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Is it true that most birds learn to fly by being pushed out of the nest?

I've seen this most often in cartoons and quoted all over the net.

Here is an example quote:

A fledgling is a baby bird that has some feathers and can hop around. Its parents have pushed it out of the nest on purpose to help it learn how to fly.

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I know some species do it. But most? I don't think so. What people see under nests that are pushed out are more often than not chicks that died and were pushed out afterwards, not chicks that were pushed out to force them to fly and failed. –  jwenting Jul 1 '11 at 6:18
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When you say "most", that's going to be hard to quantify, and putting a heavy onus on some ornithologist listing through the species and their populations and confirming. Will you accept "Is it common?" or even better "Does it ever happen?"? –  Oddthinking Jul 1 '11 at 7:28
    
Not so fun fact: cuckoos push other eggs, or newly born chicks out of the nest, but that's not what you're after. –  Andrew Grimm Jan 30 '13 at 3:29
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1 Answer

up vote 15 down vote accepted

I do not think so. According to Jessica Griffiths:

“Birds do not, as a rule, push their young out of the nest,” says Jessica Griffiths, Coordinator of the Big Sur Ornithology Lab.

People claim that the only species of bird to practise pushing their young out is the eagle, but according to studies:

Ornithologists have observed eagles coaxing, even taunting, their young from the nest, rather than just giving them a shove. When the fledgling eagle is almost ready to fly, parents have been observed to swoop by the nest with a fresh kill. Instead of landing in the nest as usual to share the meal, the parent lands near the nest and eats in plain view of its squawking, hungry teenager. This behavior continues until the fledgling is hungry enough to venture out of the nest, at which point the parent will share its food.

This is backed up by this discussion, answer by Eagle Expert Peter Nye:

No! The adults may withhold food as the eaglets get near fledging, and encourage them to fly to a nearby perch to get their meal, but that's about it. Usually, no coaxing is necessary and the eaglets are all too anxious to test their wings!

Don't place too much on the next excerpt; it is by an anonymous person on the web, who claims to be an ornithologist:

Actually birds don't push their young out of the nest at all..that is a myth. They may coax their chicks out of the nest but pushing them out before they are ready would mean they would most likely not survive. That would be very counterproductive.

To sum up, taken from a Ornithology site:

MYTH:
Mother birds will push their young out of the nest if they are defective, or when it is time for them to leave.
FALSE!
Fledgling birds that are around 14-18 days old (with a tail length of around 1/4"-1/2" long) begin to get curious about the world and leave the nest on their own. Parent birds will sometimes remove an egg that has not hatched, but will not push their young out of the nest. Sometimes a nest gets crowded and one of the nestlings gets accidentally knocked out by a nestmate. But it is unfortunately all too common for many baby birds to be pulled out of the nest by predators.

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+1 because this is useful information to me for an MMORPG (multi-player video game) I'm designing. –  Randolf Richardson Jul 1 '11 at 17:29
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