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Nidicolous and nidifugous are two terms used to describe the behavior of different animals in relation to their nests.

Nidicolous species tend to remain in close proximity to their nest, whereas nidifugous species are more likely to wander away from it.

Birds in nest

Definition Of Nidicolous

Nidicolous is a term used to describe the breeding behaviors of certain species of birds. It refers to when eggs are incubated and chicks remain in the nest until they are able to fly, as opposed to nidifugous species which leave their nests soon after hatching.

This type of behavior can be attributed to environmental factors such as climate, food sources or predation pressure. In some cases, it may also depend on parental decisions based on current conditions. For example, some species will breed later in the season if there are better resources available for their young at that time compared to earlier in the year.

This behavior is seen more often with smaller bird species due to their lack of mobility and difficulty finding adequate nutrition away from the nest site. Additionally, many ground-nesting birds rely on their camouflaged feathers for protection from predators and therefore must stay close by in order for this defense mechanism to work effectively.

As a result, these types of birds tend to exhibit nidicolous characteristics more frequently than other avian groups.

Definition Of Nidifugous

Nidifugous is a term used to describe species of birds and animals that leave their nests in order to find food shortly after hatching or birth. This behavior contrasts with nidicolous, which refers to species that remain in the nest for an extended period of time before venturing out into their new environment.

Nidifugous species must develop the necessary physical traits, skills, and instincts quickly in order to survive independently away from the nest. For example, they are equipped with feathers or fur that allow them to regulate body temperature, as well as claws and talons suitable for climbing and perching on branches.

Additionally, these species often receive parental training prior to leaving the nest; this includes guidance on flying techniques, how to catch prey, and other survival behaviors. After they have left the nest, they use habitat choice – choosing places where there is sufficient shelter and abundant food sources – to increase their chances of survival.


Nidicolous BirdsNidifugous Birds
Common Murre, Rockhopper PenguinMallard Duck, Canada Goose
Great Horned Owl, Bald EaglePigeon, Dove
Emperor Penguin, Adélie PenguinChicken, Turkey
Albatross, PetrelOstrich, Emu
Flamingo, SpoonbillQuail, Grouse
Songbirds (e.g., Robins, Sparrows)Grebes, Rails
Parrots, Cockatoos, BudgerigarsSandpipers, Plovers
Penguins (most species)Ducks (most species)
Herons, Egrets, StorksWoodpeckers, Hawks
Cormorants, AnhingasSwans, Geese

Please note that while these examples represent general categories of birds, there can be variations within species and individual behaviors. Additionally, some bird species may exhibit characteristics of both nidicolous and nidifugous behaviors depending on specific stages of development.

Causes Of Nidicolous Behavior

Nidifugous is the behavior of young birds leaving their nest shortly after hatching. This contrasts with nidicolous, which is when a bird remains in its nest for an extended period of time before fledging. The causes of nidicolous behavior are varied and complex, but can generally be attributed to environmental factors such as weather conditions or food availability.

Nest building by the parents also has a major influence on whether chicks remain in their nests or not. For example, more secure structures that offer better temperature regulation and protection from predators are likely to encourage longer stays in the nest than less well-constructed ones. In addition, some species have evolved specific types of nests that encourage longer periods spent within them while they develop further prior to fledging. Table 1 below shows examples of these behaviors among different species:

SpeciesNest TypeTemperature Regulation
Common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)Open cupLow
Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo)Cavernous tree hollowHigh
Great tit (Parus major)Cavity lined with moss/fur/feathersMedium

Researchers suggest that being able to regulate temperatures within nests may play an important role in determining how long offspring stay there before fledging. Since many species build nests with varying levels of insulation, this means that different strategies for maintaining appropriate internal temperatures can be adopted depending on local climate and habitat conditions. As a result, although all avian species exhibit some form of nidifugous behavior, those who live under extreme climatic conditions tend to demonstrate greater parental care and higher rates of nidicolousness compared to others living in milder climates.

Causes Of Nidifugous Behavior

Nidifugous behavior is a survival strategy found in some species of birds, reptiles, and mammals. It refers to the preference for animals to leave their nests shortly after hatching or birth instead of staying until they are fully grown.

This behavior has been observed in many different bird species such as ducks, wild turkeys, chickens, and geese. The main differences between nidicolous (nest-dwelling) and nidifugous (fleeing from the nest) behavior lie mainly in habitat preferences and how young animals rely on their parents for protection.

Nidicolous creatures tend to stay close to the safety of their nesting areas for longer periods of time than do nidifugous species who will usually venture out more quickly. These two behaviors have evolved largely due to different environmental conditions that favor either one or another depending on available food sources and predation risk levels.

Factors affecting Nidifugous Behavior:

  • Availability of food resources outside the nest
  • Predation risk level
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • Parental investment
  • Availability of shelter or cover

Examples Of Nidicolous Species

Nidicolous species, in contrast to nidifugous species, are those who remain dependent on their nest for longer periods of time.

While the instinctual behavior of birds is typically geared towards leaving the nest shortly after fledging, there are some cases where they do not follow this pattern and instead stay near their parents or birth place.

This innate behavior has been observed in many different avian species from a variety of habitats around the world; however, it can be seen most prominently amongst songbirds such as warblers and buntings.

Seasonal variation plays a particularly important role when examining these types of behaviors in bird populations.

Species that have adapted to territories with more variable temperatures often display nidicolous tendencies during colder months due to the need for extra protection and territorial defense.

These same species might then switch over to exhibiting nidifugous behaviors once temperatures become milder and food sources increase outside of the nest area.

In both cases, the amount of parental care received by younglings varies greatly between individual nests, which may further affect overall migratory patterns within a population over time.

Examples Of Nidifugous Species

Nidifugous species are any type of bird or animal that leaves its nest shortly after hatching. This behavior is in contrast to nidicolous species, which remain in the nest for a longer period of time.

Some common examples of nidifugous species include chickens, ducks, and geese; while some common examples of nidicolous species include owls, hawks, and songbirds.

The habitat requirements of nidifugous species can vary depending on the specific species. For example, chickens require access to open ground and shelter from predators.

Ducks typically prefer areas with shallow water such as ponds or wetlands and brooding behavior tends to be exhibited by both male and female partners when raising ducklings.

Geese typically live near bodies of water like lakes, rivers, or streams and they exhibit strong parental care through incubation and protection from predators during their nesting season.

Closeup of a mother chicken with its baby chicks in grass


In conclusion, the differences between nidicolous and nidifugous are determined by the degree to which a species relies on its parents for care after hatching.

Nidicolous species remain in their nests until they can adequately fend for themselves while nidifugous species leave their nest shortly after hatching.

The causes of these behaviors vary from species to species but generally involve an evolutionary response to the environment in which they live.

A visual representation of this concept shows that those with more parental protection tend towards nidicolous behavior, whereas those without or less parental protection tend towards nidifugous behavior.

In either case, it is clear that being able to recognize and understand the difference between these two terms is important when discussing bird development and life history strategies.