Baby Birds And Animals
Spring is a time of renewal, when new things come into the world. Flowers and other plants push their heads through the soil and the world turns green. One of the most exciting parts of spring is seeing the birth and growth of baby animals and birds.
Some animals hatch from eggs. Others are born alive. Some babies need a long time to learn how to walk. Others can run and jump at a very young age. Most babies are pretty cute, but others are kind of funny looking.
We are going to talk about both baby birds and baby mammals. See if you can learn how they are different.
Birds are animals that have feathers. They have two legs and two wings. Most birds can fly. Baby birds hatch from eggs.
You have seen the eggs we eat and use to make cake and cookies. These eggs are from chickens. In order for an egg to turn into a baby bird it needs to be fertilized. The eggs we buy in a store have not been fertilized, so they can’t turn into chicks.
Eggs are covered by an outer shell. This protects the egg and holds it all together. Inside the shell are the egg white (called albumen) and yolk. There is also an embryo.
If the embryo has been fertilized it will grow and become the baby bird.
The albumen acts as a cushion for the developing baby bird. The yolk supplies the growing embryo with food, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Bird egg shells come in a wide variety of colors. Birds that build their nests on the ground usually lay spotted eggs. This helps hide the eggs from predators. Birds that nest in trees or in holes can have solid colored eggs because they are in enclosed places that can’t be seen from outside. Not all ground nesting birds lay camouflaged eggs. Some ducks and geese have eggs that are easy to see, but they cover their eggs with leaves or grass when they leave the nest to eat.
Birds use all kinds of tricks to protect their eggs and babies. Sometimes they build their nests on cliffs or in trees. The sandpiper eggs on the right are colored so they are hard to see. Ducks and geese cover their eggs with grass before leaving the nest.
Ground nesting birds have chicks that can run almost as soon as they hatch. Baby ducks can swim within hours of hatching. Since these chicks live on the ground where it is easier for predators to get them, they need to be able to escape. These chicks can also find their own food and don’t need to be fed by their parents. Ground birds can run when they are very young and learn to fly sooner than chicks that hatch from nests in trees.
Chicks that hatch in nests that are in trees or on cliffs are usually safer and take longer to mature. These chicks depend on their parents to bring them food. They are slower to develop and can’t fly or walk for some time.
The difference between ground and tree nesting bird babies
Can run within minutes of hatching
Need weeks before they can run or fly
Can find their own food
Need to be fed by parents
Are usually camouflaged
Are often one single color
Being a Bird Parent
One thing that every baby bird has is parents. What is it like to take care of a baby? Some of you have little brothers or sisters so you can see that it’s a lot of work to take care of them. This activity will help you understand how much work a bird needs to do to take care of it’s chicks.
Here’s what to do: With a piece of paper and a pencil go outside to look for bugs. Warbler parents can’t turn over boards to look for bugs so in this activity you can’t either.
Walk across the lawn or through your garden looking closely for movement. Time yourself for 15 minutes and see how many bugs you can find. Every time you see a bug make a mark on your paper and run to the door of your building (the nest where your chicks are waiting for you to feed them) before looking for another bug. You’ll find that the longer you look, the better you’ll get at seeing bugs.
How many bugs did you see in 15 minutes? If you found seven or more, your chicks are happy and well fed. If you found fewer than seven, you need to work harder or your chicks will be hungry. Imagine doing this 14 hours every day while trying to take care of your own needs at the same time. Taking care of baby birds is a lot of work!
What should I do if I find a baby bird?
Ron Stewart, a conservation outreach manager with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says the best thing to do is to leave the animal or bird in its natural environment, and not bring it home.
"Birds have developed some strategies for raising their young which often leads people to think they need to lend a helping hand," Stewart said. "Young birds will often leave their nests before they are able to fly. They usually spread out along the branches of their tree and call for their parents to bring them food. It's not uncommon for a good wind to blow them off the branch and for people to find them on the ground. The best thing to do is to get them out of reach of house cats and dogs by simply placing them back up onto a safe branch. The baby will squawk and the parents will find it. Birds generally do not have a good sense of smell, so you can pick them up and place them back on the branch.
“Division of Wildlife offices also receive calls when a nest is found after a windstorm, a tree is taken down or birds have nested on a house or on machinery.
"The best thing to do is leave the nest where it is, but if you can't, then relocate the nest to a nearby tree or another safe place," Stewart said. "Birds are extremely good parents and will almost always find the new spot by following the sounds of their young."
Mammals are animals that have hair. Most mammals have four legs. Primates (humans, apes, and monkeys) have two legs and two arms. Mammal babies are born alive and drink milk that their mother makes. This is called nursing. The milk has all the nutrients the babies need until they are old enough to eat regular food.
Let’s take a look at two different types of mammals. Prey animals are animals that are eaten by other animals and predators are the ones that do the eating. Because they are in danger of being eaten, most prey animals need to be able to move very soon after birth. Only those that are born in burrows or dens can take a little longer to mature. Critters like sheep and deer can get on their feet minutes after being born and can outrun a human within a few hours. Prey animals are mostly herbivores (animals that eat plants.) They can start eating grass and leaves within days after being born.
Predator babies, like the polar bear cub on the right, are more dependent on their parents. They are often born with their eyes closed and can’t usually walk until they are several weeks old. The parents of these babies have to bring them food to eat until they train them how to hunt and find their own food. Baby predators need a lot more care than most prey animals.
What should you do if you find a baby animal?
"Feeding baby animals is best left to their moms and dads," Stewart said. "Birds and mammals have numerous strategies to avoid predation and raise their young. Often these strategies make it look like the adults have abandoned their young, when actually they are doing their best to protect it," he explained. "For example, most of the animals that prey on deer fawns have a good sense of smell.
"Deer have adapted so that the fawns are born scentless, meaning they don't have an odor, so predators can't smell them. Also, their creamy brown coats are the same shade of color as the new grass and leaves. Add a few spots and they are well camouflaged. With these adaptations, the fawn's best strategy for survival is to hide for its first few weeks of life. The doe usually moves away to feed or rest, but still remains close by. If she senses danger, such as a human, she will leave in hopes of luring the 'predator' away from her fawn.
"Humans have good color recognition and often see the fawns in their hiding places. Since the doe is hiding, many people assume the fawn has been abandoned and pick it up. That's the worst possible thing they could have done; they just took a fawn from its mother.
"If you see a fawn don't approach it," he said. "Take a look or a photo from a distance, if you like, but if you approach it, your scent could kill it. Humans like to pet baby animals. Survival depends on staying scentless, and if you touch it, you have placed your scent on the animal, so now the predator can find it.”
What if I find an injured animal?
If you can get close enough to touch a wild animal there’s probably something wrong with it. It might be injured or sick. It’s usually best not to get too close. Some animal diseases can be bad news for people. Rabies and avian influenza are two of the worst diseases people can get from sick animals. If you find an animal that looks sick or hurt, you should contact the local Division of Wildlife officer. If you don’t know who that is, you can find out by calling the nearest sheriff’s office.