What Is a Bird Brood?
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What Is a Brood?
Humans may call their families brood, but that word applies to birds as well. A brood (rhymes with "mood") is a set of young birds, or baby bird siblings, hatched at the same time by the same parents.
As a verb, to brood eggs is when a parent bird, male or female, sits upon the eggs for the temperature regulation necessary for safe, successful hatching.
Bird broods vary just as much as the birds themselves, particularly in characteristics such as:
- Size: Although the term sand generally only applies to multiple chicks, bird beds can range from one to 15 or more eggs or chicks, depending on the species. Early birds, such as waterfowl and game birds, generally have larger litters than passerines. Birds with long periods of caring for their young, such as albatrosses, raptors, and penguins, may only have one or two eggs per litter.
- Parentage: A litter is usually hatched and cared for by only one pair of parents, but the exact parental structure of a family of birds can vary. Some litters may include eggs from species that lay eggs in communal nests, so the litter will have different genetic parents, even if only one set of parents is responsible for hatching and caring for the chicks. Polygamous birds can also have eggs from different parents in the same nest. For some species of birds that raise multiple litters in one season, juvenile birds born from a previous litter may remain in the family group to care for the offspring of subsequent litters. In these multigenerational arrangements, the litters are still considered separate, although the young birds may share the same genetic lineage.
- Incubation Period: Some birds have very short bedtimes and correctly hatched eggs can hatch in just a few days. Other eggs may need gentle incubation for several weeks before they are mature enough to hatch properly. Even in the same species of bird, the incubation period can vary slightly depending on environmental climatic conditions, general temperature, egg health, and other factors.
- Appearance: The size and shape of individual eggs, the type and construction of the nest, the spots on the eggs, and even the arrangement of the eggs within the nest can vary considerably between litters. These little clues can be great for helping you correctly identify nests and eggs.
- Laying Interval: Many birds lay one egg a day and it can take several days to complete a litter, depending on how many eggs are in the litter. Some eggs may be laid more quickly, but they may be less advanced in development and may not be able to hatch as safely or produce healthy offspring.
- Hatch Timing: different eggs in the same litter can hatch at different times depending on when incubation started. When the eggs are laid over a period of several days, but full incubation does not begin until the litter is complete, it is likely that all the eggs will hatch within a few hours of each other. If hatching begins after the first egg is laid, the younger eggs will hatch later and the younger siblings will be at a disadvantage in the nest.
How Birds Brood
Eggs can be incubated by one or both parents during the incubation period to keep them protected and warm until they are ready to hatch. In cases where both parents raise the eggs, it is common for one parent to do more of the incubation while the other collects the food and brings it to the nest for its brood partner. However, some birds take turns hatching eggs and sharing parental duties more evenly.
Birds have many adaptations to help reproduction be successful and ensure a better hatching rate from eggs. Popular tactics for caring for hatched eggs include:
- Build specific nests to camouflage or hide eggs, such as using mounds or cavities to keep eggs out of sight of predators, or decorating nests to help hide the structure.
- Avoid defecation, regurgitation, or other bodily functions at the nesting site to minimize odors that could attract the attention of hungry predators.
- Develop a bare area of skin on the belly, called the breeding area, to enhance the transfer of heat from the body to the eggs so that the temperature can be more carefully regulated.
- Use specific poses or actions to regulate the temperature of the egg, such as standing on the eggs, using wings to protect the chicks, or turning the eggs regularly.
- Use distraction screens to keep potential predators away from nesting sites.
Nurturing Brooding Birds
It can be a pleasure to have nesting birds raising their nests in your backyard, and bird watchers can help ensure the safety of feathered families with these simple steps:
- Provide adequately sized sheds for desirable bird species.
- Take steps to keep birdhouses safe, including deterring predators.
- Provide adequate shelter for nestless birds and chicks to use.
- Minimize disturbances to the nest and chicks to avoid stressing the hatching birds.
- Offer a wide variety of nutritious foods for parent birds to feed their young.
- Include calcium in backyard feeding stations to help birds form strong, healthy eggs.
About Brood Parasitism
A parasitic bird creates eggs in the nests of other birds so that they are not responsible for the energy required to raise their own young. The nest host will try to defend its home when the parasitic bird tries to lay an egg. The cuckoo bird and cowbird are two common brood parasitic birds.
Enjoy This Video Tutorial About Birds
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