AN animal-lover who helped raise a dying baby bird was devastated when the RSPCA took her away.

Victoria Hawes, 21, found the sparrow in a pensioner’s garden in Mersea - it was so young it had not fully formed.

She took her home on June 2 and has been feeding her and giving her shelter routinely.

She named her Sunny Sparrow, and has grown very attached.

However on Saturday afternoon, the RSPCA took the bird - it is understood another resident reported it to them.

Victoria said: "She has been sent to be released into the wild even though she has imprinted and isn’t fit for the wild.

"I was in the process of getting a licence to keep her but they have snatched her away.

"They just said she shouldn’t have lived. They said I did a good job but they were taking her now."

Residents who supported Victoria have sent letters to the animal rescue charity, urging them to give the bird back to her.

They are convinced the baby sparrow will die if she is released back into the wild, as she had a weak leg and wing.

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: “Victoria has done a great job saving Sunny and looking after her.

“We know it is upsetting for her to say goodbye, but sparrows are wild birds which live in flocks and it is in Sunny’s best interests to return to the wild.

“An independent specialist wildlife vet has examined Sunny and has found no issues which would stop her being returned to the wild, in fact Sunny is flying without difficulty.

“She is enjoying the company of other sparrows at an excellent wildlife centre who are being prepared for return to the wild and does not seek out human company.

“We are all animal lovers at the RSPCA and understand how upset Victoria must be and we are keen to keep in touch with her and her family to see if there is any support we can offer.”