The altricial issue: every list of “adorable baby animal photos” that includes a bird will inevitably get it wrong in one of three ways: 

  1. by labeling the offspring of a less familiar precocial species as a familiar one (rail for raven/crow)
  2. by labeling a very small adult of another species as the offspring of a more familiar species (falconets or pygmy falcons for peregrine falcons)
  3. by mistaking a realistic stuffed or felted animal for a real bird (owls)

And this is because scrawny blind naked altricial baby birds just don’t have the immediate cuteness factor of baby mammals.

fallowsthorn  asked:

Is there a reason that some baby birds immediately go into cute floof stage right after they hatch (ducks, chickens, puffins), while others (owls, eagles, parrots) become ugly fucklings first? Why are some birds born with more floof than others?

This is a really good question, and the answer boils down to maturation rates and evolutionary strategy! The typical cutesy fluffy babies have a precocial development strategy (they can survive on their own quickly after hatching), where as the bald no-eyelid monstrosities are birds that have an altricial development strategy (dependent on parents for a relatively long time).

Each strategy has its benefits and downsides. For instance, galloanserae are all precocial because they’re prey animals and need to develop quickly for independence, while all raptors are altricial because altricial growth allows for more time developing skill and intelligence at the cost of a lower possibility of making it to adulthood.

There’s actually a gradual delineation between four recognized categories of developmental strategies, as outlined by a Stanford web essay:

“Precocial: Hatched with eyes open, covered with down, and leave the nest within two days. There are four levels of precociality, although only three are found in North American birds. Level 1 of development (precocial 1) is the pattern found in the chicks of megapodes (Australian Malee fowl, Brush Turkeys, etc.), which are totally independent of their parents. The megapode young are incubated in huge piles of decaying vegetation, and upon hatching dig their way out, already well feathered and able to fly. No North American birds show this extreme precociality. Precocial 2 development is found in ducklings and the chicks of shorebirds, which follow their parents but find their own food. The young of game birds, however, trail after their parents and are shown food; they are classified as precocial 3. Precocial 4 development is represented by the young of birds such as rails and grebes, which follow their parents and are not just shown food but are actually fed by them.”

“Semi-precocial: Hatched with eyes open, covered with down, and capable of leaving the nest soon after hatching (they can walk and often swim), but stay at the nest and are fed by parents. Basically precocial but nidicolus, this developmental pattern is found in the young of gulls and terns.”

“Semi-altricial: Covered with down, incapable of departing from the nest, and fed by the parents. In species classified as semi-altricial 1, such as hawks and herons, chicks hatch with their eyes open. Owls, in the category semi-altricial 2, hatch with the eyes closed. If all young were divided into only two categories, altricial and precocial, these all would be considered altricial”

“Altricial: Hatched with eyes closed, with little or no down, incapable of departing from the nest, and fed by the parents. All passerines are altricial.”

Basically, the uglier the baby, the smarter it probably will be… after it gets kicked out of its parent’s basement for freeloading.

@bunkerlad was a great help with this one!

Galliphasis albocristatus (now Lophura leucomelanos hamiltoni) and Galliphasis horsfieldii (now Lophura leucomelanos lathami

The White-Crested Kalij Pheasant and Black-Breasted Kalij Pheasant.

Pheasants and other fowl (such as domestic chickens, ducks, and geese) are some of the most well-known precocial birds. Born with open eyes and fluffy down, with “adult” (juvenile) feathers growing in shortly after birth, precocial birds generally require less care from their parents than altricial chicks. The range of precocial nature is broad, though, and precocial birds still need protection and care from their parents.

Most birds that have only one parent caring for them after hatching are precocial, and most tree-nesting birds with two parents are altricial, but there are no set lines how birds raise their young.

Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 1858.

You know a lot of people dont realize this….

But All animals dont make the best of parents…Sometimes animals say to us “Hey this isnt what i signed up for” and then we have to raise the baby for awhile until she comes to her senses or the baby can take care of itself.  This baby Milky Eagle Owl is just one such example. Owl hatchlings are somewhat in between two main categories of hatchlings know as precocial and altricial know as “semi-altricial. Which means that although they maybe covered in down feathers and can stand(more like wobble then fall) they still need parental rearing…

"Precocial” and “altricial,” two words describing the degree of development in young birds at hatching, are good examples of useful scientific jargon. A precocial bird is “capable of moving around on its own soon after hatching.” While Altricial means “incapable of moving around on its own soon after hatchling.” It comes from a Latin root meaning “to nourish” a reference to the need for extensive parental care required before fledgling. 

With most animals we keep, we like to leave as minimum of an impression as possible. To allow nature and instinct to be the main factor in mental development. The best way(well 3rd best technically) to handle that is whats know as puppet rearing(seen here). This is a way of feeding and imprinting so little old man fluff fluff here learns he’s an owl

To learn more things people dont realize about zoos here ~> Zoos Queues

Juvenile Secretary Bird - Sagittarius serpentarius

Secretary bird chicks are the cutest! They’re altricial birds, and spend about 40 days being fed by their parents, after which they tear up their own parent-delivered reptiles within the nest. After about 65-80 days, they start to fly (fledge), and are taught by both parents how to hunt soon after that. By the end of their fourth month, they generally live independently of their parents.

Faune de la Sénégambie. Alphonse Tremeau de Rochebrune, 1883-1887.