When you see a young bird that’s not quite an infant or an adult, it may look like it’s lost its way and needs your help. Unless it’s injured or very young, though, it’s likely best to let nature take its course and watch from a distance.
A baby bird is called a nestling or hatchling until it’s ready to fly, which happens when it becomes a fledgling. Once it reaches this stage, it doesn’t sleep in its nest again (although altricial birds, like robins, are born blind and featherless and require constant tending). Instead, the fledgling will often roost at night.
Birds roost in a variety of places, depending on their species and the environment in which they live. Woodpeckers, for instance, roost in cavities carved into trees. And waterfowl like geese and swans prefer to sleep in the water, which protects them from predators while they rest.
If you’re lucky enough to spot a fledgling on the ground, there are few things you can do for it except keep an eye on it from a safe distance and wait for its parents to come and feed it. It’s important to remember that interfering with a wild animal often disrupts its natural processes and can lead to harm. In the case of fledglings, this can include starvation or death. If you do want to assist a fledgling, try to return it to its nest if possible. If not, place it in a box in a dark and warm place until its parents can locate and care for it.