Birds are wonderful, but, at the same time, they are some of the oddest creatures on earth.
This is not disparaging birds, we love birds and everything about them. However, you must admit the path they have chosen is somewhat strange.
They left the ocean, gaining the ability to walk and breathe air, only to decide that wasn’t quite right either and take to the skies.
They became the second group of animals – after invertebrates – to develop self-powering flight, and have used this to become masters of the sky and daring aerial predators and prey.
These changes required unique changes to bird physiology, which left them very different from the land-dwelling animals.
These changes weren’t just relegated to their wings or feathers, no, these changes were physically internal as well. As such, some things for birds are just different and strange to us.
Like, eggs. How long do eggs take to hatch? Do they take longer than most mammals? Today, we will have an in depth look at bird’s eggs and tell exactly how long it takes for them to hatch.
A Bird’s Pregnancy Cycle
The egg laying process for a bird begins when a female bird lays her first egg. It usually happens around springtime. Some birds may even lay eggs earlier than others, and some will lay more eggs per clutch.
When the female bird decides she wants to start nesting, she will begin looking for a suitable location to nest. She will then find a safe spot where she won’t get attacked by predators, while also having easy access to food sources.
Once the female has found a suitable place to build her nest and a mate, the pair will start building it out with sticks and twigs, making sure that all of her eggs remain protected and away from danger.
They will then add layers of soft materials like moss, leaves, grasses, and other debris until they have built up a solid structure.
One of the pairs will then situate themselves in the middle of her nest, leaving space around them for their babies to grow.
The nesting partner – often female – will then cover herself and her nest with a layer of downy material called ‘maternal plumage’, while the other partner will either collect more materials for the nest or find food.
This special covering protects the baby birds from the elements and helps them retain heat. Sometimes, if there isn’t enough room to fit all the eggs, she will leave one or two unhatched eggs behind.
After sitting on her eggs for several days, the bird will begin to feel hungry again and may need to feed any newborns that have hatched. She will use her beak to tear open small pieces of vegetation and either eat it herself or feed it to the chicks.
In most birds, the pair switch places, so if the female was in the nest to begin with, the male will take over the nurturing behavior in the nest and the female will look for food.
This will often happen when it is convenient, so for most song birds this is every few hours, but for birds like emperor penguins it could be months.
If the parents are unable to provide enough food for their young, the chicks who hatched prematurely or the weakest will die.
If this occurs, the remaining eggs will still be fertile and able to give rise to another batch of chicks later on, or the remaining chicks will get more food contributing to their survival.
After hatching, the chicks will continue to receive food for several days before they are old enough to fly and hunt themselves.
Once they reach this point, they will spend many hours trying to figure out how to fly before leaving the nest forever.
How Long Does It Take For Bird Eggs To Hatch?
It takes at least a week for an average sized egg to hatch, but it depends heavily on the bird.
Songbirds typically hatch within 11 to 20 days, which is quite a short cycle, but Emperor penguin eggs can take up to 4 months to hatch.
The incubation period varies depending on species, temperature conditions, size of the egg, age of the mother, etc. It also depends on the complexity of the bird and its size.
Smaller birds tend to take shorter times to hatch, but larger and more complex birds take a while longer.
However, this isn’t a complete science, and sometimes it takes a little longer for considerably smaller animals.
For example, an Ostrich has an incubation period of 42 days, but despite being much smaller, Emus have an incubation period of 50 to 56 days.
For most common species of bird, the incubation period normally lasts between 15-30 days after being laid, so unless you have a rare or unique variety of bird on your hands, we would recommend applying those numbers to most birds’ eggs.
How Long Before Chicks Can Fly?
Many factors influence how soon birds are able to fly. Some species will start flying at just a few weeks old, whereas others won’t even attempt to until they’re around 2 months old.
However, as with the incubation period, this is not true for all birds, and it may take some birds longer, because they are bigger, born helpless, or don’t have the strength necessary to fly yet.
Some species are known as altricial (meaning they are born helpless) because they require constant care from their parents and don’t become capable of independent flight until much later than other species.
Others are known as precocial (they are born capable of flight), meaning they are ready to go out into the world almost immediately.
Birds that are precocial tend to have much higher chances of surviving childhood because they are not dependent upon parental care and can survive independently. They will also have more time to grow and develop, and therefore mature faster.
Other factors such as the temperature, weather, and the stage of development in the hatchling’s body contribute to whether a bird will be able to fly or not.
The older and stronger a chick gets, the more likely they are to be able to fly sooner.
When it comes to songbirds and raptors, both types of birds are precocial and should be able to fly relatively early.
But when it comes to pigeons, galliformes, and passerines, they are altricial and will need to remain close to their parents for a lot longer. For owls, it can take up to 3 months before chicks are able to fly at all.
Really, the length of time it takes a chick to hatch from its egg is dependent on a number of factors, ranging from environmental to genetic.
This may seem strange, but birds are masters of adaptation and each species has come up with its own solutions on how to survive and knows when it is time to hatch from the egg.