What are the stages of a baby bird's growth?
There are three stages in a baby bird’s growth: hatchling, nestling and fledgling and it’s easy to spot the differences. Hatchling birds are bald, nestlings are partially feathered and fledglings are fully feathered and hopping around although not quite ready to fly. It is common and expected to see fledgling birds on the ground; they have left the nest to hop around for a few days and build up the muscles necessary for flight.
Which British birds are hatching now?
A lot of our most common birds are breeding now. Here is a short list of the babies you might start spotting in your garden:
Robin – late March
Blackbird – March
Collared dove – March
Magpie – early April
Blue tit – mid April
Starling – mid April
Wood pigeon - April
Chaffinch – April
Crested tit – April
Wren – late April
House sparrow – May
Nightingale – mid May
Where are birds nests usually found?
Nests can be found anywhere well hidden and protected in gardens, parks and the countryside. Some birds, like the long-tailed tit and the house sparrow, prefer to build in trees up to 20m high, whereas the robin makes its home closer to the ground, buried in ivy and tree roots. Finches also like to be lower down in bushes and low trees.
Different species make their nests out of different materials; swallows and house martins, for example, build their nests out of wet mud plastered onto walls or beams. Blackbirds make their home from twigs and leaves which they stick together with mud and moss high up in the trees.
Most species use their nest purely for laying eggs and raising chicks but some, such as tits, tawny owls and woodpeckers, will use them to sleep all year round.
Spotted a nest in your garden? Great - keep an eye on it and you may hear the cheeping of baby hatchlings soon. Just make sure you don't get too close or touch the nest or the eggs. If you don’t have a garden, you can watch live web streams of different bird nests here and here.
What should I do if I find a baby bird?
Fledgling birds normally leave their nests at around two weeks old, where they flop down onto the ground. It often seems like they have been abandoned by their parents, but this is usually not the case.
The RSPB are urging people to not disturb baby birds if they are spotted away from their nest. If the birds are found on the ground they should be left alone. Taking them away from their parents at this point in their lives will do more damage than good. If you are worried, keep an eye on the baby for a while - it’s more than likely its parents will return with its meal. If you intervene it may cause the mother to reject the baby, causing much more pain for the little one and the parent.
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