Messinger Woods Wildlife Care & Education Center, Inc.
South Vermont Hill Road, Holland, N.Y.

Quick Reference Guide to Altricial Neonate Bird Development

The following chart will outline the developmental stages of the altricial neonate, beginning with the eggs in a nest. Song birds and other perching birds fall into this category.

Day 0
Robin eggs in nest

Day 1

Altricial Neonate Bird...Helpless at Birth! Embryonic Robin

Eyes closed, no feathers, can lift head to gape for food.

Day 2

 Last egg hatches.  Slight down emerges, feeding peep may become audible, motor skills poor.

Day 3
Egg tooth may disappear, eyes begin to open, feather sheaths of primary (wing) feathers begin to pierce skin, feather tracts along back become slightly visible.




Day 4

Feather tracts begin to pierce through skin, eyes may be open, bird backs up and evacuates over side of nest.








Day 5

Feather sheaths prominent on all tracts, embryo position abandoned, bird begins to lengthen, some may stand on feet, preening imitation begins, yawning begins, leg stretching begins.


Day 6
Eyes fully open, thermal regulation (ability to produce heat for themselves) establishing.

Day 7


Hungry bird location call established, fear and cowering first appears, rapid development of motor coordination, frequent stretching wings and legs, scratching head, yawning, climbing to edge of nest, plenty of actual preening and feather care, able to track motion to gape in direction of movement, Pin feathers begin to unsheathe.

Day 8

Begins to wing flutter when begging for food, well feathered above and below, preening well established, stretching both wings down at same time, wing beating and hovering, appetite may slacken.

Day 9

Shaking and fluffing, begging from siblings.

Days 10-16

Leaves nest, tucks head under wing to sleep, unable to fly well, landings are clumsy, pecks at food, may begin eating by itself, playful behavior, drinks at day 13, inactive most of time except at feeding, landing on parent, hopping, walking, landing on others, develops escape reactions to capture, vocalizations now include location note, feeding note, pain cry, fear scream, singing, whispers and warbles, bathing begins day 13-15, beak wiping between day 11-13 as signs of distaste and cleaning of beak.


Days 17-28

Full flight ability, gradual independence from parent, masters self-feeding, will still actively chase parents for food, learns what to fear and not to fear from parents, actively playing. Begins sunning at day 18, able to sound alarm note, and develops social and anti social behaviors at day 19-21.Baby Robin

Each spring and summer wildlife rehabilitators get numerous calls from people claiming to have found a bird with a broken wing. Most often, what they have is a young bird in the fledgling stage of life.

Fledglings are young birds that have already left the nest, or have been evicted by the parents. These babies are usually unable to fly for a couple of weeks. This is a very important time for the young to put the finishing touches on learning about survival by observing their parents. They will learn about finding food, avoiding predators, and how to fly.

Fledglings can be as large as the parents (sometimes appearing even larger), and fully feathered. Fledglings are able to hop, but not yet fly. A bird with a broken wing will hold the injured wing lower than the good wing. Most broken wings will droop very low, and are fairly easy to identify. Please leave the fledglings alone. They will do fine without your help. All you need do is keep pets and children away from them.

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Messinger Woods
Wildlife Care & Education Center, Inc.
P.O. Box 508
Orchard Park, New York  14127

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