If you know when the nest was laid, then you will be able to predict the hatching date, but more commonly a complete clutch is found and you will not know when it is due to hatch. Sometimes you might have been fooled by the birds and may have missed finding the nest, and be shocked to see chicks! Below is a guide to help you age the chicks more accurately.

1-10 days old


Hoodie chicks are tiny when they hatch, no bigger than a 50 cent piece. This is about 1/3 the size of a full grown adult hoodie.

While they are quite mobile, very young chicks spend a lot of time hiding from danger, and danger to a tiny little chick is pretty much everything

In their first few days they are more likely to crouch from danger in the open or on the beach, than to run all the way back to the dune from where they are foraging. Of course, this doesn’t mean they can’t travel far and wide! Some parents take their chicks several kilometres to a feeding location or a safer area away from people.

In the first ten days, the chicks are incredibly fluffy and they are not able to regulate heat very well so need to be brooded by mum and dad frequently. Brooding is particularly important on very hot days and often sand on the upper beach and dunes is too hot, so parents in these conditions must brood on the wet, cooler sand. This means they need to be in the middle of the beach or at the water’s edge no matter how many people are around!

If you see a parent bird with feathers puffed out and looking double or triple its size, this is because it is sitting on one or more chicks to keep them insulated!

In the first ten days, the degree of fluffiness and the minute size of the chicks are the most defining features


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11-20 days old


The chicks are now about half adult size and less “fluffy” than younger chicks. They are also more mobile and agile on their feet, and tend to look like lanky teenagers, with long legs and a growing body. They are no longer brooded.

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3-5 weeks


The chicks are 3/4 to full adult size. They loose the fluffy appearance altogether and their feathers take on a light brown/grey scalloped appearance, with strong patterns on the back, wings and head.

The bill is still dark and legs still pale compared to adult birds and they have a orange eye ring. They are very mobile, but not yet able to fly. They often spend more time in the open and are less likely to take cover from minor disturbances.

Towards five weeks of age, they will do a lot of wing stretching and will flap their wings, trying to get airborne! Eventually these practice flights will become a fledging event, when they take flight for the first time. Until then, they may look adult size but they are just as vulnerable as when they were tiny chicks.

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Post-fledging (>35 days)


After 35 days the hoodies are full size, they can fly and their chance of survival increases significantly. Birds may stick with their parents for a short time after they reach flying age, but more ofter they leave their natal territory very quickly. At this age the scalloping of the feathers is gone and their back, wing and head feathers take on an even grey appearance. The bill is still dark and the legs, very pale compared to adults

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Sub-adult (up to 1 year of age)


Sub-adult birds vary in appearance as they transition to adulthood. Their grey head begins to take on more black feathers and eventually becomes totally black. Their eye ring is now more red than the orange of juveniles, and the bill has a distinctive red upper with black tip.

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Adult (1 year +)


Adult hoodies are easy to pick with their distinctive black head or ‘hood’. Like sub-adults their bill is red with black tip and they have a red eye ring. Their legs are pink-orange (less pale than for chicks) and they have more black on their backs (behind their white nape or neck) as well.

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