Column: Do your bit to help baby birds

Young chick, Conwy RSPB Reserve. Photo by Ben Hall.
Young chick, Conwy RSPB Reserve. Photo by Ben Hall.

This week’s column is by RSPB Frampton Marsh’s visitor services officer Chris Andrews.

As we move into June, our fields, woods and towns resound to the noise of high pitched squeaky noises.

Not the latest ‘find’ from Britain’s Got Talent being foisted upon the nation.

No, it is the time of year for baby birds. Well, actually some birds (namely doves and pigeons) have their chicks all year round. But for the majority of birds, late spring and early summer is very much the time to raise a family.

Warmer weather means fresh plant life and a big increase in insects. Just what a young bird needs to grow up big and strong. The importance of insects to many of our familiar garden birds really can’t be stressed enough.

We might be used to seeing blue tits handing on peanut feeders, or chaffinches eating sunflower seeds. But these are the adults.

Young birds need easily digested food and a lot of protein. So for them it is a diet of grubs, caterpillars and other insects.

I do remember once seeing a survey that suggested one family of blue tits could chomp their way though 10,000 caterpillars in a year.

Who needs bug spray? Alas, all too often gardeners and farmers reach for chemical means to protect their precious plants, and a lack of insects has been linked to the decline of a number of our birds.

Another problem at this time of year for parent birds is to find a nice, undisturbed place to raise their brood. With the weather getting nicer, people are out in their gardens.

Bushes and shrubs are being ‘tidied up’ and trimmed back. But remember that slightly unruly foliage might hide a nest.

Rather than reaching for the strimmer, check first and, if there is a nest in there, do please leave it alone. Cutting back the leaves will reveal the nest, meaning the adult bird may desert or else predators will spot it and move in.

Finally, a heartfelt plea. If you find a baby bird in your garden, please DON’T pick it up. Many young birds leave the nest well before they are able to fly.

They hide themselves away under bushes, with the parents coming back to feed them. But well-meaning people pick them up, thinking they are orphaned.

Baby birds are notoriously difficult to hand rear, meaning the bird is then probably just going to slowly starve to death. So please do leave them be.

Watch from a distance and you will see the adult bird coming back to check on the chick. Maybe even with those caterpillars that were munching your garden plants!