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What Happens To Young Birds As They Leave Their Nest?
Posted on Tuesday, August 06, 2013 by eNature
American Robin, juvenile
American Robin, juvenile
© George Harrison
Osprey with fish
Osprey with fish
© Mike Baird

It’s happening all around us right now— young birds are leaving their nests and striking out on their own. 

We at eNature have been watching the Osprey on the Chesapeake Bay fledging over the past few weeks.  When your nest if over water as most osprey do, you better be ready to fly when you take that first jump!

So how do all these young birds make the transition from fledgling to adult?

Family Style?
A lot of us think that baby birds grow up in a family that stays together and migrates south together. There are some species of birds that stay together after the nesting season, but they are rare.

Most young birds are totally on their own soon after they leave the nest. In fact, in many bird families, the parents migrate south long before their youngsters do.

The best examples of this are the families of most species of hummingbirds. The female raises her offspring until they are out of the nest and able to feed themselves. A few weeks later, she disappears. The youngsters are left alone to fatten up for their long migratory flight to a place in the tropics where they have never been before.

They linger at the natal feeding grounds for several more weeks, sucking up as much nectar, sugar water and tiny insects as possible before heading south.

What To Do For Food?
How do they know when to leave, where to go, how to get there and when they have arrived? There are lots of theories, but no one really knows for sure.  Herein lies one of the great mysteries of nature.

The same is true among juvenile ducks, warblers, vireos, flycatchers and thrushes. They are all deserted by their parents and left to find their way to some place in the South where there is food and habitat.

Juveniles of permanent residents such as chickadees, nuthatches, finches, and woodpeckers, are much better off. Though their parents no longer care for them, at least they are still in familiar surroundings.

And as for our ospreys on the Chesapeake?  The next few weeks are the moment of truth for them— they’ve got to learn to fish on their own.  According to some experts, an inability to master fishing is one of the biggest causes of mortality for young osprey.


Have you noticed your local birds fledging?  There’s usually lots to see and hear when young birds are leaving the nest….


We always enjoy your stories— please feel free share them below.

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Comments

The past two to three weeks we have had mainly juvenile Ruby Throated at our feeders. We are wondering if they will head south earlier than usual this year like the Purple Martins did.

Posted by Bud & Brenda Angus on 8/10

In northern Michigan saw adult woodpecker picking pieces of suetcake & feeding larger fledgling on deck railing about a week ago. Now adult is gone & fledgling is visiting suetcake daily. Watched oriole adults with fledgling between on railing apparently giving flight training, all flew away & haven’t seen since. Watching our feathered friends has been such a delight & blessing daily.

Posted by Nell Danielson on 8/10

We have been extremely fortunate this Summer to have several breeding pair of Ruby Throated Hummers in our garden. The last two weeks we have filled our 4 feeders daily.  Each feeder has been dry by late evening.  Two adult males are busily fattening up for their flight south, as are the young.  No evidence of our adult females.  Is that normal?  We have never seen the “girls” leave prior to the males. 

 

Posted by Judy and Rich on 8/11

Have noticed for many years now a mutant coloration of tree sparrows in my yard from light beiges to almost white. Live in N.E. Pa.

Posted by Sylvia Poltrock on 8/11

I am in central Florida and have noticed many immature cardinals, jays, thrashers and dove around our feeder in the last week or so.  And I am seeing a young red tail hawk learning to hunt on it’s own.  I have also noticed (our house is on a lake) young osprey.  The mallard babies were out learning to feed about a month or so ago, so I am sure they are on their own by now.  Our house is isolated to we can enjoy the wildlife every day.  My husband just came in from mowing to tell me he was going to mow around the clover as that patch of ground is loaded with honey bees.  Thrilled to hear that.

Posted by Jan on 8/11

Only one barn swallow fledged out of a family of three nestlings.  All three fell out of the nest into the manger with one dying.  I put the remaining two back in the nest.  The following night another dead, nearly grown barn swallow in the manger but the nest is now empty.  Last year the same nest had four babies but they all fell out into the manger and were dead the next day.

Posted by K Peters on 8/11

I’ve noticed something new this year with my bird boxes . Two of them have been used by different species at different times of the season. One bluebird box was inhabited by bluebirds early on, and their young grew and left the box. Afterwards, chickadees used the box for nesting. The other box was used by nuthatches for nesting early on, and the same thing happened with a family of wrens as the new tenants. I’m glad to accommodate twice as many bird families in one season smile .

Posted by Matt on 8/11

I’m proud to say (like I actually birthed them) 2 separate broods of Bluebirds and one brood of Robins.  It was fun watching all the excitement and drama of the parent birds raising their young. I was even buzzed by a very protective Robin when I went out on my porch to take pictures of her young chicks. Didn’t make that mistake again. I had a Chickadee lay some eggs in a birdhouse, but never saw if they hatched or not. When I went to check on them over several weeks since seeing the eggs, the nest was empty. I’m taking it on faith that the Chickadee Chicks hatched and left the nest when it was time.

Posted by Sara Rawlins on 8/11

For the 3rd year a robin has nested right over my front door in front of the transom, and so far she has had 3 sets, of 4 chicks each, grow and leave.  I don’t know if she has another batch now, because she’s at the nest, again, at all hours. It seems, though I’m not positive, that she teaches them to fly in, basically, 1 day—but then I don’t know where they’ve gone.  To see this happen is such an affirmation of life, and instills wonder and awe in me, so I hope they are surviving to a large degree.  This is in central New York state, and weather is uncertain in these last several years with climate change.

Posted by Barbara Efraimson on 8/11

I enjoyed reading all the comments.  I love birds too but I have a male cat and the two don’t mix.  I watch my neighbor’s feeding stations. I just bought a honeysucle vine so next year I hope to see hummingbirds from my deck!

Posted by Karen on 8/11

This year I have had more hummingbirds than ever and it seems that they had many clutches this year.  I live in NH and it seems to be a very unusual season for them. I also found this last clutch to be very aggressive and found them harassing and chasing for the American Yellow finches this August.  They tease them by flying back in forth right in front of them really fast and then they dive bomb them.  Has anyone else witnessed and of these things this year?

Posted by Elaina Valzania on 8/11

To respond to Elaina’s comment/question…we too her in eastern KY have always had agressive hummers even to other birds. SThis summer we had one male seemingly taunting a Chickadee. He was doing his courting arch swing right in the face of the Chickadee. If there was a female hummer anywhere close we didn’t see her.
Anyone got any comments about Purple Martins heading south earlier than usual like they did here in eastern Kentucky?

Posted by Bud and Brenda Angus on 8/12

Elaina, I’ve noticed the hummers at my feeders this year being more aggressive than in past years. They chase each other away from the feeders. Also, they’re not afraid to take on bees and other large insects interested in the feeders. They are truly remarkable birds. By the way, I make my own nectar for them. It’s really easy, much cheaper than store- bought, and healthier for them. The red dye in the store-bought nectars can harm their kidneys, so I’ve read. To make your own nectar: use 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. (Example- add 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water ). Just boil the water first, then add the sugar, mix it, then refrigerate it for a couple hours. Most feeders are already red, so no worries about the clear nectar not attracting them.

Posted by Matt on 8/12

I think I will try your receipe for hummingbird feeders, I have wondered about that dye, and don’t seem to have much luck here in Central Florida, although I have tons of butterfly and honey bees.

Posted by Jan on 8/12

Thank you all for your comments and experiences with the hummers.  I have always made my own sugar water.  I just watched a PBS special on Hummingbirds Magic in the Air about this women that filmed them for 18 months and she said to mix a 1 to 1 formula for them.  I did then sweeten my mix up and now the chickadees are on the hummingbird feeders as well as the hummingbirds.  I had never heard of a 1 part water to 1 part sugar as I always mixed 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.

Posted by Elaina Valzania on 8/12

We have been watching two baby ospreys grow this month as they are perched safely in their nest at the top of an old white fir snag above Lake Tahoe. We watch the mother leave the nest to fish and then see her feeding them. It looks like another osprey watches the nest while she is gone ( from another tree). Could this be dad protecting the babies?  Ann and Bob , Carnelian Bay, Lake Tahoe, CA

Posted by Ann Lyman on 8/12

I live in central Florida on a lake in an area with many lakes and we have osprey nests all around us in the trees, top of lights at Lowes & Publix and yes that would be dad.  Osprey’s mate for life and only take a new mate if something happens to their mate.  They are great parents.  I have a hammock of really large oaks on my property and watch mom/dad teaching the young how to hunt.  After about a week, the parents disappear and the young are left to hunt for themselves.  Some learn quickly from parents, some only learn when the parents leave them on their own.  They are so much fun to watch.

Posted by Jan on 8/13

I live in eastern Washington , and while fishing at an area lake, I witnessed a territory battle between an osprey and a bald eagle. It was incredible . Needless to say, the eagle had the upper hand, chasing the osprey…

Posted by Matt on 8/13
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