attacked. Contact a rescue for advice if needed but please make every effort to get the baby back to the nest yourself if possible – most rescues don’t have long ladders. Ask neighbours or on your local Facebook group to source a ladder or sometimes the fire brigade will be willing to help if they’re not otherwise busy. Sometimes the parents will swoop at the baby’s rescuers – this is normal and an encouraging sign that they are still invested in the baby’s wellbeing. Holding an umbrella over your head will stop them making contact.
When to leave alone #
A healthy fledgling on the ground
A fledgling is a baby with all the long flight feathers on their wings. At rest, the tips of their wings should meet just above their tail. Like most birds, gulls leave the nest before they’re fully able to fly. It’s common for them to spend time building strength in their wings from the ground and this may take up to about a week. Unless they are injured or in immediate danger, they are best left alone. If in danger, try first to just move them to a nearby safer location.
A baby gull is crying, and the parents don’t seem to be feeding it
It is normal for baby gulls to call to their parents. Gulls also feed their young much less often than many other species at only a handful of times a day. As long as the baby is uninjured and off the ground (or a fledgling) and the parents are in the area, this isn’t a cause for concern.
The gulls are a nuisance
Nesting gulls can cause some issues as they become quite protective of their nest areas. However, gulls and their nests are protected by law and removing the eggs or babies or interfering with the nest just because they are unwanted is illegal. The issue should only last a few weeks and using an umbrella to defend yourself from swooping parents can help protect you.