It's spring, meaning young native animals are taking their first steps, making their first attempts to fly and learning all about how to survive in the big, wide world.
Spring is the busiest time of year for wildlife rescuers and carers, including in the Ballarat region.
These volunteers receive an abundance of calls for all types of wildlife in need every single day.
At the moment, rescuers are receiving a particularly high number of calls about baby birds, both nestlings and fledglings.
Wildlife Victoria data reveals there have been more than 1700 calls to fledglings across the state so far this year. Of these, a proportion were due to attacks by cats, dogs or other animals.
The majority were due to the bird being found on the ground.
Experienced wildlife rescuer and carer, Jen Greenhalgh, said many of the calls across the Ballarat region this spring were about young magpies and wattle birds.
While rescuers have a role to play when a bird is too small to be out of the nest on its own, has been abandoned or if it is injured, the community can help to keep these young birds safe.
If a community member comes across a bird, they can take a number of steps to determine what to do.
The first is to assess if the bird seems unwell or if it has been attacked and is injured. Signs of injury include obvious breaks or blood, that it is not moving, one of its wings is hanging down or if it has been brought into the home or garden by a pet cat or dog.
If the bird is injured, it can be taken to the nearest vet or Wildlife Victoria can be called.
If the bird is not injured, the next step requires a determination about whether the bird is a nestling or a fledgling.
Young birds go through several stages before they become fully independent.
The first stage is when the bird is still very small and covered in fluffy or spiky feathers. At this point they are generally not ready to leave the nest but may succeed in doing so and will hop around a little.
If the bird is a nestling, it is important to look for the bird's nest and its parents, who should be nearby.
Nestlings do not need to be contained or taken to a vet unless their parents have abandoned it or unless it is injured.
If the nest cannot be reached, a makeshift nest can easily be fashioned from items around the home.
A makeshift nest can be a hanging basket or even a plastic container with holes punctured in the bottom for drainage purposes. Leaf litter should be placed in the bottom of the nest before it is secured firmly to the tree.
If the bird's parents do not return to the nest within a few hours, it should be taken to a vet or a rescuer should be called.
However, if the bird is a fledgling then it is old enough to leave its nest. At this stage a bird may leave the nest for hours at a time and will hop around clumsily on the ground. It may also attempt flying from the ground.
The bird's best chance of survival is with its parents, who will continue monitoring and feeding it while it is young.
Ms Greenhalgh said when there were more tree canopies in the past, fledglings would venture from the nest and bounce across the canopies without the need to come to ground as frequently.
But now there are fewer trees and more predators on the ground - including cats, dogs and people - with which the fledglings must contend.
If a community member comes across a fledgling on the ground, Ms Greenhalgh encouraged them to look around and see if its parents were nearby.
If the bird is vulnerable due to being situated near a road or because it is in immediate danger from pets or other predators, it can be carefully picked up and moved into the relative safety of a bush, low tree or back into its nest.
If the nest is too high to reach, a makeshift nest can be created and placed as high up as possible in the closest tree to where the bird was found.
Ms Greenhalgh said a bird being with its parents was really important so they learnt the right skills to survive.
"If they can be put back in the bushes, a nest or container, the parents can continue to come and feed the bird," Ms Greenhalgh said.
"That way the parents can continue caring, feeding and teaching it."
If possible, it is advised the nest is watched to ensure the parents return within 24-hours. If not, a wildlife rescuer can be called.
The rule of thumb is that birds should be returned to their parents within about four days so that the parents will accept them.
When the bird becomes an adult it will be old enough to fly confidently and may even have young of its own.
For wildlife emergencies, call Wildlife Victoria on 8400 7300.
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