from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Hatched or born with the eyes closed and with little or no down or hair, and requiring parental care. Used of birds and mammals.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Being one of or belonging to the Altrices; having the nature of Altrices; hoterophagous.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective born naked and blind and dependent on parents for food; -- of hatchlings. Opposite of precocial.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective zoology Helpless at birth (of young animals); or having young which are helpless at birth.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective (of hatchlings) naked and blind and dependent on parents for food


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[From Latin altrīx, altrīc-, feminine of altor, nourisher, from alere, to nourish; see al- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From modern Latin Altrices (a former division of birds), plural of altrix, the feminine of altor ‘nourisher’, from alere ‘nourish’.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word altricial.


  • After all, we are big-brained altricial mammals, born helpless and requiring extensive adult care, who learn a variety of skills through different sorts of play.

    Marc Bekoff: The Child's Right to Play: Let Children Be Animals Marc Bekoff 2011

  • Chicks need food provided by their parents, and rely on them for protection (altricial).

    Penguins 2010

  • Like its opposite, the altricial strategy employed by creatures such as humans and songbirds, who are born naked and helpless, the precocial strategy was sculpted by eons of adaptation to food and predators.

    Birdology Sy Montgomery 2010

  • IMO, passerine parasitism is mainly due to their altricial nature.

    The evolution of vampires Darren Naish 2007

  • Consequently, gauging the amount of external care she can receive from her kin and society is at large is very consequent to her parenting decisions, as altricial helpless infants of Homo sapiens are significantly taxing to raise.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » DOJ Boosts the Cause of SSM: 2009

  • It may well be — but this is still somewhat controversial — that imprinting also plays an important part in the social - ization of altricial species (that is, those that are rather immature when born, e.g., dogs or monkeys).

    Dictionary of the History of Ideas W. SLUCKIN 1968

  • With the altricial birds the young are hatched in an absolutely helpless condition, being both blind and naked, and it is necessary that they be fed by the parents, not only while occupying the nest, but also for several weeks afterward.

    The Bird Study Book Thomas Gilbert Pearson

  • The young of altricial birds, like orioles, and bluebirds, and thrushes, being born naked and helpless, have a reason for loving their nest-homes, so carefully and delicately built to shelter their nude infancy.

    Days Off And Other Digressions Henry Van Dyke 1892

  • Chicks need food provided by their parents, and rely on them for protection (altricial).

    Featured Articles - Encyclopedia of Earth 2010

  • The chick that emerges from the egg falls into one of the two categories: altricial or precocial.

    CreationWiki - Recent changes [en] Pascal3 2010


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Used to describe birds that are helpless at birth or hatching and require parental care for a time (as opposed to precocial birds).

    October 13, 2007

  • "They are quite the opposite, their altricial nature demanding that they be nursed and nurtured for a time, or else they should die in the crib and the experiment come to naught."

    Under the Harrow by Mark Dunn, p 370

    September 4, 2011

  • See comments (including a cute picture of a kitty) over on alatricial.

    October 25, 2011

  • It's fine if the state is initial

    When infancy's cute and official,

    But helpless and squalling,

    Is sad and appalling

    When old folk are worn to altricial.

    May 22, 2017