Baby birds always attract our attention – and they are great for introducing kids to nature. Altricial chicks – those that hatch nearly naked and certainly helpless – often with eyes that are not yet opened – seem so helpless. And that is so important. These chicks bring out a nurturing instinct in most of us. But kids and adults need to know that just touching a chick or an egg in a nest can result in death for the tiny bird. Wonderful to observe – and important to observe – from a distance – and for a very short time. Each meal is very important for growing chicks.
Precocial chicks are different – they come from bigger eggs and hatch ready to go… more or less. They are still dependent on their parents for protection and food. Some precocial chicks are fed by their parents -- some of the time. Most are only led to food by the parents. Precocial chicks running around on the ground may seem to be lost or abandoned. They are not. Parents almost always know right where they are. Don’t pick them up. Back up and enjoy watching them from a distance.
Many altricial chicks – such as mockingbirds – leave the nest before they can fly. Many of these have special call notes that they give that are such that we can’t tell where the sound is coming from – but their parents can. These chicks too should be left alone unless there is imminent danger for them. Then, just move them to a safer place nearby.