Leap of Faith

Fledgling-June-17-BlogJune can be a noisy time in the garden. It is an important month for garden birds, and for the youngest of them, it may be the most important month of their lives. Why? Because it is time for them to leave the nest.

Since they emerged from their eggs, the baby birds have done little but eat – and for good reason. To make its way in the world a young bird may have to increase its weight tenfold, and that takes a whole lot of food. And it’s not just their size which has changed – their first feathers were there just to keep the youngsters warm. Now they’ve grown feathers more similar to those of an adult, with markings for display or camouflage and some making them capable of flight.

Bird-Eating-june-17Now that their growth is almost complete, the young birds are ready to leave the nest – or at least their bodies are! Quite often fledglings seem very reluctant to venture out into the big wide world. This means that their parents must find a way to motivate them and food usually does the trick! Mum and dad take food to the nest as they always have only, this time, they perch themselves just out of reach. If the little ones want to eat then they’ll have to come out and get their food.

It’s easy to sympathise with the fledglings. No more food and warmth on tap in the safety of the nest. No, now they must face the dangers of the real world. First they must fly – a fall from the nest can cause them an injury (a broken wing means certain death). Then they must eat. If they can’t find enough food to power their flight then they will die from exhaustion – and birds need to eat a lot. And finally, there are the predators…

Sparrowhawks and other birds of prey are on the lookout at this time of year. A glut of inexperienced birds offers a smorgasbord of food with which to feed their own offspring. These carnivores take only a small proportion of fledglings though. There is a creature which does much more harm, killing far more young birds than all other predators combined – the domestic cat.

Most fledglings rely on their parents’ help for a few days, or weeks, before they are able to look after themselves. If they can survive this period without succumbing to predators or starvation then maybe next year these young birds will be evicting a new generation of birds from nests of their own.

Are you a bird lover? If so then I’ve got some great news for you – we have hundreds of questions on British birds in the Nature section of our site. There you’ll find quizzes on all kinds of birds, from auks to warblers! Not only that, we also have quizzes on mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, trees, flowers, minerals… even on outer space! And, they’re all free to play, so go and test your natural knowledge today!

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