Garden Birds

Identifying Fledgling Birds and their Parents

Seeing the first juvenile birds, just out of their nests, is one of the birding highlights of the summer months. In some cases it’s obvious what species a fledgling belongs to, but others can be more tricky. Similarly, some species have very obvious differences between adults and juveniles, but in a few species the differences are more subtle. See below some tips and photos of adult and juvenile birds that you’re likely to find in your garden this summer.


Some tips for identifying recently-fledged juvenile birds:

  • In the photos below the adults are on the left and the juveniles are on the right (or adults on top, juveniles on bottom if you’re on your phone).
  • Depending on when you see it, the bird you’re looking at might look younger than the birds pictured here, so there is a bit of variation to keep in mind.
  • Note that juveniles are the same size as their parents by the time they fledge the nest!
  • You can’t rely on fluffy feathers to indicate something is a juvenile bird. Adult body feathers are fluffy too and they’ll fluff them up after a wash, to keep warm, or when they’re sick.
  • Behavioural clues will also help separate juveniles from adults. Juvenile birds might be a bit noisier (calling to their parents), might flap their wings rapidly to beg for food, and might be a little less fearful of humans than their grown up counterparts.


Note that it’s illegal in Ireland to photograph or disturb nests with chicks or eggs, so wait until the chicks fledge from the nest to enjoy them in your garden!


Fledgling Robins completely lack the red breast, but instead have a speckled head and front. The reason juveniles don’t start out with a red breast is because the colour triggers aggression in territorial adult Robins, so they can avoid conflict in their early days by not having any red.

Robin Species Profile


Juveniles have a very brown, speckled appearance and a dark bill. You’re unlikely to confuse them with the jet-black, orange-billed adult males, but the fledglings can look similar to adult females. The adult females will have some yellow colour in the bill yellow and a dark brown back, with only a small bit of speckling on the front.

Blackbird Species Profile