What to do with injured or orphaned wild birds

Found an injured or orphaned bird?

Call Manx Wild Bird Aid on:
07624 473582 / 247666

Special notes about:
Grounded Swifts >>
Sick garden birds >>
Stranded seabirds >>
Stranded Manx Shearwaters >>
Racing Pigeons >>

Manx BirdLife is not equipped or licensed to take injured or orphaned wild birds into care. If you find a wild bird in trouble, please follow the advice below.

1. Is the bird temporarily injured?

If a wild bird is found and is thought to be temporarily injured (e.g. dazed after flying into a glass window, with no visible injuries), put it somewhere safely out of the reach of cats and dogs and allow it time to recover.

Most likely, it will recover its senses and fly off after a short while. If after 30 minutes or so the bird has not flown off, an attempt can be made to recapture it.

2. Is the bird orphaned?

What might appear to be an orphaned bird (especially during the breeding season) will often have its parents hiding in the near vicinity. They will probably continue to feed the young bird, albeit waiting until any danger (such as the presence of people) has passed. Take time to ensure that it really is orphaned; check there are no agitated birds nearby.

In most cases, and if uninjured, the best action is to put the bird on a nearby roof or raised area out of the way of neighbourhood cats and other potential predators - and in sight or hearing range of its potential parents.

If you are certain it is orphaned, or injured and cannot fly to safety, then an attempt can be made to capture it.

3. Take (or report) the injured or orphaned wild bird to your local veterinary practice

The vet will assess the injury and make a decision about its care.

All licensed vets are obliged to examine injured WILD animals free of charge and to decide on the best course of action. There is NO charge to the person who takes the animal to the vet, either for the initial inspection or future care.

The vet will make the necessary arrangements to euthanize the bird if its injuries dictate, or will request an appropriate welfare organisation to care for the injured bird.

4. If your local veterinary practice cannot be reached

If you are unable to contact or reach your local veterinary practice in good time, you can message Manx Wild Bird Aid preferably via Facebook.com/ManxWildBirdAid or by calling 07624 242777.

There is also useful information on the RSPB's website about 'How you can help wild birds', including advice on aiding and looking after 'Injured and baby birds'.

Sick garden birds

If you have birds around your bird feeders or bird bath with swollen or untidy puffed-up faces, please see Manx BirdLife's newspost published in October 2019 describing Trichomonosis, a common disease of many birds including some of our garden favourites.

You can find out more about the disease - the signs to look out for and methods for disease prevention and control - at https://www.gardenwildlifehealth.org/portfolio/trichomonosis-in-garden-birds-2/.

It is very important to try to reduce the spread of this infectious disease which is mostly transmitted when birds congregate to feed together. Should you continue to observe signs of ill health in your garden birds and, especially when multiple birds appear affected, it is strongly recommended that you:

  • Leave bird baths empty until no further sightings of sick or dead wild birds occur;
  • Temporarily stop feeding for a minimum of 2 to 4 weeks. This is because feeding stations (such as bird tables and hanging feeders) encourage birds to congregate, sometimes in large densities, thereby increasing the potential for disease to spread between individuals when outbreaks occur. Stopping feeding will encourage birds to disperse, thereby minimising the chances of new birds becoming infected at the feeding station.
  • When re-introducing feeding, provided you are no longer seeing birds with signs of ill health:
    • Gradually reintroduce food to your bird tables and/or hanging feeders, whilst closely monitoring for further signs of ill health;
    • Consider using a broad range of food types, and avoid using foods that will attract large numbers of finches (eg. sunflower hearts);
    • If you see any birds with signs of ill health, once again stop feeding.
  • Ensure optimal hygiene at garden bird feeding stations, such as frequent disinfection, can help to prevent disease transmission as a routine measure.

Stranded seabirds: guillemots, auks etc.

See our newspost published in September 2018.

Stranded Manx Shearwaters

Here's some good advice from the South and West Wales Wildlife Trust, especially relevant during September (fledging time):Storm stranded Manx Shearwaters

Grounded Swifts
Common Swift (© Pete Hadfield)
Common Swift (© Pete Hadfield)

1. Feeding

There is a great deal of widely disseminated misinformation about caring for injured or orphaned Swifts.

Swifts are entirely insectivorous. Hence they must be fed only on insects. Despite advice to the contrary - even in otherwise authoritative publications - feeding meat, cheese, cat food, dog food, eggs or other non-insect food to Swifts is ultimately fatal.

If you are trying to rehabilitate a 'fallen' Swift please feed it insects, for example crickets, moth larvae, mealworms.

2. Releasing

If you are are attempting to help a rehabilitated or grounded Swift back into flight, do not throw it into the air. During fine weather, find a large open space, hold the bird in the palm of your hand, raise it high and it should go of its own accord.

A grounded Swift that refuses to fly when you try to release it should be put it in a box on some fabric, kept quietly in a warm dark place while you get in touch with a specialist in this field.

3. Swift contacts

Further advice is available at:

The MSPCA or your nearest wildlife hospital may be another source of help, but make sure they know that Swifts are insectivores.

For the UK, there is a list of people who can rehabilitate Swifts at http://swift-conservation.org/SwiftFirstAid.htm.

We wish to acknowledge that the information above about Swifts above has been sourced from the excellent Action for Swifts blog site, which we recommend you visit.

Racing Pigeons

Enquiries about lost or injured racing pigeons found in the Isle of Man should be directed in the first instance to the Cumbria region of the Royal Racing Pigeon Association (which includes coverage of the Isle of Man):