If you find a sick or injured bird when out bird watching there are a number of things you need to take into consideration before deciding how to help it.

Sick Yellowhammer
Photo credit: Gail Hampshire

Handling and treating birds can be very stressful for them so before you make an attempt to catch an injured bird you need to weigh this up against the benefits of treatment.

If you find a bird with an injured leg, for example, you are probably best leaving it, whereas a wing injury is probably serious enough to merit capture and treatment. You should also be aware that it can be difficult to catch an injured bird and careless handling could cause further injury.

Make sure you always handle a bird firmly but gently. Small birds should be held in one hand with the head between your fore and middle finger. Gently wrap the rest of your fingers round each wing and hold the bird firmly.

Hold medium sized birds with both hands, one over each wing. Handling large birds requires extra care and be aware that they can cause you injury. Unless you are used to handling large birds you will probably be better calling an expert rescuer.

Once you have captured the bird place it in a covered box that is well ventilated. Darkness reduces stress and is the best first aid you can give to a bird.

Injured birds should be taken to a local vet, the RSPCA in England and Wales, the SSPCA in Scotland, the USPCA in Northern Ireland or an independent animal rescue centre, where it can receive appropriate treatment without undue delay. If you have found a bird that has been caught by a cat then take it to a vet as a matter of urgency so it can be treated for the high risk of septicaemia.

Remember that the RSPB is a wild bird conservation charity and so does not have the facilities for treating sick or injured birds. However, if you wish to help them in their conservation work you may want to join the RSPB.

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