what do birds look like when they hatch

How To Tell Baby Birds Apart?

Unfortunately, one of the most difficult things to do when bird watching is to differentiate between different species of birds based only on their appearance. One can easily misidentify a chick belonging to a different species.

Experience and observing photos or live chicks of various bird species in your area over time are the only ways to gain the knowledge necessary to identify baby birds with confidence.

However, it is not difficult to tell hatchlings and nestlings apart from adults of the same species.

What is the name of a baby bird?

Baby birds are generally called “bird chicks. But young birds go through multiple life stages that are all called differently.

For altricial birds, “hatchlings” refers to newly hatched baby birds who are immobile, blind, and naked. Nestlings are young birds that are confined to their nests because they are unable to fly yet, but they have already matured beyond hatchlings.

Lastly, “Fledglings” are young birds that resemble adults or have mostly adult plumage and flight feathers on their wings. They are still primarily dependent on their parents, but they are learning to fly and survive on their own.

What Do Baby Birds Look Like?

Not all chicks are hatched equal. There are two evolutionary pathways among bird species that lead to different types of baby birds in terms of their young’s development.

Altricial birds are blind, immobile, and have pinkish skin that is only covered in thin, fluffy downy feathers when they are born. They need their parents’ full-time attention in order to develop and flourish.

what do birds look like when they hatch

Altricial chicks are dependent on their parents not only for warmth and sustenance but also for active defense; as you can imagine, defenseless young birds make perfect prey for a variety of predators.

Some of the most well-known birds that produce altricial chicks are listed below:

  • Songbirds (sparrows, finches, tits, juncos…)
  • Corvids (crows, magpies, ravens)
  • Birds of prey (hawks, eagles, owls)
  • Parrots
  • Pigeons and doves

In precocial bird species, young have far greater adaptability at hatching for survival and independence. They can forage on their own and follow their parents around because they are mobile and have developed eyesight (open eyes).

what do birds look like when they hatch

what do birds look like when they hatch

Typical precocial birds include:

  • Fowl (hen, pheasants, quails…)
  • Waterfowl (ducks, geese…)
  • Ratites (Ostriches, Emus, Cassowaries…)

But the majority of precocial chicks are not at all like tiny adults; for instance, they have immature feathers, undeveloped wings, a different body structure, and unique vocalizations. Baby chickens or ostriches are a typical example of precociality.

Remarkably, in the so-called superprecocial birds, we find an extreme evolutionary “upgrade” of precociality.

Megapodes are a typical example of superprecociality. These big, strange, solitary hens don’t incubate their eggs but create huge mounds in which they bury them to keep them warm. The megapode chicks hatch fully developed – with adult body plan and feathers. In some species, chicks are even able to fly on the same day they hatch.

All baby birds begin their lives in their nests, which are distinctive buildings that birds construct to care for their young. They can vary greatly in shape, size, and construction.

However, building a nest is not enough. The eggs need incubation at a certain temperature to hatch. In the majority of species, parents sit on the nest and give the eggs heat from their bodies.


What do birds look like when they first hatch?

In general, the average baby bird has a large head, big, closed eyes, a wide beak, a wobbly neck, and no or few feathers. They’re just barely able to exist out of the egg and depend on the parents entirely for care until they can eat on their own and fly.

What does a newly hatched bird look like?

A hatchling is a bird that has recently hatched from the egg, while a fledgling is a young bird. Hatchlings look more like newborns: they have no hair, and their eyes are closed. Typically, if a hatchling is on the ground, it’s likely that it’s fallen out of the nest due to weather or another nest disturbance.

How do birds look after their eggs to hatch?

Birds need to sit on their eggs to stay them warm. It is a bit like baking a cake – the heat from the parent bird makes sure that the chicks inside develop properly. This is often called ‘incubation’. To keep the eggs warm, a special warm patch grows on the parent birds’ tummies.

What happens when a bird hatches?

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.