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stacy.lash

How long do parents feed their young?

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I am in Maine and we literally have gone from freezing temps and a foot of ice on our property to heat waves all the span of a month. What I'm curious about is how long parents will continue to feed their young. The reason I ask this is that now that the snow is gone and I can hang out with my camera, I'm noticing that several of the species on my property are feeding young. Last year was the first summer I was able to watch all the fledglings and the feeding behavior, so I'm pretty sure this is what I'm seeing. The trouble is that based on the weather and temperatures and my photos from last year, I think it's unlikely that these "baby" birds are any less than almost a year old. Over the weekend I witnessed a shrieking, begging full-sized Blue Jay begging for food - and being subsequently fed - presumably by a parent. I also saw Chipping Sparrows that were in full adult plumage begging and being fed. I just looked out the window and saw a full-sized Titmouse begging for food and chasing around another adult and then being fed. This Titmouse was different than the babies from last year because it had the apricot patch on it's side. The babies didn't seem to have this. On Sunday I watched a full-grown Hairy Woodpecker begging for food and being fed, too. These birds didn't bring their young to my feeders until mid-summer last year. These look like full-grown birds. I even have a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak male that is mostly in adult plumage and have seen him begging this past week. I haven't seen him being fed though. I guess I never considered that bird parents would keep feeding their babies this long after hatching. Am I seeing things or is it possible that all these species had a batch of chicks in the subzero temps over the late winter?

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Young birds will usually beg for food as long as they keep receiving it, and even after that for a certain amount of time. For songbirds, this is usually several weeks (sometimes over a month) after fledging. This results in what appear like full-grown birds except for subtle differences in feather pattern (and often the pale gape) still begging for food. 

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I agree with Jim Bob. Jays fledgling are full sized but do give away their age with their strange "ascending weeee" sounds. Almost all species' young have subtle sound/call uniqueness.

Behaviors wise, they're sometimes clumsy flying and landing, even though they appear to be full sized.

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