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If you find a fallen chick, leave it alone, Japan's wild bird society advises

Sparrows are fed at Ueno Park in Tokyo's Taito Ward, on March 23, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- People who come across fallen baby birds may be eager to save them, but the Wild Bird Society of Japan says that they generally don't need a helping hand, and that humans should leave them in peace.

Young birds including the Japanese tit, barn swallow and brown-eared bulbul are leaving their nests at this time of the year. From spring through summer, these birds learn from their parents how to fly, catch prey and defend themselves from danger, among other skills needed to live on their own.

When training, fledglings can fall to the ground due to their lack of flying skills or for other reasons. Some who stumble upon such chicks may take them to vets with good intentions. In many cases, however, the parents are looking after their offspring and are usually nearby. Fledglings may be able to get back in the air after receiving food or care from their parents who notice them chirping.

The Wild Bird Society has been conducting awareness-raising activities with relevant bodies for at least 20 years, including through posters.

Under Japan's Wildlife Protection System and Hunting Law, individuals are not allowed to catch wild birds or keep them as pets in the first place. This means a person who finds a wild bird cannot take it home. If a fallen fledgling is moving and is uninjured, the finder should leave it alone.

A vet in Tokyo who once had someone bring in a partly featherless chick commented, "The animals have a higher chance of surviving if they are left in the wild than if a human intervenes. When thinking of the impact on the whole ecosystem, we shouldn't help them on the grounds that we feel sorry for them."

According to the vet, the number of times people bring in young birds has been decreasing in recent years, but such cases are not rare.

Natsumi Inoue, 27, a member of the Wild Bird Society, once came across a fallen fledgling herself. "I know exactly how worried we feel (in such situations), and so I want people to know how they can be of help to those baby birds," she said.

If a fallen baby bird is in danger of being attacked by a crow, or if they have fallen in an area with heavy traffic, finders should leave them in a safe place like a nearby shrub. If the animal is bleeding from an injury or for other reasons, or if it's a rare species, finders should consult with the department in charge of managing wildlife in each prefectural government about what to do next.

The Wild Bird Society says it continues to receive inquiries at this time of the year from people who have picked up young birds from the ground but don't know how to help them. In an effort to raise awareness, the Wild Bird Society has created a picture book, storytelling picture boards and a manual on how to interact with baby birds.

Young birds that feed on bugs are sometimes eaten by other animals. It is said that only about half of all newborn birds survive for a year. The manual states that if humans do happen to help a fallen baby bird, "it should be an act of help to get them back in the wild." The Wild Bird Society emphasizes the importance of thinking in conformity with nature and advises people to observe such wildlife from a distance.

The society's Japanese-language manual, titled "Hina to no Kakawarikata ga Wakaru Handobukku" (Handbook showing how to handle young birds), is being handed out free of charge.

(Japanese original by Hitomi Tanimoto, Lifestyle & Medical News Department)

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