Birds of Prey refers to birds such as kestrels and hawks as well as owls.
Whilst these pages are primarily concerned with wild animals, it is not uncommon for captive bred birds to fly away from their handlers and become disorientated so we also touch on what to do in that situation.
This page covers adult birds. If you need help with a baby bird of prey or owl, please see here.
When to rescue
If the bird has been caught by a cat or dog
Any bird which has been bitten by a cat, regardless of its age or species, will need rescue and treatment. There are bacteria on cat’s teeth which will pass into the bird’s bloodstream when it is bitten. Without antibiotics within a few hours of the attack the bird may develop fatal septicaemia. Any bird caught by a dog should be properly assessed for injuries.
If the bird is obviously injured
If you can see a wound, or a wing or leg is obviously damaged then the bird needs help. Survival in the wild is unlikely with an injury.
A bird has been hit by a car
This is common as they learn to fly. The baby may just be stunned but make sure it’s safe and contact a wildlife rescue for advice.
An adult bird which can be approached
An adult bird of prey should see a human as a threat and try to get away. If it makes no effort to fly off, or is unable to, then it's in serious trouble.
You can find a wildlife rescue in your area by putting your location into the search facility on our map page.
When to take other action
A bird with straps rounds its legs
This is an escaped captive bird. It probably won't survive in the wild and, if it does, it will have a negative impact on the local ecosystem. Report the sighting to your local falconry centre.
Birds of prey are unlikely to peck you but can do considerable damage with their powerful feet and sharp talons. Cover the bird with a thick towel or similar to protect yourself and minimise stress to the bird. Have something ready to put the bird straight into before you catch it if possible.
A large, sturdy cardboard box may be sufficient here or a solid pet carrier - avoid one with too much mesh as this can damage their feathers. If using a cardboard box, ensure the lid is secured and there are plenty of air holes. Place the box somewhere warm and quiet and keep children and pets away.
If the bird has been caught by a cat then you must seek urgent help. The bird will need to be given antibiotics within a few hours of being bitten or it may develop fatal septicaemia. Some wildlife rescues are available 24/7 for this sort of emergency and we try to give some indication of availability on our listings. You could also contact local vets – although they will not have facilities for the long term care of the bird, they may be willing to provide a one off dose of antibiotics. Some may even do so free or at a much reduced price.
It is not generally necessary or advisable to provide food and water if you are getting the bird to a rescue quickly. Never attempt to force feed water to a bird as it is very easy to drown them and never offer cow’s milk or alcohol.
It is likely that the bird will be shocked or weakened so supplementary heat can be very helpful here. You can put a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel at one end of the box, either inside, underneath or next to the box, ensuring the bird can get away from the heat if it wants to. If the bird begins to pant, remove the heat source immediately.
NB – this advice is designed to cover the first hour or so. If you are not able to get the bird to a wildlife rescue within this time, please at least speak to someone by phone for further advice about care beyond this period. If you want to care for the casualty yourself rather than taking it to a rescue, please read the information here.