KEEP away from baby birds is the friendly warning from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Spring is the time of year when the Northern RSPB wildlife inquiries team receives calls from well-meaning people about cute, helpless baby birds they have discovered on the ground.

Kate Whitehead, of the RSPB, said: “It’s vital that people resist the urge to intervene – this is a natural part of the bird’s development, so keep your distance and step away.

“Just before baby birds are ready to tentatively extend a wing, wiggle a tail feather and take flight for the first time, they leave their nest, or ‘fledge’, as it’s called.

“Fledglings then spend a couple of days on the ground developing their final flight feathers.

“The fledglings will appear fully feathered and spend these days hopping around your garden in broad daylight – hence, why so many members of the public are convinced they need rescuing.

“Another common fear is that the fledgling has been deserted by its parents. However, fledglings are extremely unlikely to be abandoned. The parents are probably off gathering food, or hiding nearby.”

The society advises that intervening reduces a fledgling’s chances of long term survival, and said that there are only a few occasions when people should lend a friendly helping hand. If an injured fledgling is discovered, this should be reported immediately to the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.

Adam Grogan, senior scientific officer for the RSPCA, says: “Our wildlife centres care for more than 1,000 fledglings that people think have been orphaned each year, picked up by well-meaning people.

“Most of these birds are not orphans and would have had a better life in the wild. Unless a bird is clearly a nestling, or is an injured fledgling, or in immediate danger, it is best to leave them alone.”