Development of activity rates in fledgling songbirds: When do young birds begin to behave like adults?

Todd M. Jones, Jeffrey D. Brawn, Michael P. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Logistical and technological limitations have constrained the characterization of behavioural development in songbirds, particularly during the post-fledging period. Recently, advances in radio-telemetry technology- A utomated radio-telemetry systems (ARTS) capable of recording continuous, high-resolution spatial-temporal data on radio-tagged birds-have opened the door to more comprehensive examinations of fledgling behaviour. We examined development of activity rates (number of times a bird was determined to have moved per number of detections, per hour) in fledgling Dickcissels using ARTS established at two grassland sites in east-central Illinois, USA. Specifically, we described general patterns of fledgling activity rates and determined the age at which fledglings began exhibiting activity rates like adults. We found that juveniles decreased activity rates immediately following fledging, likely to avoid detection by snakes and other predators, but increased activity levels throughout the rest of the post-fledging period. Peak hours of fledgling activity occurred around 0700 and 1800 h for all ages, with consistently low activity rates at night. On average, fledglings began exhibiting adult-like activity rates approximately 22 days after fledging, around roughly the same time they stopped being fed by adults. While our study provides important insights into development of fledgling behaviour in the Dickcissel, it remains unclear how patterns of behavioural development vary within and among species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-350
Number of pages14
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2018


  • activity rates
  • behaviour
  • fledging
  • fledgling
  • juvenile
  • post-fledging
  • songbird

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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