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Birds are amazing animals that lay eggs. Bird watchers observe every element of the life history of the birds. What could be more interesting than watching an egg hatch into a chick after incubation? We will discuss the length of incubation in this article.

Incubation is calculated as the time between laying the last egg and hatching of the egg. The average incubation time is usually 17 to 18 days for most birds. Incubation usually starts after the whole clutch is laid, with incubation taking just nine days in some small species. The Wandering albatross, a large bird, can take 85 days to incubate.

If you want to know more about how birds incubate their eggs and how long it takes, please read on.

How Does Incubation Happen?

An egg must be exposed to temperatures a few degrees below the average avian body temperature for an extended period to develop normally. Interestingly, the optimum incubation temperature for several birds’ eggs is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly human body temperature. Incubation can be done by a male or female parent or even both.

Birds use a variety of incubation strategies. Almost all birds achieve the requisite temperature by sitting on the eggs and incubating them, frequently transmitting heat through a briefly bare piece of belly skin known as the “brood patch.” You can find out more about the brood patch in this article I wrote.

Some species, such as penguins, pelicans, and gannets, use webbed feet to transfer heat to eggs. Several groups, especially the megapodes, use the heat generated by decomposing plant waste to produce a massive compost heap. Megapodes are commonly known as incubator birds. In contrast, crab plovers use the sun’s heat energy to a certain extent.

How Long Does Incubation Take?

Even though the average incubation period differs by bird species, small birds spend less time incubating than large birds. Smaller birds might take anywhere from nine days to over two weeks to incubate their eggs.

Larger birds may take substantially longer to incubate, and the same amount of time can be dedicated to the chick’s development into fledging. The weight of the egg and the time it takes to incubate it are roughly proportional, with heavier eggs taking longer. Small songbird eggs hatch in less time, while larger eggs, such as the Royal Albatross, take up to 80 days to hatch.

Birds such as the Northern cardinal and Dark-eyed junco have incubation periods of 13 to 14 days, while larger birds of prey including Barn owls and Kestrels take slightly over a month.

Birds need to protect their eggs from predators and the environment.  Find out more here

Which bird has the Shortest Incubation?

Zosterops, the white eye or silver eye, have the shortest incubation period. In just an astounding nine to ten days, the eggs will hatch. The white-eye is a common bird but still an unusual sighting. White-eyes or Silver eyes are small birds that measure four to five inches in length and belong to the Zosteropidae family.

The family, consisting of one genus and 80 species, is found throughout Africa, southern Asia, Australasia, and several Pacific islands. They are as timid as other small birds, yet they are fascinating creatures that can be spotted skipping through the foliage or fluttering from branch to branch. White eyes have long been thought to have the shortest incubation time of any bird, ranging from nine to ten days.

Do you know why birds lay different numbers of eggs?  Find out here

Which Bird Has The Longest Incubation?

The Wandering Albatross has the longest incubation period of any bird, lasting up to 85 days. The time it takes for bird eggs to hatch is the longest recorded. However, this is regarded as an interrupted incubation period, where the eggs are left unattended briefly. The emperor penguin has the world’s longest uninterrupted incubation period. It can last anywhere between 67 and 75 days.

During incubation, both male and female wandering albatrosses take part in shifts to pass such a long incubation. They fast during their incubation shift. Males incubate much more than females and lose weight faster during incubation shifts. During typical shifts, both sexes lose roughly the same body weight. Incubation energy needs are estimated to be between 1.2 and 2.0 times that of basal metabolism.

Snowy albatross or white-winged albatross are the other names for Wandering Albatross. The Wandering Albatross may weigh up to 12 kilograms, which is a substantial weight for a bird. They can be found in almost all oceans, except North Atlantic. The Wandering Albatross can fly up to 40 kilometres per hour due to its wide wingspan.

Between the middle of December and early January, the female will lay one 10 cm long egg. When the chick is born, the adults alternate between hunting and caring for her. Both parents will eventually begin hunting at the same time, visiting the chick at greater intervals.

Do Larger Birds Have Slower Incubations?

Larger birds have longer, slower incubation periods. There is a correlation between the size of the bird and how long they incubate the eggs. Larger birds take longer periods and cover their eggs for a greater amount of the day.

However, there are many exceptions and inconsistencies. Smaller birds usually have a relatively fast incubation. Because smaller birds have high metabolic rates and quickly deplete fat reserves, they wouldn’t be able to incubate eggs for an extended period.

Do you know why bird eggs are different colours?  Find out in this article I wrote