Chicks Do Not Need to Be “rescued”

If you ever come across a young bird with scruffy feathers jumping around and looking ignorant, without parents, you might think that it is in trouble and needs to be rescued. But this is probably not the case. Chances are, you’ve just found a chick.

The chicks are the clumsy adolescents of the avian world. They are too old to live in the nest, but too young to fully take care of themselves. While injured birds and real chicks (no real feathers) may be in danger if you find them on the ground, chicks should be kept out of the nests. If you need help differentiating between these categories, we have a guide on what to do if you find a bird that seems to need help .

What fledglings look like

Many of the things that might make you think, “Hmm, there is something wrong with this bird,” are just normal features of a fledgling child.

Chicks may look odd, but only because their adult feathers may not be fully grown yet. They may have a different coloration than adults, or a striped pattern that helps camouflage them. They may also have a large mouth to open them better and ask Mom or Dad for food.

They may not fly well either; they are still learning and developing their feathers and muscles. You can see the chick jumping on the ground or hiding in bushes instead of flying up.

I see a bunch of chicks in my yard and they’re just stupid little kids. One day I saw two fledglings sitting in a tree outside my office window. They jumped and fumbled until their parent returned with a mouthful of worms. This parent thrashed between the two, trying to feed them, but getting more and more annoyed; I think he was trying to get them to take one worm at a time instead of a whole mouth. I remembered once bringing two screaming kids to a restaurant and felt deep sympathy.

Why you need to leave chicks alone

No matter how young and silly the chick looks, it is in the right place if it is outside, outside the nest, and clearly not injured. Parents of chicks have to leave them alone, sometimes for several hours, to go and feed them.

If you find a chick in a dangerous location, such as in the middle of the road, move it to a safer location nearby. But don’t take it home and send it to a wildlife rehabilitation specialist. If you do, you are abducting someone else’s child. Chicks feel better in the wild with their parents than with a rehabilitator. Remember, the parents feed him and they also have a job teaching the dumb creature how to be a bird.

If you picked up a chick and only a little time has passed (less than a day), bring it back – the sooner the better. His parents are probably looking for him there.


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