Nest Cams


Royal Society for
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Home Adaptations Reproduction Parental Care
Yellow Warbler and nest of babies

Yellow Warbler and nest of babies
(Courtesy NEBRASKAland Magazine/NGPC)

After a bird lays its eggs, the eggs must be kept warm in order to grow into chicks. The parent birds will sit on or incubate their eggs.

Birds that incubate have an area on their breast called a brood patch. This is area lacks feathers. The bird will cover the eggs with the brood patch to keep the eggs next to its skin and warm.

For most birds, parenting duties are shared. The parents take turns sitting on the nest. One will do the sitting while the other bird gets food for itself.

The length of time that an egg is incubated ranges from 10 days for some woodpeckers and songbirds to 37 days for a Trumpeter Swan. Incubation time depends on the bird species and how well-developed the young ones are when they hatch.

Birds that are well developed when they hatch are called precocial. Precocial birds have their eyes open when they hatch. They aren't hatchlings – they have downy feathers and are able to move around.

Birds that are not very mature when they hatch and are very dependent on the care of their parents are called altricial. Altricial birds have closed eyes when they hatch. They're immobile and have few feathers or little downy feathers covering them. Though they might seem underdeveloped, altricial chicks can grow very rapidly.

Young birds still need protection from heat and cold, so the parents continue to brood their chicks after they hatch. They travel to and from the nest, bringing food to their hungry young.

Once the chicks finally get their full feathers and are fledged, the parents gradually decrease their involvement in the feeding process. The fledglings learn to feed themselves and to fly.

From the time the birds hatch until they are fledged or flying varies from 10 to 60 days.


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