Bird Words: fledge, fledgling

  • Fledge: a bird is said to fledge when it is able to fly.
  • Fledgling: a young bird that is partly or wholly covered in feathers. It is also used of a young bird when it first begins to fly.

Fledgling birds can be very easy to see because they are still learning to fly and will hang around more than more mature birds. However, they are sometimes not as easy to identify because their plumage has not fully developed the adult colours.

Willie Wagtail (baby)

Willie Wagtail (baby)

One big plus for identification is the feeding habits of the parents. If you remain quiet and still a short distance away, the parents will often come up to feed the new fledgling bird, making your identification much easier.

Except in the case of young cuckoos; that’s a whole new ball game.

New Holland Honeyeater (baby just out of nest)

New Holland Honeyeater (baby just out of nest)


7 Responses to “Bird Words: fledge, fledgling”

  1. […] Bird Words fledge fledgling Posted by root 11 minutes ago ( Leave a comment wednesday march 7th 2007 fledge a bird is said to fledge up to feed the new fledgling bird making your identification much easier Discuss  |  Bury |  News | Bird Words fledge fledgling […]

  2. helen says:

    I found a fledgling last night he/she was on the footpath in our Melbourne Australia suburb and as I stopped to watch the little bird walked out onto the road and stopped. I had to go and stand in front of the bird on the road so a four wheel drive had to drive around. Then I picked up the little bird and took him home which is a couple of streets away. I think the mother is in the tree near where I ‘rescued’ the fledgling. He is not injured but not yet able to fly. He spent the night in a box on my coat in a box. The wildlife help person I rang said to take him back to where I found him and his mother will look after him but I am certain a predator will get him. I am wondering whether to keep him in my large garden where I can keep predators at bay. The house near where I found him has no shelter and not a single bush or tree. Oh dear, what to do?

  3. Trevor says:

    Hi there Helen,

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    This is a dilemma indeed. The wildlife carer is correct in that the parent birds are the best ones to care for the newly fledged baby, but your concerns about lack of tree and bush cover and the possibility of predators are very real.

    In reality, the attrition rate of eggs, nestlings and fledglings is very high, with predators and road kill being the main causes. For example, something like 70% of young magpies die before they are aged 12 months, but if they reach that age their life expectancy can average 10-15 years or more. It is because of these high attrition rates that many species lay 3-5 eggs and have multiple broods in the one season. This is in the hope that some birds will reach maturity. Sounds harsh but that’s the reality in the wild.

    To be politically correct I’d have to agree with wildlife carer. To be compassionate I’d try releasing it in your own garden.

    I’m sorry, that probably doesn’t make your decision any easier.

  4. Freddy says:

    I found a fledgeling and in the day time the parents were around to watch it ,however it’s nightfall now and my girlfriend let her cats out the back and they ran straight to the fledgling. No parents to protect it at night. So I felt bad for it and didn’t want a bloodbath n front of my 10yr old daughter so I put it n a box. Don’t know what to do with it. Cuz the cats know where it is. Can’t yet fly . What should I do if it makes it through the night

  5. Trevor says:

    Hi there Freddy,

    Sorry about the delay in replying.

    In cases like this it is best to contact your local vet or wildlife carer – people who are trained and qualified in looking after injured or orphaned birds and animals. Sorry – but I have no experience in this area.

  6. […] peeking through the palm tree stalks of his nest is approximately eight weeks old. He had already fledged at this point, but still returned occasionally to the nest for a morning or afternoon […]

  7. […] our garden has been full of birds nesting, sitting on eggs, feeding young or busy feeding the fledglings after they leave their nest. Spring time here in South Australia is the main breeding season for […]

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