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When it comes to birds, finally leaving the comfort of their nests isn’t the same experience for every bird. There are nesting habits of birds, but then, how long does it take baby birds to leave the nest? One way to answer it is “as long as it takes their wings to develop.” Another answer is that it depends on the bird species. And we can say between 12 to 21 days.

Stick around and read till the end to see why or how these accurately answer the question “how long does it take baby birds to leave the nest”.

Generally Speaking

It is important to note that it is very dangerous for baby birds to leave the nest too early. For one thing, their wings are small and underdeveloped; and they tend to fly very poorly and in some cases, not at all. 

So, having a nestling leave the nest too early can be a fatal decision. A safe answer to the “how long does it take baby birds to leave the nest” question is as long as it takes for their wings to develop.

But then, staying in the nest for an insanely long time can be even more dangerous for most bird species considering that predators rarely stop going in search of food in these territories.

Generally Speaking - Baby Birds Leaving the Nest

Guess what will happen if a predator finds an occupied nest. Your guess is as good as mine if your guess has anything to do with those cute munchkins ending up as the lunch of whichever ravaging creator spots them. 

We are left to wonder how to strike a balance. So, to get back to the initial question, “how long does it take baby birds to leave the nest,” we will take a look at a few bird species and how long it takes for their nestlings to leave the nests.

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By Bird Specie

  • Northern Cardinal

Coming in as the first case study is the songbird, the Northern Cardinal, with its long tail and thick bill. The male Northern Cardinals are known for their red feather and black trim around the bill, while the females are famous for their light brown feathers with a tint of red. 

When it comes to nest building, this bird species practices the division of labor. The males provide the nesting materials while the females do the building. Ironically, while these nests take about 9 days to be completely built, they end up being used only once. 

A fun fact about the Northern Cardinals is that they breed between March and September annually. After laying between two to five eggs, the Northern Cardinals incubate them for about 13 days, after which these eggs hatch into the cutest little nestlings. 

Kingsyard Wooden Bluebird House with Predator Guard Bird Nesting Box Birdhouse

How Long Does It Take Baby Birds To Leave The Nest

During the 13 days of incubation, the male provides most of what they feed on. And in the case where they have a second brood that the female is incubating, the male takes over by caring for the first brood. 

By the time these nestlings turn between 9 to 13 days old, they are set to leave the nest, but not the territory, because they don’t learn to fly till they are about 20 days old. 

  • American Robin – How Long Does It Take Baby Birds To Leave The Nest

Almost everywhere you look in the United States, you’ll find an American Robin hopping from yard to yard, grabbing insects as they go along. These notorious birds, during nesting, lay between three to seven eggs, always colored in the unique “robin egg blue” color.

Following the laying of these eggs, the female American Robin goes ahead to incubate them for another two weeks, after which they hatch. The responsibility to feed these nestlings falls on both the male and female robins. 

These babies leave the nest 14 to 16 days after hatching. But that doesn’t stop the male American Robin from tending to the young birds even as they have left the nest.

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  • Pileated Woodpeckers

Quite unlike most animals, Pileated Woodpeckers like to have an everlasting romance. The male and female birds form an intense bond and end up mating for life. Now, isn’t this bird species just the model of fidelity?

If this was 2020, this species will be referred to as 4lifers. With neither male nor female looking to mate with another bird, they can confidently rely on each other both during the breeding season and later on raising the young.

Pileated Woodpeckers

No particular gender is singularly burdened with the task of building a nest. These birds simply chip away the insides of large trees or deadwood in the bid to create a nest.

During the breeding season, the female Pileated Woodpecker lays around three to five eggs. Incubation follows for about 15 to 16 days, after which the eggs hatch. 

Once hatched, the baby birds spend the next 24 to 28 days with the parent birds, and then, leave the nest. But before they get to leave their nests in the fall, the parent birds make it their point of duty to feed and teach the hatchlings how to find food. 

Pileated woodpeckers are indeed very unique, considering that, unlike other birds that take quite some time before they leave the nest, these babies start to fly only a few days after leaving their nests. 

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  • Eastern Bluebird

Combine a melodious singing voice with a rich blue, rust, and white plumage, and you’ll get an Eastern Bluebird. This very social bird species loves to stay in cavities. One of their favorites is the Woodpecker’s hole.

Even though the Eastern Bluebird nests in old woodpecker holes, the responsibility of building the nests falls on the female Eastern Bluebird. The number of eggs laid by the female depends largely on her age. But on average, it is around 4 to 5 eggs.

The eggs are incubated for between 11 to 19 days, after which they hatch. The hatchlings stay close to their mother for about three weeks. Only after that period are they considered mature enough to leave the nest.

Conclusion On How Long Does It Take Baby Birds To Leave The Nest

After all, you’ve just read, you will agree with us that how long it takes for baby birds to leave the nest depends on how long it takes for their wings to develop well, and largely on the species of the bird. 

And from several documented studies, this move from nest to independence takes somewhere between 12 and 21 days.

So, how long does it take baby birds to leave the nest? You sure know the answer now. Got statistics for other species not mentioned here, kindly share them in the comments below.


How long do baby birds stay in nest?

Depending on the type of bird, it is between 12 - 21 days.

How long does it take baby birds to learn to fly?

Averagely, it takes 19days for baby birds to fly. The time may vary between 12 - 24 days.

How do you know when baby birds are ready to leave the nest?

This depends on the stage the young bird is at. For hatchlings, their eyes are still closed but fledglings' eyes are open and wings are a bit stronger than the nestling's.

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