SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Spring is finally here and it’s not uncommon to come across baby birds on the ground. The Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has some guidelines on what to do should you come across a baby bird on the ground.

DWR officials said many birds hatch and often leave their nests before they are able to fly, especially this time of year. Other birds are also blown out of their nests during spring thunderstorms. The bird’s age, however, changes what you should do with it.

Does it have feathers?

One of the important things to look out for is if the baby bird has feathers or not.

If the bird doesn’t have feathers, DWR says to pick it up and find a safe place for it. The best place would be its nest, but if you can’t find the nest, a branch that is out of reach of dogs and cats is a good place. No matter where you leave it, DWR Migratory Game Bird Coordinator Heather Talley said the baby will squawk and its parents will be able to find it.

According to DWR, you don’t have to worry about “leaving your scent” on the birds. Officials said birds don’t have a good sense of smell and the baby bird’s parents won’t even know that you’ve handled their baby.

If the bird does have feathers, DWR said it’s a good idea to leave the bird alone because it’s not a baby at all. Once it has its feathers, the bird is considered a fledging, and hopping about on the ground is all part of the process.

DWR said a bird with feathers, hopping around, is getting ready to take their first flight. This “awkward hopping” stage reportedly lasts a few days. According to DWR, the parents are likely still nearby and watching the fledging and still feeding it. If you do happen to notice the bird is in immediate danger, DWR said you can move it to a safer spot nearby. But if you can’t catch it, then just leave it be.

What if it’s a lost baby duck?

Baby ducks that have been separated from their parents should be left alone, unless they are trapped in a storm drain or a swimming pool. DWR said baby ducks shouldn’t be moved nor should you try to put it in water. Instead, report the baby duck to the DWR or your city officials.

Don’t feed it. Don’t take it home.

If you come across a bird on the ground, DWR said whatever you do, don’t feed it and don’t take it home with you. Officials say birds have a very specific diet and feeding something that’s not part of their diet could kill them.

“While robins and some bird species can safely eat worms, others can’t,” Talley said. “So don’t try to feed baby birds or other wildlife you encounter. You may think you are ‘helping’ them, but it usually does more harm than good.”

In addition, most birds are protected by state and federal laws. DWR said it’s against the law to possess wild animals without special permits in the state of Utah.

Found a bird’s nest?

If you found a nest that has babies or eggs in it, DWR said to leave it alone. Disturbing an inhabited nest is unlawful in Utah, and you could be cited for disturbing it.

DWR said to wait until the baby birds have left the nest before removing it and setting up measures to prevent future nesting if you find it a nuisance.