When Do Baby Birds Leave The Nest? (Answered!)

Like other animals, baby birds leave their nests after a specific time. Though this significant life change can be dangerous, they take the leap. But when do baby birds leave their nest?

It depends on the species of birds. While most birds would leave their nest somewhere between 12 to 21 days, some may take several months. A baby bird will leave its nest when it learns to fly and fend for itself. Other factors include the type of nest, availability of food, and the birds’ size.

We will cover facts on this query as we go through the article. If you are a bird enthusiast like us, keep reading for more details.

When Do Baby Birds Leave The Nest?

When baby birds leave, the nest usually depends on the species of the bird. While some may go very young, somewhere between 12 to 21 days, others may stay as long as a few months.

A good example is songbirds, which leave their nests very young, whereas raptors stay in their nests for several months. Also, large birds that grow slowly, like owls and bald eagles, spend up to three to six months.

Do all bird species have the same age when they leave the nest? The answer is that not all bird species do not leave their nests at the same age. As stated, it mainly varies between species and depends on factors such as the environment, food availability, etc.

For instance, when there is a harsh environment, birds may leave sooner, while when the environment is hospitable, birds may spend more time in the nest to fully develop before fledging.

Why Do Baby Birds Leave The Nest?

There are several reasons why babies leave their nests. Let’s get into detail,

  • To learn how to fly: A baby bird will begin hopping around the ground, the first step toward flight. This makes them physically strong and leads them to independent flying.
  • To find their food: As baby birds develop, they seek out their food. This helps build their hunting skills, gathering food, and so on.
  • To avoid overcrowding: The baby birds won’t have enough room to stay in the nest as they grow. This leads to baby birds fighting, which is potentially dangerous. So they start learning to leave their nests.
  • To avoid danger: Sometimes, the environment of the nest may need to be more friendly. There may be predators or frequent natural hazards in the area. Such cases require the baby birds to leave for a new home.

For these reasons, the baby birds feel like it’s time to spread their wings and leave the nest.

A List of Baby Bird Species That Leave the Nest

Bird SpeciesTime Spent on Nest
American Robin14-16 days
House Finch12-15 days
 Bluebird 16-21 days
Northern Cardinal 7-13 days
Blackbirds 13-14 days
Blue Jay 17-21 days
American Goldfinch12-15 days
House Sparrow15-17 days

How Long Do Baby Birds Stay In The Nest?

Even Though typically the time frame is 12-21 days, how long baby birds stay in the nest depends on the species and their surrounding environment.

Firstly, Passerines such as sparrows, chickadees, and finches typically stay between 14 and 21 days; however, some may take longer.

Secondly, raptors such as hawks, eagles, and owls spend several weeks or months in their nest. A red-tailed hawk, for example, lives in the nest for 42-46 days.

Lastly, waterbirds such as egrets, ducks, and herons are the most diverse as some nest on trees while others prefer ground or live on floating nests.

A surprising fact is that ducks and geese can leave the nest within 24-48 hours. Conversely, Herons and egrets take slightly longer, between 4 to 6 days.

What Happens When Baby Birds Leave The Nest?

Baby birds who leave their nests are called fledglings. The birds are not yet fully independent in this stage but can fly short distances. However, they remain close to their parents and are monitored for days or weeks.

Additionally, the parents lead them to various places at night, increasing their chances of survival. Moreover, they will learn how to hunt for food and avoid predators.

In addition, cavity nesters, such as swallows and woodpeckers, may stay in their nests until they become strong fliers. Taking small flights is challenging for these young birds, as nearby branches may not be suitable for grabbing onto.

Where Do Baby Birds Go When They Leave The Nest?

Initially, when the baby birds leave the nest, they will fly to nearby places. Baby robins, for example, prefer to explore only 300 meters from their nest.

So, keeping close to the nest, they will start small flights, seek food, and avoid predators. During this time, their parents will closely monitor them. However, songbirds may not see their parents again when they leave the nest.

After the fledging period, birds will soon become confident enough to live independently. When they leave the nest fully grown, it is hard to tell precisely where they will go. It varies between species. For example, robins stay in the same area as birth, whereas geese migrate long distances for food and breeding grounds.

Can Baby Birds Return To The Nest After Leaving?

Yes, baby birds do return to their nest after leaving. They would only permanently leave the nest once fully developed and independent.

During their fledgling stage, they will remain close to the nest and keep coming in intervals. There are, however, some exceptions. The baby birds may not return to the nest if predators destroy or attack it.

Are Baby Birds Capable Of Flight When They Leave The Nest?

When Do Baby Birds Leave The Nest

Yes, baby birds are capable of flying when they leave the nest. Birds, such as ducks or geese, can fly soon after hatching, while songbirds may take several weeks before they can fly. Moreover, hummingbirds are born with the ability to fly but must practice their skills first.

Therefore, when baby birds leave their nest, most young birds can fly little flights. With practice, the muscles will develop stronger to become strong flyers.

What Challenges Do Baby Birds Face After Leaving The Nest?

There will be a lot of challenges once the baby birds leave their nest.

Firstly, It may become difficult for some birds to fly, giant birds with long wings. They must learn to flap their wings before they take the first step to flying.

Secondly, initially, it will be difficult for them to find food as they are unfamiliar with the surroundings. They will also have to compete with other birds for food.

Thirdly, they may have difficulty distinguishing predators. But as time passes, they must learn to identify and avoid their potential predators. Most learn to protect themselves from predators instinctively. For example, Tawny owlets, often found on the ground, can quickly climb the tree to escape predators with their sharp talons.

Some birds need to learn fast to survive. There are 37% of the babies of blue tits can make it through their first year because of late learning. Similarly, young sparrowhawks must quickly learn how to hunt, or they will starve to death.

What Are The Signs That Baby Birds Are Ready To Leave The Nest?

Check out some signs that tell a baby bird is ready to leave the nest.

  • The baby birds are fully feathered.
  • They can stand on their own and flap their wings.
  • Notice that they can hop or fly short distances.
  • They spend more time exploring the surroundings and less time in the nest.
  • They will start eating solid foods.
  • There is less vocalization and begging for food.
  • They are becoming more independent from their parents.
  • They will follow their parents outside the nest.

So if you spot these 8 clues, you’ll know those baby birds are gearing up to leave the nest.

How Do Young Birds Know When To Leave The Nest?

A young bird knows when to leave the nest when it has reached the necessary developmental and physical stages. First, the amount of daylight. When the days grow longer, the birds’ bodies produce more hormones that signal them to leave.

The second cue comes from the weather. During warm weather and when there is plenty of food, birds often leave their nests. In addition, adverse weather, such as frequent rain in the area, could also impact the birds’ ability to leave their nest.

Finally, it is also essential that one grow the necessary wings to fledge efficiently and mature fully with enough strength to fly proficiently. Know that young birds that leave too early may not have developed wings fully and may end up dying.

Final Words

How long baby birds stay in the nest depends on the species. The usual time, however, is between 12 and 21 days old. Some species may take longer to leave.

Before they can fledge, the baby birds need adequate physical and mental growth. During the fledgling, they learn to fly efficiently and other survival skills. Remember that growth, time, and ability may vary between species.

FAQs About When Do Baby Birds Leave The Nest

How Do You Know When A Bird Is Ready To Leave The Nest?

There are a few things you can look for to know when a bird is ready to leave the nest. It is fully feathered, can fly short distances, can explore surroundings, and is independent. However, each bird is different; some may be ready sooner or later than others.

Do All Baby Birds Leave The Nest At The Same Time?

Not all baby birds leave the nest at the same time. It varies between species and development rates. Besides, weather, predators, and surroundings also play vital roles in deciding the time.

Do Baby Birds Go Back To The Nest At Night?

Yes, baby birds do go back to the nest at night. It is their safe place to sleep and is warm and cozy. Moreover, the nest is where the baby birds can get the rest they need to grow and develop.

How Long Do Baby Birds Stay With Their Mother?

The time that baby birds stay with their mother varies depending on the bird species. For example, songbirds typically fledge after about 12-18 days, while waterfowl may stay up to 6 weeks with their mothers. It is also influenced by environmental factors, food availability, and predation pressure.

How Long Does It Take For A Baby Bird To Fly?

The time it takes for a baby bird to fly depends on the bird species. Some birds, such as songbirds, can fly within a few days of hatching. Others, such as raptors, may take weeks or months to develop the strength and coordination to fly. The surrounding environment and the health of the birds also influence the process.