For the Birds: Baby Bird Season

Monday, June 5, 2023

American Robin fledgling by Elaine Chuang
note stubby tail and gape at base of bill
By Christine Southwick

Do you have a young, helpless-looking bird hopping or flitting in your yard? 

Great! That means your yard is habitat-friendly enough that birds are nesting in your domain.

If the youngster is basically featherless, it probably fell out of a nest, and needs to be put back, if you can. 

It is probably not a ground nester, so look up. You could make a fake nest where a parent can find it if you can’t reach the nest.

Oregon Junco fledgling being feed by father
(mother is probably on second brood)
photo by Chris Southwick
Does a baby bird really need your help?

If it is already feathered, but can’t really fly, it is called a fledgling, and its parents are nearby. It doesn’t need human interference, unless it is bleeding, or has an obviously injured wing or foot.

Because nests can be a death trap from predators, ground nesting babies have evolved to leave the nest soon after they grow their feathers, and scatter in different directions. The parents bring food to each and every one of their offspring. No wonder the parents look so frazzled.

I was following a White-crowned Sparrow nest for an article and four days after they hatched – one day after they grew their feathers, they were out scurrying through the garden aisles to disappear into the adjacent empty lot, with the parents monitoring from above.

Bewick's Wren nestlings by Peggy Bartleson
They became fledglings later that day
Fledglings may have stubby tails that haven’t grown in yet which makes them flit rather than fly, and their mouths are still brightly colored, a temporary condition called gapes. Fledgling crows also fit this description.

Some of our most common ground nesters are Oregon Juncos, Song, White-crowned, and Orange-crowned Sparrows, and Spotted Towhees. Bewick’s Wrens, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped and Chestnut-backed chickadees, and American Robins, and American Crows are our other most common nesters.

Keep dogs and cats away from the areas. As much as I love my cat, once I found out that cats are the second leading cause of bird deaths in the US (habitat loss being number one), I started keeping mine from roaming. I even built a small indoor-outdoor area for them.

Oregon Junco nest hidden in raised
flower bed photo by Craig Kerns
Most local birds have two or more broods each year, so expect to see fledglings into late July/August. So, leave some tall ground-nesting areas when you are weeding.

You can help nourish birds by planting native fruiting plants, offering good quality food, keeping your yard pesticides free, and keeping pets away from these delightful bundles of fluff.

See previous For the Birds columns here


Post a Comment

We encourage the thoughtful sharing of information and ideas. We expect comments to be civil and respectful, with no personal attacks or offensive language. We reserve the right to delete any comment.
Facebook: Shoreline Area News
Twitter: @ShorelineArea
Daily Email edition (don't forget to respond to the email)

  © Blogger template The Professional Template II by 2009

Back to TOP