In an earlier post I talked about how everything that animals do is all about survival. For birds that means doing everything they can so that they themselves survive. However, and importantly, it also means having babies. When birds have babies they pass on their genes to their babies.
Most people are familiar with the general process of how birds have babies. They mate; they lay an egg in a nest; they sit on the egg until it hatches; then they feed the baby until it is able to leave the nest and fly away. In fact that final part has become a common saying among people – to leave the nest. It has the same meaning for people as it does for birds – it is the time in a young birds life when it is becoming independent.
While all birds follow this general process for having babies, there are many different ways to go about it. It is helpful to take a little bit of time and understand bird behavior to really understand the many different ways that birds make and raise babies. For example, some birds make nests on the ground and others in trees.
Here is an overview of the different steps in making and raising baby birds. Each of these just give the range of possible choices that a bird makes.
The nest is incredibly important when it comes to baby birds because this is where the parents lay the eggs that become baby birds.
Did you know that birds only use their nest when they are laying eggs or raising baby birds? Some birds use a nest many times during a year (which means they have babies more than once during the year), but most use it only once.
Most birds build a new nest every year. However, some birds, such as the Peregrine Falcon, may reuse the same nest every year.
The first step in building a nest is choosing the location. It may be towards the bottom or top of a tree, on a cliff face, in a hole in a tree for woodpeckers, or on the ground. Wherever it is, after the location is selected the bird then somehow builds its nest.
Thing about this, somehow without any plans or hands, birds build their nests. They make the nest strong enough to withstand storms, big enough to hold their entire family, and waterproof enough to keep out the rain. Can you imagine building a new house for your family without any hands or plans every year?
Bird nests are made of natural things in the area, such as sticks, feathers, mud, or dried grass. Nesting material is limited to what a bird can carry in its beak. Most nests take between one to two weeks to build! There are four main kinds of nests:
Most birds have one mother and one father that raise them. But, how that is done and how long it takes can be very different for different types of birds. In other words, which bird builds the nest, sits on the eggs, or feeds the baby birds can differ. For some birds the males build the nest and the females sit on the eggs the entire time. For others the female builds the nest and the male never sits on the eggs.
For example, it is mainly the female Robin that builds a nest. The male may bring her supplies, but she is the one that does the building. Then she is the only one that sits on the eggs until they hatch. Once they hatch, both the male and female feed the baby birds until they leave the nest.
As another example, both the male and female Peregrine Falcon parent take turns sitting on the eggs until they hatch. This allows one of them to fly off in search of food while the other is with the eggs.
Baby Birds or Bird Reproduction
Eggs – This is the period from when the egg is laid until it hatches. For songbirds, it takes on average 10 – 20 days for an egg to hatch. Raptors (hawk or eagle) eggs’ take longer to hatch, up to 5 weeks. During this time one of the parents is sitting on the nest the entire time to keep the eggs warm and to protect them from predators. The parents keep the eggs warm in order to allow the eggs to develop into baby birds.
Nestling – This is the period from when a bird is born until it leaves the nest. Most baby birds are born blind and without feathers. During this time, the parents must keep them warm and feed them every fifteen minutes. Some birds leave the nest within hours, but others may be in the nest for weeks. For songbirds, it takes on average 14 days till it can leave the nest. Raptors may remain in the nest for 6-8 weeks.
Fledgling and Juvenile – This is the period from when the bird leaves the nest until it is independent (not rely on adults for food). When the bird first leaves the nest it may not be able to fly yet and can only hop. It may still rely on it’s parents for food. Over time it will be able to fly and feed itself. The length of time it takes a bird to go from a fledgling to a juvenile varies greatly. It can take anywhere from a few weeks for a songbird to 6 months for a Raven.