Fledglings are young birds that have recently left the nest, but are still dependent on parental care and feeding. Relatively little is known about their identification. Because the presence of fledglings is an indicator of breeding success, increased understanding of this key life stage could greatly facilitate breeding bird atlases and similar breeding surveys.

The Fledgling Guide Project aims to create a knowledge base of fledgling identification and behavior. As Hope Batcheller was developing this idea in spring 2007, she met Carol Foss, Director of Conservation for New Hampshire Audubon. Carol had field experience with fledglings, and was enthusiastic to help. In 2007, Hope did pilot recording using equipment borrowed from Cornell University's Macaulay Library of Natural Sound. In spring 2008 Lang Elliott joined the team, providing equipment and invaluable technical knowledge. Finally, through a generous grant, the Vermont Institute of Natural Science supplied funding for the summer 2008 field season. The recordings below were made by Hope in northern New England during the summer of 2008. They have been edited with Lang’s assistance at NatureSound Studio. The original recordings are archived at the Macaulay Library. 

Click Species Names to Hear Recordings

    Flycatchers through Mimids

   Warblers

   Tanagers through Finches


Project Information: This web site is the first fledgling of the The Fledgling Guide Project, a collaborative endeavor of Hope Batcheller, Carol Foss, and Lang Elliott. During the coming years, we will be working to collect recordings, photographs, and behavioral information for a web-based guide to fledglings of northeastern birds. If you have any fledgling photographs you would like to share through this project (with credit, of course!), or for additional project information, please contact either Carol Foss or Hope Batcheller.

Carol Foss, New Hampshire Audubon:CFoss@NHAudubon.org
Hope Batcheller: hope.batcheller@gmail.com


Fledgling Behavior:

Fledgling observation is a challenging new frontier in bird watching. Although sometimes fledglings may be readily visible, they often are well-hidden in dense vegetation. They are expert ventriloquists, a trait which helps them evade predators as well as nosy birdwatchers! Their vocalizations are generally short, repeated notes that become faster whenever an adult brings food. Most species have distinctive calls, which are identifiable in the field with practice. Behaviorally, fledglings are usually clumsier and less active than adults. Young fledglings often sit stationary, fluttering their wings and gaping when an adult brings food. Older birds follow their foraging parents, begging constantly. Most young songbirds show a brightly-colored gape, though this feature is gradually lost with increasing age. Lingering tufts of downy plumage and a short tail are also diagnostic.


Fledgling Cues and Clues:

Appearance:

  • Tufts of down
  • Disheveled plumage
  • Brightly-colored gape
  • Short tail

Vocalizations:

  • Short, repeated notes
  • Increased frequency when adult approaches with food

Behavior:

  • Wing-fluttering
  • Gaping
  • Short, clumsy flights
  • Clumsy landings
  • Periods of inactivity
  • Following adults and begging