A fledgling bird is recovering at a sanctuary after "being used as a ball by a group of teenagers" in Newhaven.
A member of the public took the bird away from a gang in Gibbon Road who were "using it as a ball and throwing it around to each other," rescuers said.
It is now being nursed back to health at East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service's (WRAS) care centre in Whitesmith.
Its carer said: “I was contacted by a lady yesterday evening, who was rather distressed having found this fledgling being used as a ball.
"Apparently teenagers were throwing it around causing the poor bird a lot of distress.”
Kate Cuddis, WRAS Manager, added: "This act is despicable and I would urge anyone who witnessed it to report those involved to Sussex Police.
"When birds leave the nest they spend time hopping around building up the muscle strength before being able to fly. During this time they are vulnerable but should be left alone, unless in the middle of a road, for example.”
The charity says its casualty centre is running between 90 to 100% capacity at the moment and volunteers are struggling to keep up with the workload.