Baby birds that are heavily feathered but are not yet very mobile and certainly can’t fly are known as fledglings. It’s perfectly normal for them to be out of the nest and on the ground so if you come across them, leave them be. They haven’t fallen, they’re not orphans, nor are they abandoned or injured.
Fledglings can often remind us of human baby toddlers. They have the ability to hop around and flutter a little bit but they need a few days to hone their flying skills. It’s actually cruel to remove a healthy baby bird from its family just because it’s on the ground because while there, it’s learning all the time. It needs to learn about the dangers of day to day life as an adult bird. Things like keeping out of the way of domestic pets and how to source food.
Many birds will leave the nest when they are branchers or half grown. They have the ability to walk and even climb but cannot yet fly. At this stage their parents continue to feed them so they are not starving.
If you happen across an owl or a hawk that’s on the ground, is alert, is standing and has feathers, even a few feathers, don’t approach him. His parents are more than likely nearby and are teaching him to hunt for ground insects. However, if he hasn’t moved by the following day, there is a possibility that something is wrong.
If you notice any grounded waterfowl – geese, ducks – that’s also normal. They are ready to head off within a few hours of hatching, so it’s normal to see little downy baby geese and ducks running around.
What if the bird is in obvious danger?
First of all, remember what we said above…fledglings should be left with their parents. To remove them will diminish their chances of long term survival and should only be done as a last resort.
If the fledgling is in the roadway, or in an exposed location, and, is in danger, then it makes sense to pick it up and move it to a safer place; but please make sure you move it only a short distance, within hearing reach of its parents because they will be looking for it.