Tips from BirdLife Zimbabwe www.birdlifezimbabwe.org
With the onset of summer, many birds are preparing themselves for the breeding season. Harare is currently alive with the sizzling sounds of weavers busy building their nests. The Village Weavers are already in their breeding finery. Some of you may have them in your garden? Other species will be nesting in your grass, shrubs and trees. Please check them before trimming. If you do find a nest, cultivate patience and let it be. It only takes a few weeks for chicks to develop before they leave the nest. And once they leave the nest….
Q. Why do birds leave the nest before they can fly?
A. It's to some young birds' advantage to leave the nest as soon as they can. People tend to think of nests as safe, cozy little homes. But predators have a pretty easy time finding a nest full of loud baby birds, and nests can be hotbeds of parasites. Parent birds work from sunrise to sunset every day to get their young grown and out of the nest as quickly as possible. After fledging, the young birds are more spread out, and the parents can lead them to different spots every night, enhancing each one's chances of survival. During this vulnerable time, you can help young birds by making sure your pets are indoors, or closely monitored when outside.
Other young birds may stay in their nests until they are capable of flight. Species such as swallows, woodpeckers, and other cavity nesters nest where there are no nearby branches for young to awkwardly grab onto when they first leave the nest. Unless startled by a predator, young of these species tend to remain in the nest until they are strong fliers.
If you have found a baby bird that you think may have left the nest prematurely, what do you do?
At some point, nearly everyone who spends time outdoors finds a baby bird—one that is unable to fly well and seems lost or abandoned. Your first impulse may be to help the young bird, but in the great majority of cases the young bird doesn't need help. In fact, intervening often makes the situation worse. Here’s how to determine whether to take action:
The first thing to do is to figure out if the baby bird is a nestling or a fledgling.
Most of the baby birds people find are fledglings. These are young birds that have just left the nest, are still under the care of their parents, and do not need our help. Fledglings are feathered and capable of hopping or flitting, with toes that can tightly grip your finger or a twig. These youngsters are generally adorable and fluffy, with a tiny stub of a tail.
When fledglings leave their nest they rarely return, so even if you see the nest it's not a good idea to put the bird back in—it will hop right back out. Usually there is no reason to intervene at all beyond putting the bird on a nearby perch out of harm's way and keeping pets indoors. The parents may be attending to four or five young scattered in different directions, but they will return to care for the one you have found. You can watch from a distance to make sure the parents are returning to care for the fledgling.
If the baby bird is sparsely feathered and not capable of hopping, walking, flitting, or gripping tightly to your finger, it's a nestling. If so, the nest is almost certainly nearby. If you can find the nest (it may be well hidden), put the bird back as quickly as possible. Don't worry—parent birds do not recognize their young by smell. They will not abandon a baby if it has been touched by humans.
If you have found both parents dead, the young bird is injured, you can't find the nest, or are absolutely certain that the bird was orphaned, then your best course of action is to bring it to a wildlife rehabilitator. A sick, injured or orphaned baby bird may need emergency care until you can get it to a wildlife rehabilitator.