What is a Fledgling? Learn the Five Stages of a Baby Bird’s Life

Find out what the five common bird life stages mean and how robins and see other baby birds look after they hatch and leave the nest.

Hatchling robins in a nestCOURTESY SCOTT MILROY
American robin hatchlings

Hatchling

A hatching is a baby bird after it hatches from an egg. It usually does not have feathers and its eyes are closed. However, some baby birds are born with feathers. Here’s what you should do if you find a bird nest.

Nestling robin in a nestCOURTESY DIANE BASETTE
American robin nestling

Nestling

A nestling is a bird developing in the nest. This bird is not yet ready to leave the comfort of the nest, cannot fly and needs to be fed by mom or dad. Check out super cute photos of baby birds.

Fledgling robinCOURTESY DAYLE HAYHOE
American robin fledgling

Fledgling or Juvenile

A fledgling is a bird in its first coat of feathers that is capable of moving about on its own. Its feet can grip a branch and it has developed feathers. At this stage, a bird will venture out of the nest and start to learn how to survive without its parents. It has not reached full adult plumage, and the feathers are likely to be loose and soft. A bird in this stage often looks notably different from an adult. No need to be alarmed if you find a bird like this out of the nest—its parents are likely nearby. Psst—this is what a baby hummingbird looks like.

American robin juvenileWILLIAM LEAMAN
American robin juvenile

Subadult

The term subadult describes a bird whose plumage is no longer juvenile but not quite adult. It starts to look less like a baby bird at this stage. Here’s how to prepare your yard for nesting season.

Immature

Any bird that isn’t an adult yet, including those with juvenile or subadult plumages, can be called immature. The term is commonly used to reference large birds like bald eagles and some gulls that don’t achieve full adult plumage until they are 4 or 5 years old. These are the cutest birds in America.

Julie Kuczynski
Julie has edited and written content for books, magazines and digital mediums for many years. She loves birdwatching and keeps a bird life list.