Advice (FAQs)

Question 1: I have found an injured bird. What shall I do?

For most injured birds, place them gently in a box lined with kitchen paper towel or newspaper and keep them quiet, dark and and indoors at room temperature. It may be that the bird is in shock and this will help its successful recovery. If the bird is more seriously injured, this will reduce stress until you can get advice or help from a vet or a bird rescue. If covering the box, make sure the lid is well ventilated.


Question 2: I suspect the bird was attacked by a cat, what shall I do?

Please contact us immediately, even if the bird seems to be healthy and uninjured. Due to bacteria within a cat's claws and mouth, it is essential that this bird is seen and treated straight away. If the bird is left for too long, there is a risk of a fatal infection. A bird usually has a maximum of 48 hours to receive treatment to have a good chance of survival.


Question 3: I found a swift, what shall I do?

As for most injured birds, place them gently in a box lined with kitchen paper towel and keep them quiet, dark and and indoors at room temperature. It may be that the bird is in shock and this will help its successful recovery. If the bird is more seriously injured, this will reduce stress until you can get advice or help from a vet or a bird rescue. If covering the box, make sure the lid is well ventilated. Never throw a swift in the air as this may seriously injure or kill the bird. Leave the bird in a padded cardboard box and do not put the bird into a wired cage, as this might result in severe feather damage rendering the swift unsuitable for release. Swifts spend almost their complete life airborne and feed on the wing. If you find a grounded swift, this bird will always need help and assistance. Please do not attempt to feed a swift nor give him or her any water. Bring the bird to us or a bird rescue specialised in swifts as soon as possible.


Question 4: How can we contact you to get advice or help?

For general and non-urgent enquiries or advice please use our Email contact form. In a case of a wildlife emergency please choose the relevant phone number from the list provided in ourWildlife EmergencyContacts section of this website.


Question 5: What area are you covering?

We are only able to cover the Isle of Wight.


Question 6: Can you pick up an injured animal?

We will ask you to bring the animal to our facility (please call and we will give you the address) as unfortunately, we are not at this time able to collect animals unless specific animal species are involved.


Question 7: Should I feed a bird milk and bread?

No. Milk and bread are not suitable for birds, as most of them will be normally fed on soft insects, worms and grubs in their early days. In situations without immediate expert help being available, scrambled egg with a little moist cereal is fine to begin with though. However, it is always better to get the bird as soon as possible to an experienced rehabber, who will make sure that the bird gets an optimised and balanced diet according to the very specific needs of the species concerned. Please note, birds have to be first warmed up before they can be fed, even if they are starving. Feeding them whilst being cold might kill them.


Question 8: What shall I do if I have found an abandoned baby bird?

Watch the bird carefully from a safe distance. If the parents do not return and the youngster has definitely been abandoned, then please let us know, so that we can give you advice.

A young bird alone on the ground has not necessarily been abandoned, as the young of many bird species will spend a day or two on the ground before their feather development is complete and they are able to fly. The parents will be close by and come to feed the bird as soon as it is safe. However, if the bird is in a vulnerable position, then it will do no harm to move it into shelter but not too far away as the parents will otherwise be unable to find it. However, one has to be sure that the seemingly orphaned bird is healthy, not stunned, injured or malnourished, as this might be the reason why it cannot follow the parents the way it wants and should.

It is very important that if you have found a fledgling bird by its own, or if you have placed a fledgling in a safer location, you must stay and observe from a safe (not to scare the parents away) location for an hour or as long as necessary until the parents return to be reassured things are fine. And if the parents return, you must also observe what the parents do, whether they feed the little one, or whether they attack it. We often do not know for how long the family has been separated, something which can be very important as some species will not accept their offspring back if separated for longer than 24 or 48 hours.

Please note, a barely feathered or even unfeathered bird is not a fledgling, it is a nestling, and a nestling needs either to be put back into the nest, assuming the nest is not destroyed or abandoned, or if that is not possible, then a nestling will always need our help immediately. Delaying treatment and care for only a couple of hours will very likely lead to the bird’s death.


Question 9: If I touch a baby bird, will the parents reject or abandon the youngster?

No, they won’t. Birds have little or no sense of smell, but do keep contact to a minimum. It is often easier to pick a bird up by gently covering it with a cloth first.


Question 10: Does animals transmit diseases to humans?

All living beings are potentially carriers of diseases, humans included. Some chronically ill animals will have a weakened immune system and might suffer of parasites like lice and fleas. Common sense and normal hygiene is usually sufficient to avoid contamination and transmission of diseases to animals and humans.


Question 11: I have found an injured swan. Can a swan break my bones by hitting me with its wing?

No, it can't, unless you are suffering of brittle bone disease.


Question 12: I have found an oiled bird. What shall I do?

Do the same as we have recommended for an injured bird (Q1). Don't wash or clean the bird as the animal will need to be treated for poisoning and has to be stabilised first. Washing or cleaning a bird is very stressful and the oiled plumage is the least of the problems the bird is suffering in that very moment. Please be careful, if you attempt to catch an injured seabird or heron, as they have very sharp beaks and flexible necks. Keep them away from your face and eyes.


Question 13: I have found a life stranded dolphin or whale on the beach. What shall I do?

Please inform as soon as you can British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR). There is a 24 hour hotline and an on call coordinator available for the whole of the UK, who will take your details.


BDMLR hotline: 01825 765546 (office hours) or 07787 433412 (out of hours)

British Divers Marine Life Rescue(BDMLR)


The coordinator will inform trained Marine Mammal Medics (MMM) in the area concerned to come and assess the situation and to organise the rescue of the animal concerned. You can send us an email as well, if you are not sure about the situation, and would like to have some local advice, as we are trained BDMLR MMMs coordinating and leading the local Isle of Wight BDMLR MMM team. If possible, please stay in the area of the injured animal until help arrives. Don't push the animal back into the water, as it needs to be assessed first and might drown. Animals strand for a reason and we need to find out why to help them adequately. Whales and dolphins are intelligent sentient beings and mammals, like you and me. They need to breath and they are certainly afraid and confused. Make sure you stay away from the tail and don't step on the fins. They might not breath for quite a while. The bigger the animal the lower the normal breathing rate, which can mean some big whales won't breath for half an hour or even longer. Don't bend over the blowhole. You can keep the body temperature of the animal in a normal range and avoid skin injuries by keeping it wet using wet cloths, algae, kelp etc. Don't pure water over the blowhole. Keep onlookers and pets away. Talk to the animal in a calm and reassuring manor. Treat the animal the same way you would treat a relative of yours.


Question 14: I have found an orphaned seal on the beach, what shall I do?

Watch the animal carefully from a safe distance. If it is appearing healthy and alert, then the mother might be close by. If the mother does not return within an hour or two, or the animal is at risk to get injured or harassed, then please inform British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR). There is a 24 hour hotline and an on call coordinator available for the whole of the UK, who will take your details.


BDMLR hotline: 01825 765546 (office hours) or 07787 433412 (out of hours)

British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR)


The coordinator will inform trained Marine Mammal Medics (MMM) in the area concerned to come and assess the situation and to organise the rescue of the animal concerned. You can send us an email as well, if you are not sure about the situation, and would like to have some local advice, as we are trained BDMLR MMMs coordinating and leading the local Isle of Wight BDMLR MMM team. If possible, please stay in the area of the poorly animal until help arrives. Don't push the animal back into the water, as it needs to be assessed first. Please note, even seal pups have sharp teeth and their bite will cause serious injuries and infections.


Question 15: I have watched a healthy seal, porpoise, dolphin or whale off our coast. Can I report this sighting to anybody?

Yes, you can. Please send us an email with all the sighting data, like date, time, location, duration, species, number of animals, number of calfs or juveniles, behaviour, interaction with boats and other observations you might consider important. We keep these data in our database and will relay the sighting info to be added to the national database.


Question 16: I have heard that pigeon droppings are a health hazard. Is that true?

Any bird droppings or excrements of animals including humans can contain potentially hazardous components like bacteria, worms or fungi. Bird droppings can cause pulmonary diseases or allergies, if the droppings would be scrapped off and the resulting dust is being inhaled frequently or for longer periods of time by a person with a weakened immune system. Pigeon droppings are a valuable fertiliser though, if dried and put in your garden. If you want to learn more about what can be done humanely to address problems with wildlife then please go to the websites listed below.

PiCAS (Pigeon Control Advisory Service)

Humane Wildlife Solutions - The Humane Alternative to Pest Control


Question 17: I have found an injured pigeon, gull or crow? Why should I help? Wouldn't it be better to let them all die?

Of course not. It is our duty and responsibility as humans to help all living beings in need, regardless of their species, race, gender, skin colour, culture or religion. It is not up to us to make any judgements about who has to live or who has to die. If you are truly concerned and suspect an increase in the number of these bird species, then please note, that there is usually a manmade cause for that. You might also lack insight into the full picture, drawing the wrong conclusion from a local or specific but not representative observation. For example, there is the general public assumption, that the number of crows and rooks are on the increase. However, this is wrong, numbers are actually stable or even decreasing. But what happening is, as we destroy the rural habitats of corvids, the same number of birds have now to move closer to human residential areas to find food and shelter, subsequently resulting in more sightings in urbanised regions. If you are concerned in any way, then please contact us or PiCAS for further information about how you can solve the alleged problem humanely.

PiCAS (Pigeon Control Advisory Service)

Humane Wildlife Solutions - The Humane Alternative to Pest Control


Question 18: I have found a bird trapped in or under netting. What shall I do?

It is very important that you contact your local Wildlife Rescue straight away and that you stay at the scene until they arrive. Please do not attempt to free the trapped bird yourself as many birds tangled or trapped in netting can be dehydrated, suffering from ligature wounds or are very stressed needing specialist treatment before they can be released. However, if the bird is trapped beyond reach, it is best to inform the RSPCA, as the Fire and Rescue Services will only attend when called out by the RSPCA.

Birds trapped underneath the netting however are the responsibility of the land owner, who should be informed. This happens often due to poor maintenance of netting on buildings, where the birds can get in but struggle to get back out again. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 the landowner should provide trapped birds with food and water until they can arrange for the bird to be freed. Once the trapped bird has been released the landowner should then repair their netting to ensure that this does not happen again.


Question 19: I have found an orphaned baby bird. Raising a bird can’t be that difficult - can I have a go trying to raise the bird by my own?

No, you should not do that, unless you have the expertise and the setup needed to give the bird in need of help the best second chance it deserves. Please don’t forget that animals are sentient beings and individuals and not objects for your own pleasure. Sentient beings should be treated with respect and dignity and are not to be used to be experimented with. If you truly care a about the birds welfare, then you better bring the animal to an experienced wildlife rescue.

Every bird species has got very specific dietary, but also important unique emotional and social needs, which also means for example that they should not be raised by their own. Year for year we have to take in birds raised on a wrong diet showing a deficient plumage and developmental problems, resulting in a prolonged suffering and sometimes delayed death. Signs of deficiency or even injuries like beak fractures caused by wrong feeding techniques are commonly seen in swifts.

Sadly, we also get frequently involved in problems caused by prematurely released or released imprinted animals, in particular corvids. This happens quite often, because people underestimate the inquisitive, time consuming and sometimes destructive nature of some bird species, and just let them go, when they have got enough. Other bird species, like pigeons, when raised isolated by their own from very young age, will not have a good chance of survival, when released into the wild. Social skills learned by interaction with their own kind, but also the appropriate time provided to adapt to the new environment, are crucial factors built into every short and long term rehabilitation programme of serious wildlife rescues and rehabbers.

Last but not least, you might want to know that intentionally releasing an animal, which is not fit for survival, can be regarded as an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This may include the release of imprinted animals, animals who are lacking essential social or survival skills or are in suboptimal health, seemingly healthy cat caught animals or exhausted racing pigeons, even if racing pigeons are regarded as pets and not wild animals.


Question 20 : I have found a racing pigeon. What shall I do now?

Racing pigeons are classed as pets and therefore they have got an owner. The ring number can be used to get in touch with the Racing Pigeon Association and the owner respectively. You can contact the Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA) as they have a dedicated team to help reunite lost pigeons with their owners. They can be contacted by telephone on 01452 713529 or via their website. Theoretically, Racing Pigeon Associations have rules and guidelines that make it clear that it is the racing pigeons owner‟s responsibility to ensure their pigeon is returned to them. The pigeon owner will be advised by the RPRA to arrange the collection of the pigeon within 48 hours or two working days. If the owner fails to do so, the RPRA will arrange collection. In both cases the pigeon owner has to pay for the necessary costs involved.

However, in practice, this does not happen very often. It is more likely that the owner will suggest to kill the bird concerned or to let the poorly animal go again. If racing pigeons are found by a pest controller, the owner can advice the pest controller to kill the bird humanely. There is also always the inherent risk that the bird will be killed anyway when arriving back home, simply because a racing pigeon, who came off course or is not fast enough, is not regarded as worth keeping or breeding. Pigeon racing is a cruel 'pseudo sport' often leading to the death of animals involved. Mated pairs are commonly separated or parents taken away from their babies to make them fly back home even faster. Pigeon racing is a business with the aim to breed the fasted racing pigeon and has nothing to do with sport or compassion for animals.

Racing pigeons are raised as pets and have never learned to find food or water in the wild. The RPRA suggests to feed exhausted pigeons for a maximum of two days, as they will otherwise decide to stay. This practice is cruel, as many racing pigeons are so much exhausted that they have problems to digest food and are also easy prey for predators. From this respect this practice could be regarded as a breech of the Animal Wellfare Act 2006, which also describes the release of animals being unfit for survival as an offence.

We will treat poorly unwanted racing pigeons, retire and reintegrate them into existing pigeon flocks in a long term rehabilitation programme. Please get in touch with us and we will advice you what can be done for the racing pigeon in need of help.


Question 21: Can bird nests be removed?

As a rule, no. Most birds are fully protected and you must allow the young to leave their nest before taking any action to block entrance holes or to remove nests. A general licence, issued by the Natural England, allows ‘authorised persons’ to kill or take roof nesting feral pigeons in Britain, or house sparrows, starlings and feral pigeons in Northern Ireland, and to destroy their nests. However, this can only be done if it can be shown unequivocally that this action is going to be necessary for the purpose of preserving public health. Birds being perceived to be a nuisance are not affecting public health, and will therefore not be covered by this exception. One should always avoid roofing work if it is known that birds are nesting there. If a nest is being discovered or destroyed by accident during renovation work, ideally the work should be stopped until the birds have fledged in their own time. If this happens and the roof cannot be left until the young have fledged, one could try to make an artificial nest box for starlings or sparrows and monitor thoroughly to ensure that the parents attend undisturbed their parental duties.


Question 22: What is the best time to trim and cut hedges?

It is generally recommended that cutting hedges and trees is avoided between March and August as this is the main breeding season for nesting birds. Hedge trimming is best left until the end of winter to leave the larder of fruits and nuts for wildlife. Best practice guidelines for hedge trimming are agreed by conservation groups and agriculture departments (Codes of Good Farming Practice).Under new EU guidelines, hedgerow trimming and cutting is not permitted between 1st March and 31st August, unless written permission has been granted for certain exceptional reasons. It is also an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built. It will be an intentional act, for example, if you or your neighbour know that there is an active nest in the hedge and still cut the hedge, damaging or destroying the nest in the process.


Question 23: Can you come to our school, bring some birds and give an educational talk?

Yes, we can. Please get in touch with us to arrange an educational lecture. As our resources are very limited, we would prefer this to be organised outside the busy main nesting saison. However, please note, we will not bring animals with us as we are against the use of sentient beings for pleasure including educational purposes. We can provide a multitude of educational materials like videos and photographs taken in an unobtrusive way over many years of wildlife rescue, which will make the talk interesting, exciting and worthwhile. For similar ethical reasons and as we are rehabilitating wild animals with the primary goal to release them back into the wild, our facilities are not open to the public nor will we perform public wildlife releases.


Question 24: What is the difference between hard and soft release?

A hard release is a release in which an animal is simply allowed to exit a transport container or is let go from the hand with no further care or feed provision. It is most appropriate for animals which have been held in captivity for only a short time, for adult animals, for some selected species and for animals being released back into their own territory.

Soft release involves continuing care for animals at the release site, particularly back-up feeding and requires a greater commitment of time and effort than does hard release. Soft release is particularly important for hand reared animals, particularly of species which need to learn about their surroundings and need to learn survival skills such as hunting. This method also allows previously hand reared birds to become fully independent, as no animal should be released when still too trusting towards humans or domestic animals. It is also appropriate for adults, which have been maintained in captivity for prolonged periods or are being released at a site distant from their original location, as the original location might not be suitable.

The most important aspects of songbird rehabilitation is the provision of a natural diet, environment and associations that closely duplicate what songbirds would be exposed to in the wild. This can be achieved by building and using dedicated soft release aviaries. Raising young birds outside needs to be done for a suitable period of time to expose them to the natural surroundings in the same way they would have been exposed in the wild, but in a safe and controlled manner. This allows them the opportunity to develop their abilities in the same time frame had they fledged in the wild. With so many different species of birds, release aviaries can and should be designed and adapted according to the needs of the species being placed into it.


Question 25: What is PMV?

PMV is a very contagious viral infection and notifiable disease caused by the pigeon paramyxovirus affecting racing pigeons, but also feral and rarely wood pigeons. The disease is spread by direct contact between pigeons, food, water and excretions as well as via other disease carriers like pigeon fanciers. Infected pigeons show nervous sings, including trembling wings and heads, twisting of the neck, partial paralysis of wings and legs, unusually wet and liquid faeces, quietness, loss of appetite and reluctance to move.


Question 26: I have found an injured animal on the road. What shall I do?

First of all stop, go back and assess the situation. But always make sure you are safe. Only then try to get the animal out of the danger zone and move him or her to a safer place. You may have to improvise by using a jumper or a coat. If you are able to, bring the animal to the nearest wildlife rescue or veterinary surgery. If you can't do that, or it is not safe, then ring immediately a wildlife rescue and stay with the animal until help arrives. Injured animals will try to hide, making it almost impossible to find them, in particular during night time. There is often one chance only to help and to rescue the injured animal.

Also, please don't take the animal home and put him or her somewhere overnight to see whether the animal is still alive the next morning. Just think how you would want to be treated, if you would be poorly. The chances of survival are decreasing by the minute. Don't forget that all animals feel pain like you do!

If the animal is very badly injured, then again, don't wait and let the animal suffer, but contact a rescue or veterinary surgery immediately as euthanasia might be the kindest option in these hopeless situations.

Last but not least, be alert and drive safely - give children, pets and wildlife a 'brake'!

Wild Bird Aid - Registered Charity No. 1170857