Last Updated on April 14, 2022 by Marco C.
Birds are a vastly interesting class of animal with different natural processes, which is why some people wonder how long does it take for bird eggs to hatch. In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at the process of bird reproduction, as it’s vastly different in comparison to mammals.
Breeding and Reproduction In Birds
During reproduction and incubation of the eggs, birds will become territorial and defend their territory from other birds. This is because they need to preserve food for both themselves and their young.
There are also birds that are unable to defend their territory on their own, and they found the solution to that problem in colonizing. They live in colonies, and that way they overpopulate an area by which they protect themselves from predators.
Laying Eggs and Nesting
All bird species reproduce by laying eggs – live birth is impossible with birds. The chicks are born into amniotic eggs, while the shells are usually made of calcium carbonate – that’s hard enough so they’re not broken by accident.
There’s a stark difference between eggs when it comes to open nesters and burrowers – burrowing bird species usually lay pale eggs, while nesting species have camouflaged eggs.
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Typically, birds lay their eggs in nests – these nests can be different in terms of shape and material. For example, they can be cups, plates, mounds, and burrows. There are also birds that make very rudimentary nests, like the albatross – these birds literally just scrape a hole in the ground.
In this regard, it’s also important to mention penguins – they don’t even bother by digging a hole, as the male will keep eggs safe between his body and feet!
However, most birds don’t follow this practice as they like sheltered and protected nests, so they use hidden areas to protect themselves from predators. Birds usually use their own feathers combined with various plant foliage to build a nest.
It’s actually incredible that some species of bird have learned to use very specific plants, as some of them have properties that reduced the effects of parasites.
To answer the question in the title – incubation starts after the laying of the final egg. Most species will lay still on their eggs to keep the temperature at an optimal level. There are differences between species when it comes to parenting.
In some species, the mother is the only parent to lay on the eggs, while there are species with both the mother and the father keeping the eggs warm and safe.
If you’re wondering how long does it takes for bird eggs to hatch, know that there’s no general rule for birds. Some eggs can hatch in ten days – this is common with smaller birds.
Larger birds, like albatrosses, need over 80 days of incubation to hatch.
During the process of incubation, parents are going through quite a difficult time. They have to actively heat the eggs, and that means that they’re losing a lot of energy.
They use areas of bare skin on their abdomens to incubate the eggs – during this stage of reproduction, the parents can lose a lot of weight. For example, the albatross can lose even 3 ounces of body weight for every day of incubation.
To get an idea of how long it takes for eggs to hatch, take a look at a few examples. Your everyday house sparrow takes 11 days of incubation, a wild turkey takes 28, the golden eagle takes 40 and the Laysan albatross takes about 60 days.
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Hatching and Parental Care
Finally, once hatching happens, birds are usually either helpless, blind and small, or mobile and feathered. Parents will give more attention and care to birds that need more help. After the hatching, the length of parental care depends mostly on how long it takes for the single bird to become independent.
There are birds that can leave and live on their own as soon as they leave the egg. Then, there are birds that need up to six months to finally fledge and they’re even fed by their parents for more than a year!
When it comes to parental care, in some species both parents will care for their young, while in other species only a single parent will take that responsibility. Male parental care is very common with birds – much more common than with other species.
After the chicks have finally fledged, parental care usually isn’t apparent. There are species, though, which stay with their parents for a long time after fledging.
Can bird eggs hatch without mother?
In some species, like the penguins, the male is the one to take care of the egg. However, most birds will die in the eggs if their parents leave them unattended as they need their body heat to stay warm.
Do birds sit on their eggs all the time?
Not all the time, but most of it. They have to leave the nest every once in a while to eat, but as long as they're not eating or defending the nest - they're heating the eggs. There are species where two birds take care of the eggs and they take turns in heating the eggs.
Do mother birds sleep in the nest with their babies?
Yes, even after hatching, mothers will not leave their birds until they've grown enough to fend for themselves.
How long do baby birds stay with their mother?
Depending on how well-developed the bird is, some will leave as soon as they hatch. Other birds will stay with their parents for a very long time - up to six months - until they've grown strong enough to take care of themselves.
Birds are a fascinating class and there are stark differences between different species. Some birds lay on their eggs for months on end, while others take just 10 days to hatch – the rules are different for every single species. After hatching, some baby birds will stay with their parents for months, while other birds will leave the nest the very same day.