BirdLife warn against touching baby sparrows

BirdLife issue guidelines on how to best handle young sparrows. 

Male Spanish Sparrow bringing food to its young. Photo: Aron Tanti
Male Spanish Sparrow bringing food to its young. Photo: Aron Tanti

BirdLife Malta have warned people to think twice before touching baby sparrows they might find.

“This is the time that young sparrows learn to fly and this can sometimes result in people finding them, thinking they are in trouble,” BirdLife said in a statement. “Very often, the best thing to do is to leave them alone because their parents will usually try to look after them.”

They said that more and more people are turning to BirdLife for advice with young birds and Conservation Manager Nick Barbara has hence issued the following guidelines on young sparrow handling.

“The youngest are hatchlings. These birds do not have any feathers, their eyes are closed, and if they fell off the nest, the only thing to do is to try to put them back in the nest. The parents will not abandon them because they "smell people" on them, and it is almost impossible to raise them in captivity.

“The older birds that have just left the nest are called fledglings. They have feathers, and they look like adult sparrows, just smaller and with a bigger head. Falling off the nest is part of the natural development of fledglings, and they are not actually left by their parents, who keep feeding them regularly when they are grounded.

“While it is awkward - and yes, some of them unfortunately die in the process - the best thing to do is to give them privacy and let the parents take care of them.

“Only if there is an immediate danger (cats, rats, dogs, cars), should the young birds be picked up. Gently put a towel on top of the bird so that it does not get hurt while trying to escape. Pick up the bird, put it in a cardboard box with holes poked in it, and place in it a dark, quiet place. Then call BirdLife Malta and we will be happy to take it from you - but only if there is immediate danger to the bird. Raising fledglings is extremely difficult and we fail more often than not.’

“Unfortunately, baby sparrows almost inevitably die in captivity - humans are unable to do as good a job as their parents. Even if their chances are a bit slim once they are grounded, they are still better than in captivity.

“Although it is widely believed that sparrows eat milk and bread, such food is not suitable for these birds. BirdLife Malta suggests to not feed the birds at all”.

“In case you have picked up a baby bird that was in danger, please contact BirdLife Malta office 213456744/5/6; Conservation department extension 501.”

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