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Baby Ring-necked Pheasant

Baby Ring-necked Pheasant
(Courtesy NEBRASKAland Magazine/NGPC)

Baby birds that have emerged from an egg but have yet to open their eyes are called hatchlings. Babies that have opened their eyes but aren't ready to leave the nest are called nestlings. They may only be covered in natal down, so they rely on their parents for warmth as well as for food.

Food is very important to the nestlings. Baby birds require energy to grow. They want frequent feedings. Parent birds spend much of their time and energy hunting for food and bringing it back to feed their young.

Maybe you've heard the phrase, "sing for your supper." Young birds don't sing – they beg. Begging can include calling loudly and opening their mouths wide. This stimulates the parents to feed them, but it also creates some danger, because begging calls can alert predators to the location of the nest.

Chicks are in the nestling stage for about ten days while their juvenal plumage grows in. Once they have these feathers, the young birds are known as fledglings. They can leave the nest – but they aren't necessarily ready to live on their own yet.

Fledglings depend on their parents for food at first. They'll sit and call. The parents bring food for a time, but gradually bring fewer pieces. The pieces are larger. The fledgling begins to find its own food and eventually is able to feed itself. The process can take a week or several weeks. Then the parents stop feeding the fledgling, sometimes abruptly. They might even chase the fledgling from the nest.


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