It is not always easy to tell when wild animals need our help, and when it is best to leave them alone. This blog post and the included flowcharts are thought to be a rough guide for situations where no expert advice and help is at hand immediately. If you have found an orphaned, injured or poorly bird, then please read the guidance provided here in this blog post together with the FLOWCHARTS No1 and No2 and follow the instructions given there.
It is important to note that specific features of hatchlings, nestlings, fledglings and juvenile birds can vary significantly among different species. Each bird species has its own unique characteristics and growth patterns. So, if you are trying to identify a specific bird, it is helpful to consult field guides, online resources or seek expert advice to accurately identify the species based on its distinctive features.
It is usually not difficult to differentiate between adult rooks (Corvus frugilegus) and carrion crows (Corvus corone). Both species may look similar at the first glance, because both have black feathers that can also look glossy. However, the long pale and pointy beak, with bare skin around its base, is the most striking and characteristic feature of rooks. It is also worth knowing that rooks nest collectively in tall trees, often close to farms or villages, which are known as rookeries. In contrast, carrion crows are fairly solitary and are usually found alone or in pairs, although they may form occasional non-breeding flocks. Unlike rooks, carrion crows do nest solitary, maintaining a large breeding territory centred around the nest.
Additional help and information about how to identify adult corvids including rooks and carrion crows can be found on the British Trust for Ornithology website (BTO).
At this time of the year we are contacted on a daily basis by members of the public, who have found, rescued and raised a corvid fledgling, all with good intentions of course. If we are not being contacted at the very beginning of a rescue journey, mostly for advice about the diet of corvids, then it is usually at the point where people feel that their foster bird might be ready for release soon. Unfortunately, our advice is often a disappointment if not a shock to many of these hobby rescuers, as in most cases the desired immediate release is not an option, or at least not an option which gives the foster bird a sufficient chance of survival. We do understand that circumstances will differ greatly, and that expert help is not always at hand. Therefore it is also important that the rescuer understands, that the likelihood of survival will differ greatly as well, as corvids are not belonging to those bird families, which can be hand raised by their own and hard released immediately after they have fledged. There are of course certain ways to ensure that the rescue bird gets the best second chance he or she deserves. However, to achieve the best possible outcome, decisions should ideally be made before a bird is being hand raised without appropriate company.
All wild birds are protected during nesting season. This includes their nests, whilst in use or being built, as well as any eggs the nest may contain. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) it is an offence to:
intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird,
intentionally damage, destroy or take the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built,
intentionally destroy an egg of any wild bird
and intentionally or recklessly disturb certain wild birds or their dependent young while they are nesting.
It is nesting season and corvid fledglings are about to leave their nests to start the big adventure of life. Corvid fledglings are fully feathered and healthy looking birds, who can perch, stand and hop by themselves. They are already able to fly short distances. Fledglings of many bird species leave the nest at this stage, and for good reasons. If they would remain in the nest, predators could have an easy meal, killing the whole brood at once. Leaving the nest and hiding scattered in trees, in the undergrowth or in bushes, even when not fully developed and not being able to fly properly, is the best way to increase survival chances. It gives fledglings the time and required exercise to improve their flying skills, which often takes less than a week of daily practice, after they have left the nest.