Baby Bird week couldn’t come at a better time for someone in the High Arctic, suddenly there are birds hatching everywhere. Baby birds here, as everywhere else fall into two broad categories, altricial and precocial. Precocial birds hatch in a relatively developed state. They are covered in down, mobile and able to feed themselves immediately. Altricial nestlings, not so much. They are born nearly naked, with the odd tuft of down, blind, and helpless. They are fed by one or both parents, even after they’ve fledged and left the nest. They are two strikingly different strategies, both of which seem to working well this spring, as everywhere one turns there is new life on the Tundra.

Let’s start with the altricial birds, shall we?  Horned Larks breed widely over North America, including up here in the High Arctic.  Here are five in a nest, close to fledging.

Horned Lark nestlings

Five Horned Lark babies in the nest

And here is another, already fledged.  Horned Lark fledglings seem impossibly big to me, like they are larger than the adults (which of course they are not).

Horned Lark fledgling

A surprise bird for me, given I was looking for baby Baird’s Sandpipers there.

Snow Buntings are one of our most abundant passerines. Here is a female making one of her frequent trips to feed her helpless young.

Snow Bunting at nest

An unusual nest, they are normally located under rocks on the ground.

And these are the objects of her attention.  Coming soon to a snowy field near you.

Snow Bunting nestlings

Snow Bunting chicks in their nest.

And one last photo of the altricial baby birds.  This photo is actually from last year, mostly because I’ve not taken the time to discover Lapland Longspur nests this season.  The babies should soon be fledging as they grow quickly.

Lapland Longspur nestlings

This Lapland Longspur nest was well hidden deep in the tundra.

And now onto some precocial birds. Which most people believe up the cute factor, due to their ready made downy puffball appearance.  For many North American bird enthusiasts, Common Ringed Plover‘s are a bird they rarely, if ever, get to see. Here they are a common breeding bird, one of our two species that migrate from here to Europe and then south. At the same time (and sometime the same location) we have Semipalmated Plovers breeding, which makes identification a challenge.

Common Ringed Plover and chicks

Why does this Common Ringed Plover have eight legs?

Chick tucking in to the feathers of a Common Ringed Plover

Ahh, that’s why.

A short time after hatching, these chicks are up and mobile and very fast. I had hoped to have some Semipalmated Plover chick photos for comparison but as of last night they seem to be still at the egg stage. So you’ll just have to make do with these…

Common Ringed Plover chick

See, little balls of puffy down.

Common Ringed Plover

With some serious legs.

By far, our most common shorebird is the Baird’s Sandpiper.  They are everywhere right now, as the families make their way from uplands down to the water’s edge. These ones had a head start, nesting right near the shore.

Baby Baird's Sandpiper

Calling for mom.

Baird's Sandpiper baby

They are a lot more cryptic when laying still on the tundra.

Baird's Sandpiper

But in the right light, they glow!

This is a photo from last year, as neither the Pacific nor the Red-throated Loons‘ eggs have hatched yet, it’ll be about 2 more weeks.  But I couldn’t resist as I’m just proud of the series of photos this one came from.

Pacific Loon with chick

Pacific Loon chick with its parents.

And finally… hey wait a minute those aren’t baby birds in that nest. What the heck are these Collared Lemming babies doing in this post?

Baby Collared Lemmings

A nest full of the next generation that will help you see the next irruption of Snowy Owl.


Baby Bird Week is our celebration of the young, the cute, the adorable, the twee. We certainly spend enough time on adult birds here on 10,000 Birds so we figured it would only make sense to fawn over the fuzzy bundles of fluff that grow up to become the objects of our fascination. Whether you seek out waterfowl, songbirds, or seabirds we will have baby birds to match your obsession.

Baby Bird Week will run from 15-21 July, Sunday until Saturday. Make sure to check back every day or even multiple times a day to keep up with all the baby bird goodness!


Written by Clare K
Clare Kines is a retired Mountie and a failed businessman, which apparently qualifies him to be the Economic Development Officer for Arctic Bay Nunavut. Raised in Manitoba, Clare has lived in three provinces and two territories, managing to get kicked out of all them except this last one. So far. He has had a lifelong love of nature, never growing out a child’s curiosity. Given a Peterson’s guide by his grandfather, he made birds a big part of that love. He’s led tours to the high Arctic and Cuba, and writes probably the most northerly blog in the world, The House and other Arctic musings. He considers himself the luckiest man alive, having found great love twice in his life. His first wife, Janice, passed away in 1996. After moving north he met and fell for Leah. They have two fantastic children. He lives in an incredibly beautiful, magical part of the world - a place few people get to know.