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This is Your Life: Birds!

April 28, 2020

by Aaron Pflug • Kidzeum Staff

From a bird’s eye view, the scientific class Aves is rather impressive! Of course, we love the roles birds play in pollination, but they are also critical to ecosystems and human interests. Birds in flight have captured the imaginations and inspired countless artists, scientists, and engineers. And, maybe most impressive: they count dinosaurs among their ancestors!

From the very small to the very large, the dull the vibrant, birds are a varied class of animal. But they do all go through similar stages of development. We’ll start off an avian-themed week with a quick overview of those stages.

Birds: this is your life (cycle)!

Egg and Embryo

For purposes here, the egg comes first. The hard-shelled egg is a primary characteristic of birds. Of course, there are the wide range of sizes and variety of colors you would expect to find, but the purpose is clear. The egg protects the developing embryo from environmental and predatory danger. As with everything else, how long an embryo takes to develop depends on the species. However, at some point, regardless of species, hatching will happen!

Hatchling/Nestling

And what initially emerges from the egg is called a hatchling! The hatchling stage and the following nestling stage are both usually characterized by the presence of soft down and a reliance by the developing chick on an adult for food. They are usually nest bound, as well. How long they remain and how much independence they have is species dependent, but they are all baby birds!

Fledgling

The fledgling stage is highlighted by the development of feathers and wing muscles. Consequently, fledgling chicks will begin to explore and make short flights. Of course, they aren’t quite ready to do it all on their own – though, depending on species, they may be ready sooner than others.

Juvenile/Subadult

By this stage, a bird has grown and begun taking on physical characteristics and abilities similar to a fully developed adult. However, they are, of course, not adults. Ah, the teenage years: it’s all as straightforward and easily navigated in the avian world as it is in ours. Juvenile and subadult birds live independent lives; and, other than subtle differences, subadult birds may look just like adults. Some birds spend years in these pre-adult stages.

Adult

Adult birds are finally in the last stage of development. They have all their feathers, live without parental support, and have reached reproductive maturity. They can do all the bird activities their particular species demands they do. And while the current of life may at times be turbulent, they survived. The lessons they learned along the way will prove invaluable to the next generation, the next cycle.

Of course, as stated above, the actions and activities of birds are invaluable to nature and us! We’ll pay homage to this avian assistance throughout the week, so stay tuned!

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