Resist the call of the cute

By Shaun Hurrell, 6 Feb 2017


What should you do when you see a baby bird on the ground?

It is hard to resist the urge to rescue. Often people intervene when in fact most chicks should be left alone.

Alone, helpless, small, cold, clumsy and fluffy…

We see a flightless chick on the ground in our garden and many of us go weak at the knees.

How did it get here? Where are its parents? Is it orphaned? Has it fallen from a nest? Is it injured? It is cheeping, maybe it is calling for help?

We are struck by an overpowering urge: I must rescue it… I must do something…




Is interfering the best thing to do in this situation?

These drawings from Annie NORTHFIELD will help you to appreciate the situation!

Chick in distress – What can I do? © Annie Northfield

While small actions can, and do, make a big difference in conservation, sometimes our willingness to step in can be detrimental – especially when our judgement is clouded by “the cute factor”.

We might have the best of intentions, but taking a chick with you can be a bad thing, it is messing with nature, and can even make things worse for the chick.

Nature is harsh sometimes.

One thing to remember is that young birds naturally face tough odds, with only thirty per cent of songbirds surviving their first year – but this is a natural strategy in which the strongest survive and there is enough resources in the environment for them.

And hand-rearing a bird is not easy.

You might think it could lead to an amazing story of care, bonding and devotion – and in very rare cases it does – but you could effectively (often illegally) be taking a wild bird as a “pet”, and if you eventually re-release it into the wild, the bird has not learnt essential survival skills from its parents.

Adult Gygis and juvenile©JeanKape

Read more