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Should I stay or should I go?
What is fledging? The chicks that we see in our bird boxes are garden birds; Blue tits and Great tits. Other garden birds include Blackbirds, Robins and Song thrushes. For all of these birds the nest is the safest place to stay for the chicks. They will grow in the nest where they are fed and kept warm by the parents. The good thing about staying in the nest is that you are hidden from predators. The chicks that stay in the nest are also dry and warm. The word fledging is used to describe the time when a chick goes from a small helpless chick to a bird out of the nest and looking after itself. The downside of staying in the nest box is that if a predator finds the nest it will take the whole nest. As we have seen on the birdbox project, a predator will return the next day to take all the chicks. If a bird's nest is attacked before the birds fledge the chicks might be able to leave the nest and still survive with the care of the parents.
The chicks will be almost fully grown in size when they leave the nest and they will have feathers. You will probably see the chicks in the bird boxes flapping their wings a few days before they leave the box. They have a little practice and then take a giant leap. Sometimes the first flight can be great, normally it is more like "falling with style"! The birds soon learn to fly as it is a natural thing for them to do. Birds of prey, like Peregrines, will spend more time flapping their wings to get ready for their first flight. These birds are building up their muscles. Here are some amazing photos from Chichester peregrines when the fledged last year.
Here is a clip of a duck family fledging. Duck chicks can look after themselves soon after they hatch so the mother duck wants to lead them to the safety of water as soon as possible. Remember, these little ones haven't got proper feathers yet. Watch the clip called Freefall!
Why is the pond or lake safer for the chicks than staying in the bird box?
Can you guess which bird has the longest fledging time (egg to on its own)? The clue is that it lives very South of us...very very South! HE has a very royal sounding name. They don't build a nest for the egg but carry it around on their feet to stop it freezing!
Chicks keeping warm under the female in the Bird Box - Willesborugh Junior (Top)
Peregrine Falcon (bottom)