Male Birds have to complete many tasks to ensure they breed successfully. They may show off their colourful plumage, puff out their feathers and perform elaborate flight displays. Some birds will only pair for a single breeding season, others pair for longer. Mature experienced birds make the best parents and older males are the most experienced at attracting mates. After this initial attraction the male will present his partner with gifts, in the form of food. This will prove to the female that he will be a good provider for her during the incubation period and for their future young. Mutual preening is another important part of courtship and you will often see pairs of birds preening one another in the Spring. The pair will then move on to nesting and will become less visible at this point as they set about raising a family.
Nesting Season is a busy time and a rather exciting one for many Birdwatchers. The nesting season for Garden Birds lasts from March to August, however some Birds may nest even earlier in the Mid winter. Each Bird has a unique style of nest and will use different materials, such as vegetation, mud, hair, moss and cobwebs. They will nest in a variety of locations, many preferring nesting boxes. Now is the time to be thinking about putting some nesting boxes in your garden as natural sites such a holes in old trees and and hedgerows are becoming less common. If you decide to make your own, you will find that your efforts are greatly appreciated by the many birds that visit your garden. Some birds will build multiple nests and then choose the most suitable one. Their nests need to be away from predators and with enough shelter from the elements.
Once the nest is prepared the female bird will lay her eggs. She will lay one per day due to the strain it puts on her body. A Clutch is the total number of eggs laid and incubated at one time. This is dependent on the species but also dependent on the females condition, food availability and the weather. Incubation, normally the females job, will start when the clutch is complete so that all the eggs hatch at the same time.
Once the eggs have hatched, baby birds are called Hatchlings (0-3 days old). They are born either Altricial, meaning they are naked or have sparse feathers, have their eyes closed and are completely dependent (Songbirds, Hummingbirds, Swallows and Woodpeckers) or Precocial, which are born fluffy, with their eyes open and able to walk almost immediately (Ducks, Swans and Geese). The birds then brood the Nestlings ( 3-13 days old) to keep them warm, as chicks cannot maintain their own body temperature. Chicks are very demanding and their parents will make several hundred visits to their nest per day to satisfy their babies appetites. Chicks will eat several times an hour, typically insects and other high protein food, essential for growth. The altricial birds are clumsy and wobbly and will beg with their mouths wide open to receive food. Precocial babies are more independent and can walk and swim right away.
Once the chicks are fully grown they fly the nest and become Fledglings (13-14 days old and above). The time from hatching to maturity varies between species. Smaller birds can mature quickly and may o from newly hatched chicks to fledgling juveniles in a couple of weeks or less. The larger species may stay in the nest for several months. Baby birds are ready to leave the nest several days before they can fly. They will flutter and hop on the ground, strengthening their wings and legs. Young birds face naturally tough odds , only 30% of young Songbirds survive their first year of life. This could be the time when many birders think young birds have been abandoned, whereas in reality parent birds are well aware of their offspring and continue to provide food and guidance. Some species of Wild Birds will keep their young with them until the next breeding season, in some cases family flocks may remain together indefinitely. Other breeds will let their young go as soon as they are self sufficient, letting them find their own way in life.