Birds Life Cycle

May 28, 2018

Birds Life Cycle

Birds are vertebrate animals adapted for flight. Many can also run, jump, swim, and dive. Some, like penguins, have lost the ability to fly but retained their wings. Birds are found worldwide and in all habitats. The largest is the nine-foot-tall ostrich. The smallest is the two-inch-long bee hummingbird.

Everything about the anatomy of a bird reflects its ability to fly. The wings, for example, are shaped to create lift. The leading edge is thicker than the back edge, and they are covered in feathers that narrow to a point. Airplane wings are modeled after bird wings. Birds have a unique digestive system that allows them to eat when they can—usually on the fly—and digest later.

They use their beaks to grab and swallow food. Even the way a bird reproduces is related to flight. Instead of carrying the extra weight of developing young inside their bodies, they lay eggs and incubate them in a nest. In this Articles we will share you the Cycle of Birds.

Searching A Place To Breed

Throughout the year, most birds use day length to tell what season it is. When the number of hours of daylight exceeds a certain critical level, physiological changes are triggered in birds which prepare them to breed. Most birds, especially those in temperate regions, also time their breeding activities so that they will be feeding their nestlings when food is most abundant.

However, well before nestlings arrive, birds need to select a breeding territory. Non-migratory species may either maintain a territory throughout the winter or establish a new one in the spring. Migratory birds begin looking for and defending a territory as soon as they arrive in the spring. Good territories provide potential nest sites, reliable food sources, and protection from predators.

Choosing A Mate

While territories are being claimed, birds try to attract mates. In most species, females choose males based on an assessment of their overall quality and vigor. Males advertise their suitability as a mate by exhibiting bright breeding plumage during courtship displays, by bringing food to females, by demonstrating their nest-building abilities, and by singing, drumming, or calling.

Social pair bonds tie males and females of most species together throughout the breeding season, but promiscuity is not uncommon. DNA analyses has shown that even birds that presumably “mate for life,” such as bluebirds, may not always be faithful. It is possible for nestlings in a single nest to be fathered by different males! Males of some species, such as Red-winged Blackbird and House Wren, can have more than one mate at a time (a mating system called polygyny). Much less commonly, females of some species, such as Wilson’s Phalaropes, may have more than one mate as well (polyandry)


Building A Nest

Nests provide a safe place for eggs and young birds to develop. Birds nests are extremely diverse, although each species typically has a characteristic nest style. Some birds do not make nests at all and instead lay their eggs in a simple scrape in the ground. (Visit Bird Nest Benefits for more helpful information.)

Other birds construct nests from natural materials, such as grass, leaves, mud, lichen, and fur, or from man-made materials like paper, plastic, and yarn. Nests can be found almost anywhere on the ground, in trees, in burrows, on the sides of cliffs, in and on man-made structures, etc. Females typically build nests, but sometimes both parents and just the male will build it.

Copulation and Egg formation

During the breeding season, hormonal changes cause the internal testes of males to swell to more than 1,000 times their normal size. The ovaries and oviduct of females also increase in size in preparation for egg fertilization and development. During copulation, the male’s cloaca contacts and ejects sperm into the cloaca of the female.

The sperm travel to the oviduct where they can be stored for long periods. If all goes well, the sperm penetrate through the wall of the ovum (egg) and fertilization takes place. During the first stage of embryonic development, the egg shell develops; pigments are added last. Ovulation and laying take about 24 hours, so female birds typically produce at most one egg per day.

Laying Eggs

The total number of eggs that a female can lay in one nesting attempt varies widely depending on the species.

For example, many tropical birds lay clutches of only 2 or 3 eggs. Waterfowl, such as Wood Ducks, can lay up to 15 eggs in one nesting attempt. Clutch size can also vary widely among individuals of the same species depending on food and calcium availability, latitude, age of the female, weather, and time of year. The size, shape, color, and texture of bird eggs are also extremely variable both within and among species.


Birds incubate their eggs to keep them at the proper temperature to ensure normal development. Female songbirds usually begin incubation after they have finished laying all of their eggs so that they will hatch at approximately the same time.

Other birds, such as herons, cranes, cormorants, and raptors begin incubation as soon as the first egg is laid and therefore their eggs may hatch on different days. In some species, like Black-headed Grosbeak, both males and females incubate eggs. Incubation time varies depending on the species.


Songbirds and most seabirds have altricial young, meaning that the newly hatched birds are blind, featherless, and helpless. Immediately after hatching, altricial birds can do little more than open their mouths to beg for food. They remain in the nest where the parents can feed and protect them while they continue to develop. For the first week of life, most altricial birds cannot control their own body temperature and must be constantly brooded (kept warm) by their parents.

By the end of the first week, their eyes are usually open and their feathers are beginning to emerge. During this period, nestlings can experience remarkable growth by doubling their body weight several times! Precocial species, such as ducks and many shorebirds, are born fully feathered, mobile, and with eyes open.

Incubation periods are longer for precocial birds than altricial birds, allowing for increased embryonic development in the egg, and therefore they have relatively advanced motor and sensory functions at hatching.

Feeding The Young

To keep up with the food demands of nestlings, their parents continuously forage for food. This is an extremely dangerous time for both the adult and young birds because the increased activity and begging cries of nestlings can attract predators.

After 2 or 3 weeks, most songbirds are usually ready to leave the nest. Other birds, such as raptors, may stay in the nest for as long as 8 to 10 weeks. In contrast, precocial birds spend hardly any time in the nest and are often seen wandering in search of food alongside their parents only hours after hatching.

Leaving The Nest

Most birds nest only once per year, but some species, like the American Robin, can have up to 4 or 5 nests during a single breeding season. After leaving the nest (fledging) young birds typically remain close to their parents for a short period.

During this time, young birds must learn to survive on their own and are very vulnerable to predators and starvation. The first year is the toughest; in nearly all bird species, more than half of the first year birds perish.

For birds that do make it to adulthood however, the odds of surviving another year improve greatly.

What Do You Call Baby Birds?

Those squeaky, cute little creatures are so helpless and adorable that you can’t help but stare and smile when you come across them. But when you rush to tell your family what you saw, what do you say? I saw three cute baby birds today? I saw a nest full of chicks today?

Most people know that a baby cow is called a calf and a baby cat is called a kitten, but what do we call baby birds. Let’s find out.

General Terms:

We’ll kick things off with probably the most frequently used term for a baby bird.

A chick is used to mean any type of bird that’s still relatively young.

These next three terms have to do with baby birds at different ages. A hatchling is a bird that’s no more than a few days.

They’re typically naked with closed eyes (though certain species are born with feathers).

After a few days, a hatchling becomes a nestling. A nestling is usually covered in down (fine feathers that almost look like fur).

It’s completely dependent on its parents for food and does not leave the nest.

When the baby bird is ready to leave the nest, it becomes a fledgling. This is what you occasionally find on the ground near a nest, hopping around awkwardly. A fledgling has developed most of its flight feathers, but it’s still learning to fly.

Its parents will usually take care of it still. After these three, the next four stages are juvenile, immature, subadult, and adult. However, these are not usually considered baby birds.

Species Specific Terms

The above terms are applicable to any bird species, but once you start talking about certain species, things get a little more specific. (Species that aren’t listed are usually just called chicks)


Squab, Squeaker










Cheeper, squealer

Guinea fowl



Poult, cockerel (male), pullet (female)








Cygnet, flapper


Poult, jake (male), jenny (female)

Proper Way To Raise A Baby Birds

Create A Nest Box

If you are breeding birds, you should create a nest box before the female is ready to lay her eggs. Any wood box that is wide enough for the birds to turn around in and deep enough that the adults will not be able to kick all of the nesting material out of the box will do. You can also visit online pet shops like at for more bird products which you can choose in creating a nest box..

Nesting boxes can be wood or metal. Wood provides more warmth, but metal is easier to clean.
Fill the nest box almost to the top with pine or aspen shavings. The adults will probably kick some of the nesting material out, but this is fine as long as some remains.
Placing the nest box on the outside of the cage will make it easier for you to interact with the babies when they hatch.

Once the eggs hatch, you will need to replace the soiled wood shavings on a daily basis.

Keep An Eye On The Parents

Watch the parents carefully both before and after the eggs hatch. They are typically capable of caring for the babies, but you may need to intervene if the babies are in danger.

If the parents are not sitting on the fertilized eggs, you may need to place the eggs in an incubator to help them hatch.
If the parents are not feeding one of the babies, they may have rejected it because it is too weak. If this happens, you will probably need to take the baby away from the parents and raise it yourself. You can try reintroducing it to the parents after it has become stronger, but be sure to continue watching them closely.

Be on the lookout for parents (especially fathers) who pluck the babies’ feathers. This can mutilate or even kill the baby bird if done aggressively enough. If you notice this, move the parent to a different cage. You can try letting the parent visit the babies during feeding times, but only if it does not continue to pluck the babies’ feathers.

Decide If You Will Hand Feed The Babies

If you want to get your baby birds used to being handled by humans, you can begin hand feeding them at around two to four weeks of age, depending on the species.

You can buy formulas that are specifically designed for the species of bird you are raising and feed them using an eye dropper, syringe, or spoon. The amount you feed them will depend on the birds’ species and size

Be extremely careful not to feed baby birds anything that is too hot, or you may cause serious burns. The ideal formula temperature for cockatiels is 104-106 degrees Fahrenheit.
You do not need to hand feed baby birds unless the parents do not appear to be feeding them. If you allow the parents to continue feeding them until they are weaned, the babies will develop better social skills to interact with other birds. If you start hand feeding them, they will become more tame around humans.
Starting to hand feed baby birds before this time will probably not make any difference in their tameness. They will also miss out on the healthy bacteria that is introduced into their digestive systems by their parents in the first few weeks.
If you do not hand feed the babies and allow the parents to continue feeding them, be sure to provide more seed and fresh foods than you normally would. If you notice the parents pacing around the cage, they may not have enough food.
Be sure to clean any excess food off of the baby bird’s feathers and out of its mouth using a sterile cloth or cotton swab and warm water. This will prevent bacteria buildup. You can also use a small amount of Citricidal to clean the feathers.

Note that if you buy a bird at a pet store, it should be old enough to feed itself, so you will not need to hand feed it at all.

Check out Essential Care For Your Bird Pet article for best ideas in raising your baby bird.

Handle The Babies

Even if you choose not to hand feed your baby birds, you can still get them used to human contact simply by handling them regularly. Begin handling them several times a day for about 15 minutes per session, starting when they are about 12 days old

Always wash your hands thoroughly before handling the babies. They are very susceptible to bacteria when they are young.
Handling the babies for too long will cause them to become cold and tired, so stick to short sessions.

Give the babies lots of love by cradling them in your palms, stroking them, and talking to them.

Use A Brooder

If you want or need to raise the babies entirely away from their parents, you will need to use a brooder to keep them warm. You can set one up by placing a heating pad partially under the container you are keeping them in, and then covering the container with a towel to keep the heat in.

The temperature should be 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit for babies that have pin feathers, 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit for babies that are fully feathered, and 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit for babies that are fully weaned.
If you are using a heating pad to heat your container, be sure to place it only partially under the container so that the babies can escape the heat if it gets too hot.
An aquarium makes and ideal container. You can also purchase special brooders or brooder tops that are designed to heat aquariums.
Line your container with a soft material like toilet paper, paper towels, or cotton diapers. Be sure to change the lining material after each feeding.

If you raise the baby birds away from their parents, it is best to allow them to socialize with them from time to time.

Wean The Babies

Whether you have been hand feeding your baby birds or allowing the parents to feed them, you will need to start introducing them to weaning foods when they become old enough. The exact age will depend upon the species.

You will know they are ready for weaning when they begin to pick things up with their mouths.
Don’t force the babies to wean if they’re not ready. It may take several weeks for them to complete the transition.
Be sure to continue hand feeding or allowing the parents to feed until the babies begin to refuse this type of feeding. If their necks are pumping and they are making noises, they are begging for food.
You can buy weaning pellets to feed your baby birds during them time. You can moisten them to make easier to eat.
You can also start introducing other soft foods, like fruits, vegetables, and cooked grains.
If possible, move each baby to its own cage during the weaning process. This will result in optimal bonding with humans. Looking for best bird cage (like this one: Pet Bird Cage with Stainless Steel Feeders-amazon) for your birds just visit online stores like

Raising baby birds is a labor of love, whether you are dealing with wild or domestic species. If you are breeding birds, you have the option of allowing the parents to feed the babies or hand feeding them yourself. If you find a wild baby bird, it is usually best if you simply leave it alone. Unless the baby bird is injured or you can confirm that it has truly been abandoned, you should not attempt to raise it. If you determine that the bird does need your help, the best thing you can do for it is to give it to a professional wildlife rehabilitator.

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