Birds’ Life Stages Defined



Throughout our website and newsletters, you’ll likely see us refer to birds’ life stages by name. We thought it’d be a good idea to give a short review in case any of the terms are unfamiliar.

Examples of life stages in a finch, thrush, robin, chickadee and robin

HATCHLING. A bird just out of the egg. Generally a bird is called a hatchling while it relies on its remaining yolk supply or until it is capable of regulating its own body temperature.

NESTLING. A bird that remains in the nest until it is able to fly.

CHICK. A young bird that leaves the nest soon after hatching and typically walks or hops near its family group until it is able to fly.

FLEDGLING. A bird that has left the nest and is acquiring its first set of flight feathers, but is still dependent upon parent birds for food and care.

JUVENILE. A young bird, not yet capable of breeding, in its first plumage of non-downy feathers. This plumage is mostly soft feathers that quickly abrade and are replaced by a later molt.

IMMATURE. A young bird capable of breeding; in its first plumage of hard feathers having already gone through its first molt. These birds are not yet identical in pattern or color to adult birds. Another name for this stage is sub-adult.

ADULT. A mature bird capable of breeding and in its definitive plumage.

By Minnetonka Manager CAROL CHENAULT, as appeared in the May/June 2012 edition of our Bird’s-Eye Newsletter