Outdoors just for kids: Odds are tough for young birds to take wing

2014-07-24T00:00:00Z Outdoors just for kids: Odds are tough for young birds to take wing The Billings Gazette
July 24, 2014 12:00 am

Picture a bird on a nest. By now most birds have hatched their young, yet depending on the species, those young are not adults, cannot keep themselves warm and could die from a prolonged wet and cold spell.

Ground nesting birds, like pheasants on the prairie and juncos in the forest, may have it toughest in a rainstorm. At least for tree nesting birds, such as robins and orioles, when it pours their nest is off the ground.

No matter the bird, each species has its problems and dangers during nesting: predators, weather, humans and their pets.

Take our state bird, the western meadowlark, a ground nester, which typically has a nest containing three to seven eggs. About half of those eggs will survive to become birds and learn to fly (fledging), which happens when the bird is approximately two weeks old.

Prairie game birds — Hungarian partridge, sharp-tailed grouse and pheasants — have a different nesting strategy. All three are ground nesters, and each species lays lots of eggs, from 10 to 15 eggs per nest.

All three incubate their eggs in about 23-24 days, and all three will renest if the nest is destroyed, though usually not after the eggs hatch. Pheasants are more likely to renest than Huns or sharpies. The later in the summer chicks hatch, the less chance they have of surviving.

— Bruce Auchly,

Fish, Wildlife and Parks

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Brett French

Outdoors editor for the Billings Gazette.

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