Precocial and Altricial Birds

Small and Backyard Flocks May 05, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

Precocial birds are well developed when they hatch and quickly able to stand and walk on their own (see Figure 1). Most domestic poultry species—chickens, ducks, turkeys, and so on—are precocial. The exception is pigeons.

Fig. 1. Newly hatched chick. Source: Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky.

Altricial birds are underdeveloped when they hatch and require considerable parental care before they can stand, walk, and survive on their own (see Figure 2). Altricial birds include pigeons, passerine birds (that is, perching/song birds), and raptors (owls, eagles, falcons).

Fig. 2. Young hummingbirds. Source: Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky.