Definition of altricial in US English:



  • 1(of a young bird or other animal) hatched or born in an undeveloped state and requiring care and feeding by the parents.

    Also called nidicolous
    Often contrasted with precocial
    • ‘The altricial young are fed semi-digested fish by both parents.’
    • ‘After hatching, the altricial nestlings are brooded for 1 to 2 weeks depending on the weather.’
    • ‘In addition, the amount of food altricial nestlings receive from their parents varies depending on how much food is in the environment.’
    • ‘Their altricial cubs are born in mid-winter, with their eyes closed, and weighing only about 0.6 kg.’
    • ‘The altricial chicks are fed primarily insects, beetle larvae, grasshoppers, spiders and small lizards.’
    1. 1.1 (of a particular species) having altricial young.
      • ‘Moreover, chicks of precocial species generally require less parental care than those of altricial species.’
      • ‘In altricial birds the chicks depend entirely on their parents for food and protection.’
      • ‘In altricial bird species, parents need to provide their growing nestlings with food to prevent starvation, ensure proper development, and minimize any negative effects of a poor start in life.’
      • ‘In altricial species, the parents of hungry nestlings may be helped in feeding and guarding their young by other adult birds who have not bred that year.’
      • ‘The brown pelican produces a relatively large chick at a relatively high cost compared to other, smaller altricial species.’


Late 19th century: from Latin altrix, altric-, feminine of altor ‘nourisher’, from alere ‘nourish’.