THE RSPCA is advising people how to tell a nestling from a fledgling after it received 1,203 calls last year from people in the South West concerned about baby birds found away from their nest.

Most of the calls, which included 154 in Somerset, related to fledglings - older baby birds starting to fly - which can generally be left to be cared for by their parents.

Since 2014, there has been an 80 per cent rise in the number of fledglings taken into RSPCA centres.

Nestlings - very young baby birds - will not survive out of the nest and are more likely to need help.

The difference is that nestlings have no or very few feathers, while most fledglings have all or most of their feathers and leave the nest just before they can fly. Unlike nestlings they can also perch, hop and walk.

During the annual baby bird boom at this time of year, the RSPCA’s wildlife centres care for more than 1,000 'orphaned' fledglings, picked up by well-meaning people - but most would be better off left in the wild.

If you spot a nestling, it should be taken to a vet or a local rescue or call the RSPCA.

If a fledgling is injured or been attacked or appears to be orphaned or separated from its parents, call the RSPCA for help.

RSPCA scientific officer Evie Button said: "It’s wonderful that people want to do the best for our wildlife, but sometimes it’s difficult to know when to intervene and when to hold back.

"The first step is to identify whether the young bird is a nestling or fledgling.

"Nestlings will not survive long outside the protection of the nest, so very young birds should be taken to a vet, or a local wildlife rehabilitator. If neither is available, the RSPCA emergency line can be reached on 0300-1234999.

"We also provide advice on how to safely catch, handle and care for the nestling until it can be taken to an expert.

“If a fledgling is seen away from the nest, it should be left alone and watched from a distance for up to two hours to ensure the parents are returning. It is likely the parents are nearby and will still be feeding the bird.

"We advise never to try to return a bird to the nest as this may disturb the other young birds and may be illegal.

"If a fledgling is in immediate danger, it should be placed in a sheltered spot a short distance away."