Frequently asked questions
What should I do if…
…I find a baby bird?
In spring and summer people often find young birds on the ground with no sign of its parents. This is completely normal – its parents are either away in search of food or watch over it hidden nearby. The young of many species of birds leave the nest before they have learned how to fly; this, however, does not mean they need help! It is an important stage of the natural life cycle and humans should not interfere in it. The most appropriate action is to walk away as soon as possible; thus you would not only abide by the laws of nature but also respect our legal obligation – the Bulgarian Biodiversity Act prohibits the disturbance or capture of most species of wild birds in Bulgaria. Keeping away is advised for the safety of both birds and humans as touching a wild animal can be dangerous for humans – many birds carry diseases.
Young owls in particular show a tendency to leave their nests very early in their lives and to walk and climb up and down the surrounding trees for weeks before learning how to fly. For an outside observer they might appear vulnerable but the attempt to approach them or – even worse – to catch them might lead to an attack from the parents hiding nearby. The adult birds will attack the ‘offender’s’ eyes with their talons; there are several cases of people losing their sight as a result of such attacks! This is another good reason to walk away immediately after seeing a young owl around.
…I find a bird in danger?
First of all, remember that often birds are not in danger even if it seems so. Still, if you find a young songbird (not an owl!) on the ground on a busy alley in the park or at another dangerous location, you can move it to safety. Do this as quickly as possible and bring it as close as possible to its nest so that its parents can find it. Choose a high, thick branch of a tree, a ledge, windowsill or the roof of a nearby building – any place which is not accessible for land predators. In any case you should let the parents take care of their young. Removing a young bird from its natural environment reduces its chances for survival and should be done in emergencies only.
Photographer: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
…I find an injured or distressed bird?
The Bulgarian Biodiversity Act prohibits the capture of injured or distressed birds of most species found in Bulgaria. In case you find such a bird you should report it to the nearest Regional Inspectorate for Environment and Water (RIoEW). The RIoEW officer will prepare a protocol statement and a written recommendation of actions. According to the law only two licensed rescue centres in Bulgaria can take care of wild animals: the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre in Stara Zagora and the Sofia Zoo.
…I find a wild bird accidentally trapped in a closed space?
Quite often wild birds (songbirds and owls in particular) accidentally come into large closed spaces (storehouses, barns, hangars etc.) and cannot go out by themselves. The easiest way to help them is to open all existing doors, portals, and windows and to scare the bird toward them so that it will fly outside. In buildings with higher ceilings you can use a telescopic fishing rod with a small flag attached to its end as a ‘chaser’; in larger spaces several people with such chasers must act together. For diurnal birds the operation is carried out during the day, for owls – close to sunset.
…wild birds cause damage to buildings, structures or crops?
There are many ways in which birds can cause damage to humans – from feral pigeons which soil building facades with their droppings, through starlings which can ‘harvest’ entire orchards or rooks which roost in loud flocks in urban spaces and soil the ground below, to bird collisions with aircraft.
Due to the diversity of all these problems there is no single solution and specific goal-oriented actions need to be planned. However, the general principle is that situations as the ones described above should be resolved by chasing the birds away, and not by trying to exterminate them. Bird slaughter is against the law and also it is an ineffective measure as new birds will keep on coming to the site if there is no deterrent agent. There are a number of methods, products and techniques for bird control. Often they are species-oriented but fall in several general groups.
The first group consists of the so called visual repellents – the good old scarecrows which can be a very successful imitation of a living human (dummies in real clothes mounted on a spring will move in the wind; specially designed electronic dummies can be programmed to move etc.). Another type of visual repellents are the raptor silhouette cut-outs stuck on window panes or hung on strings on high sticks in gardens, fields or other agricultural lands where they constantly move in the wind. Three-dimensional models of owls and raptors can also be put on places where the birds shouldn’t land but they need to be very realistic in shape and size as well as in colour.
Visual repellents also include various shiny moving objects (small mirrors, tin lids, cut plastic bottles, CDs and other hand-made repellents together with foil balloons and objects with appropriate marking); when hung in the right places they can be very effective in chasing the birds away.
The second group is that of the audio repellents – recordings of alarm calls of certain bird species, records of (or actual) explosions (carbide guns are used in fish farms to chase away fish-eating birds), recordings of raptor calls etc. There are also ultra and infrasound audio devices for repelling birds. You can find details about them online.
Mechanical barriers also come in different shapes. These include nets that can be spread over the protected object, e. g. a woodpecker-attacked wall, or hand-made lines of wire with evenly spread ‘spikes’ which can be installed on your window sill to prevent pigeons from landing.
A big diversity of similar devices can be found and/or bought online (type in ‘bird control’ or ‘bird repellents’ in Google). It is important to stress that using one single technique rarely solves the problem – the best solution is to use a combination of repellents. On some occasions a special solution strategy needs to be developed, for example the problem with bird collisions with jet fighters in Israel. Please, feel free to contact the BSPB via email or phone to find the right solution for your particular problem.