DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES OF BABY BIRDS IN NESTS
After 30 years of experience and research, I feel it needs to be clarified that this is not an issue Just for Barn Owls,
it is for every baby bird except the Precocious ones like ducks and other birds of that particular type that are ready to
go 24 hours after hatching. These birds will follow mom right out of the nest and to water or the feed ground.
use different terms for baby birds to describe their stages:
1. Hatchling: just out of the egg, bare naked and
eyes are shut.
2. Nestling: eyes are opened, developing downy feathers
3. Fledgling: sitting on the
edge of the nest exercising wings and eventually
taking off to follow parents to get food. Food is the primary motivator
4. Brancher: Sitting in the branches of tress, shrubs, bushes or what ever else is around to flap their wings
building muscle and strength, hoping from branch to branch while calling to parents for food.
Song Birds and Birds
of Prey must have branches near the nest for them to survive, small song birds do ok with shrub, bushes, etc. but the larger
birds need trees and a tree canopy to hide in so they are not vulnerable to predators from the ground and the sky. P2 at O&O
learned a hard lesson of what crows are all about, but so has Pheobe the hummingbird.
Birds of Prey are especially
vulnerable to attack if they don't have a place to hide in a thickly branched/leaved tree since all birds will go after
them as they are considered a predator and they will run them off. Imagine keeping track of 3,4,5 babies being dive bombed
and attacked by a flock of Crows, Blue Jays, etc. The need for heavy tree cover is very important along with the ability to
get back into the nest if necessary to escape predators while fledging.
If any one has been watching the Red Tail
babies in PA fledge this week you know that was difficult because the babies have to dodge a lot of traffic and human implements
to make it across a busy high way and intersection to trees.
Most people see baby song birds leave a nest box and
go to the ground and then maneuver them selves (mostly following parents call and lead) to a safe haven to hide in from predators
while learning to utilize their wings, landing on branches and building foot strength. This process can take several days
or a week before they are ready to fly through the air freely and hit their goal be it from point a to b. They will follow
the parents and siblings in a small flock like manner as the parents forage for food once they are adapt at flying, maneuvering
they are taught to hunt and then abandoned by the parents.
These are all "learned" behaviors, baby birds
don't leave the nest ready to fly and hunt, only the precocious ones such as Geese, Swans, ducks, Killdeer, chickens,
peacocks, pheasants, etc. all hatch out and are ready to follow the parents within 24 hours, but they also don't fly for
some time either. These birds learn to fly from land or water which is a totally different thing.
So my point is
that this is not just a Barn Owl issue, it is an issue for any
fledgling bird that has hatched from a nest box, song
I have learned so much from watching all of the nests with a multitude of
species, Eagles, Hawks,
Owls, Cranes, Storks, Blue Birds, Chick-a-dees, Loons, etc. and see where I would do so much differently in rehabing babies.
I was never able to get this up close and personal before while observing in the field. We never had the opportunity to watch
all the integrate happenings in the nest that takes place and it is truly amazing. I sincerely hope that there is a lot of
good that comes out of this and that now much more attention will be paid to the positioning and location of nest boxes including
people who put up song bird houses need to put them into a tree hanging from a branch with branches accessible. I just felt
I needed to address this to clarify the needs for tree dwelling avian's.