Fledglings, Have You Seen Them?

If You Find Fledgling Birds, Please Leave Them Alone

Reading Time: 4 minutes

One of the most rewarding experiences for any nature lover is to have a bird nest in their backyard. The arrival of fledglings in summer is a moment of awe-inspiring wonder, as it represents the continuation of life that brings us so much joy.

At intoBirds, we make it a point to stock our bird feeders every day to keep our feathered friends happy and well-fed. This is not just a hobby, but a daily routine that we follow regardless of the weather. After three long months of hard work, we are finally enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers

During the day, both male and female Red-bellied Woodpeckers take turns feeding their young. It’s truly fascinating to observe the young birds learning to come to the suet feeder by themselves, under the watchful eye of their vigilant parents. At other times, the parents bring the youngsters food.

Suet feeder runs in the family: Red-bellied Woodpecker fledgling visiting the same suet feeder its parents visit

Blue Jays

The Blue Jay parents are feeding their fluffy youngster which appears to be bigger than them. The young Blue Jay gets impatient while waiting for its parents to bring its meal, so it quickly drops to the ground for a quick insect snack until they return.

Tufted Titmouse

A young Tufted Titmouse flaps its wings eagerly, awaiting its parent’s return with food. As soon as the parent leaves, the chick starts demanding more food.

Feisty Tufted Titmouse is excited to see its parent return with food

Downy Woodpeckers, Chipping Sparrows, Cardinals, and Hawks

Young Downy Woodpeckers are a delight to watch as they swing and glide over branches as if it’s their own personal jungle gym, patiently waiting for their parent’s arrival with food.

In the trees, delicate and active Chipping Sparrows can be seen clustering with their young ones in tow. They feed their offspring as they leap from one branch to another.

Another beautiful sight is the male Northern Cardinal taking care of its young one on the ground, feeding it attentively.

Attentive male Northern Cardinal feeding its young

And in the distance, we hear the resounding “kee-aah, kee-aah” calls of the Red-shouldered Hawk family taking flight above us.

It’s incredible witnessing the beauty of nature all around us.

Baby Bird Terminology

If you talk to bird watchers or experienced birders, you might hear them use different words to describe what some people call “baby” birds. However, it’s important to note that there is no such thing as a “baby” bird in birding terms.

The words they use actually refer to the various stages of growth in a bird’s life. So, it’s essential to know the difference between these terms. Here are some birding terms that describe the different stages of growth in a bird’s life.

Killdeer chicks hatch with their eyes open and they’re born ready to run

Chick: Any type of bird that’s still relatively young.

Hatchling: Birds that are no more than a few days.

Hatchlings are typically naked with closed eyes (though certain species are born with feathers).

Nestling: After a few days, a hatchling becomes a nestling.

Nestlings are usually covered in down (fine feathers that almost look like fur) and are completely dependent on its parents for food and do not leave the nest.

Fledgling: When the baby bird is ready to leave the nest, it becomes a fledgling.

This is the “baby” bird you occasionally find on the ground near a nest, hopping around awkwardly.

Fledglings have flight feathers but are learning to fly and still depend on parents for food.

Branchers: Young birds that have left the nest and perch on a branch near the nest as parents bring them food

Chipping Sparrow fledgling waits on a branch for its parent to bring it food

Please Leave Fledglings Alone

You may come across fledglings in unusual places, and as bird lovers, we may feel the need to help what appears to be a stranded “baby” bird. However, we advise against it. If you find fledglings, it’s best to leave them where they are, as their parents are usually nearby and caring for them.

Even if you don’t see the parent, leaving the bird alone is still best, as the parent may be nearby. This is important because fledglings can hide from predators and may not be able to fly yet. 

Female Downy Woodpecker feeding its male fledging

Fledgling’s Parents are Usually Close By

Removing a fledgling from the wild can reduce its chances of survival, so it should only be done as a last resort. If you find a grounded fledgling, only rescue it if it is in immediate danger. Otherwise, let the parents coax the baby to fly. If you see backyard predators like cats and dogs, chase them away.

If the bird is in a dangerous location, move it only a short distance to a safer place, but make sure to put it down within hearing range of where it was found so the parents can locate it. Contrary to what we may have been told as children, handling a young bird does not cause its parents to abandon it. Birds don’t rely as much on their sense of smell as mammals do. 

Red-tailed Hawk parent with chicks in the nest

Rescuing a “Baby” Bird

It may be tempting to “rescue” a “baby” bird that seems to be in trouble, but it’s important to remember that adult birds are much better at looking after their offspring than humans will ever be. In most cases, the bird’s parents are nearby, waiting for you to leave so they can care for it.

If the bird is in a vulnerable location, like in the middle of a busy path or road, move it to a safer place nearby, like a bush or tree where cats can’t see it. Don’t feed the bird; feeding it what you think is appropriate can harm it. Instead, watch from a safe distance to see what happens. 

This tiny Killdeer chick fell down a storm drain and required human rescuing

If you think the bird has been abandoned, it’s best to contact your local wildlife rehabilitator or the Department of Environmental Conservation for advice. The Humane Society’s website has a list of wildlife rehabilitators in your state. 

It’s always exciting to see bird families and celebrate the continuation of life. So, get out and see some birds!


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  1. If you find a dead woodpecker fledgling on the group, should you leave it so that
    parents know what happened to it? We are heartbroken because a young one we observed
    flying yesterday was dead in the back corner of our yard this morning. Is it possible the heavy winds and rain yesterday blew it into the fence/tree and it was fatally injured? There is damage to one side of the face and neck. Could something have attacked it?

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