Bird Fledglings: Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve been outside in springtime, you may have seen young birds that are not quite babies and not quite adults. These little fledglings are everywhere in springtime, but what is so special about these immature birds?

Fledgling is the state a bird enters after being a “nestling” (baby) and can be compared to the state of a human teenager – they are almost ready to be on their own and have just left the nest to pursue their own life!

Whereas nestlings are completely naked, fledglings have small fine feathers, that are not yet entirely mature.

The word “fledging” refers directly to the first growth of feathers that occur to make their wings ready for flight and their bodies insulated from the cold.

We’ll talk about what they look like, where they sleep, what they eat, and when they leave the nest. We’ll also provide some tips on how to help them get started in life. So if you’re curious about bird fledglings, keep reading!

Where do fledglings sleep at night?

Birds that have just left the nest have to find another place to sleep. They will often sleep above ground in a bush or a tree. They do not build a nest yet but simply sit hidden by the trees and bushes available.

Fledgling sitting in a tree.

Fledglings usually sleep in the trees near the nest they have just left. Once they start hopping around and testing their wings more, they will start to sleep in trees or bushes that are further away.

When do fledglings leave the nest?

A bird fledgling is defined as being in the state where the bird has grown feathers and just left the nest, so in fact, nestlings leaving the nest is pretty much what defines them as fledglings in the first place!

Most nestlings leave the nest about two weeks after they hatch. However, some may stay in the nest for up to four weeks. It depends on the bird species how quickly they learn to fly and hunt for food.

Blue Jays, for example, are ready to leave the nest very quickly, while American Robins take a little longer.

American goldfinch nestlings turn into fledglings 2-3 weeks after hatching and are ready to leave the nest by then.

But what time of the day do birds fledge?

According to a scientific study on the leaving habits of different bird nestlings, it is most common for nestlings to leave the nest early in the day and most most birds fledge before 6 am!

So if you want to observe this astonishing first jump of a fledgling into adulthood, you better get up early.

Where do baby birds go when they leave the nest?

When the baby birds leave the nest, they effectively become fledgelings and are no longer considered “babies”.

Most birds like, wrens, starlings, blue jays or robins, simply fly to either the ground or bushes and trees nearby. They will find a safe spot where they rest for some time until they are ready to start exploring the area a bit more.

Interestingly, some birds, like swiftlets, cannot walk, and they will have to fly right away and keep themselves in the air, right after they leave the nest!

Because a newly fledged bird is usually fed by its parents, it does not go too far away from the nests but waits patiently for the parents to come around and feed it.

What do fledglings eat?

Fledglings, such as that of goldfinches that I wrote about previously, eat a variety of things, including insects, worms, spiders, and fruit. Their parents make sure that they eat a diet high in insects to make sure they get enough protein to grow as fast as possible.

They sooner they grow up, the sooner they can catch their own food and escape predators.

They learn to catch insects by watching their parents but also inherit some of their preferences as instincts.

Contrary to the newly hatched nestlings, they can eat seeds and animals that are not as soft as required for baby birds.

How often do fledgling birds eat?

Just as nestlings, young fledglings will typically eat the insects their parents catch for them every few hours and around 4-7 times per day, but as they get older, they will start to eat less frequently and find their own food.

A swallow fledgling being fed by one of its parents.

In the beginning, even though they have left their nest fledglings are still fed by their parents, because it usually takes a few weeks for the young birds to master the art of catching their own food.

What does a fledgling blackbird look like?

Fledgling blackbirds are mostly brown, but they have a few brown scruffy feathers on their heads.

A fledgling blackbird.

As they get older, their feathers will start to change color until they look just like adult blackbirds.

How can I help fledglings?

If you find a fledgling bird on the ground, there are a few things you can do to help it out. First, try to put the bird back in the nest.

If that’s not possible, or if the bird is injured, you can place it in a small box and keep it in a warm, dark place. Be sure to provide water and food (insects are best) until the bird is able to fly and hunt for food on its own.

If you find a baby bird that has not yet left the nest, it is best to leave it there and let the parents take care of it.

A baby wren left alone on the ground.

Fledglings that have not left the nest yet are still being fed by their parents, and it is usually best to let nature take its course.

However, if you are worried about the safety of the baby bird, you can try to put some food, like smaller worms and insects into its mouth.

If that’s not possible, you can place the bird in a small box and keep it in a warm, dark place until it is able to fly and hunt for food on its own.

Some people say that the bird’s parents will reject a baby bird if you touch it, but this is not necessarily true. If you are truly worried about the bird, it is best to try and help it in some way.

How to protect fledglings from cats?

It is important to keep cats away from fledgling birds, as they can be very harmful. Cats will often eat baby birds, and they can also injure or kill them.

If you have a cat, be sure to keep it inside until the baby birds have left the nest and are old enough to escape a potential attack!

How to feed a fledgling magpie?

Fledgling magpies are very curious birds, and they will often come close to people in order to get a better look.

If you find a fledgling magpie on the ground, you can try to put it back in the nest if you know where it is.

If that’s not possible, or if the bird is injured, you can place it in a small box and keep it in a warm, dark place.

I recently wrote about the natural diet of baby and fledgeling magpies and it is an interesting example of how the diet of birds can be quite similar throughout the life of a bird. But you will need to feed the babies softer foods than the fledgelings and adults eat!

You can feed it the following foods in the first couple of weeks: mealworms, waxworms, maggots, crickets, and small spiders. Mashed egg mixed with water may also work well.

Unless you want the magpie as a pet, be careful not to touch a fledgling magpie too much, as they may think you are their parent and start to follow you around!

My uncle had a pet magpie, which was quite cute and he actually taught it to say a few words!

What to feed fledgling blue jays?

Fledgling blue jays are mostly gray when they first leave the nest, but their feathers will start to change color as they get older into the characteristic bright blue that we know blue jays for.

Young blue jays mostly eat: insects, berries, and seeds, however, only feed it soft items or try to soak the seeds in water to make them more digestible for the bird.

How to care for a fledgling pigeon?

If you find a fledgling pigeon on the ground, there are a few things you can do to help it out. First, try to put the bird back in the nest.

If that’s not possible, or if the bird is injured, you can place it in a small box and keep it in a warm, dark place. Be sure to provide water and food (insects are best) until the bird is able to fly and hunt for food on its own.

Only try to feed it peas like shown in the video if it really does not want to eat by itself.

What is a fledgling pigeon called?

Fledgling pigeons are called “squabs.” They are mostly white when they first leave the nest, and their feathers will start to change color as they get older.

What to feed a fledgling pink pigeon?

Fledgling pigeons are mostly white when they first leave the nest, but their feathers will start to change color as they get older.

They usually eat: seeds, fruits, berries, insects, and snails. Only feed it soft items or try to soak the seeds in water to make them more digestible for the bird.

Conclusion

Fledgelings are like the teenagers of birds – not quite babies, not quite adults! They are learning their ways as an adult bird, but they are still vulnerable and have a hard time finding their own food.

Luckily, most birds are good parents that help their fledgling bird to get a good start of life. Therefore, if you find a fledgeling, make sure the parents are not around to help it before taking over their job as they will likely do a better job.

However, should the parents really not be around, you might have the chance to save a frightened bird and give it a push into adulthood!