Eco Tip: Leave Fledgling Birds Alone While They Continue to Grow

Marsha Low, Weavers Way Environment Committee

It’s August, and the birds you’ve seen this season have finished nesting and producing offspring. Or have they?

While we think of spring as the prime time for birds to have babies, many birds have more than one clutch of eggs and may start nesting even in winter; some nest into late summer and even early fall. Some common species that may have several broods per season are the mourning dove and the American robin.

Because successfully raising offspring depends upon food being available, some species that eat seeds may not mate until late in the summer or early fall when seeds become abundant. One example is the goldfinch, which eats seeds from wildflowers and relies upon milkweed and thistle for nesting material. So don’t be surprised if you find a fledgling on the ground later than you expected.

In July, we had a pair of tree swallows that nested in a nesting box. The day after one of the babies fledged (we saw it in our garden), I looked out my window and saw a basket tied to the nesting box. We immediately realized that a neighbor must have found the fledgling and was worried for its safety, so put it in the basket and tied it to the box. When we went to retrieve the basket, no bird was found, and we assumed that it had flown away. However, it’s possible that while it was in exposed in the basket, a predator, such as a hawk, may have carried it away.

The main thing to remember is that all fledglings spend time on the ground while they wait for their wings to get stronger and to become proficient at flying. Their parents are around during this time, guarding and feeding them, so unless you’re absolutely certain a fledgling is injured, leave it where you found it.