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

  • adj. Covered with down and capable of moving about when hatched. Used of wading birds and domestic fowl.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. hatched from the egg already covered in down and with eyes open; capable of leaving the nest within a few days

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of or pertaining to the Præcoces; having the characters of the Præcoces: opposed to altricial.

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

  • adj. (of hatchlings) covered with down and having eyes open; capable of leaving the nest within a few days


From New Latin praecocēs, precocial birds, from pl. of Latin praecox, premature; see precocious.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin praecŏcĭa ("places where fruits ripen early") (Wiktionary)


  • A newborn from a so-called precocial species -- one that isn't utterly helpless without its parents -- learns to recognize its parents 'traits in a process known as filial imprinting.

    Informed Reader

  • 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.


  • Of course there were surely also many species which were precocial, but I can also imagine that especially quadrupede dinosaurs like small sauropods probably looked very clumsy when they tried to make their first walk.

    Joy in the Farmyard

  • Instead, they are precocial, which means that shortly after hatching they are able to leave the nest and feed themselves.

    David Mizejewski: Turkeys Are True Animal Oddities

  • A few species have precocial chicks that depart the nest for the sea within 1-2 days of hatching, and are raised by their parents at sea.

    Alcids in marine ecosystems

  • In ornithological parlance, megapode chicks are 'highly precocial,' which is to say that they are mind-bogglingly talented and well developed when they hatch.

    Archive 2007-01-01

  • Other techniques used to deal with unpredictable rainfall include drying and reviving, toxic sap, and precocial flowering.

    Madagascar spiny thickets

  • They are highly social, living in mixed-sex herds of just a few individuals to several hundred, and females produce just one or two precocial babies that follow the mother soon after birth.

    Meet peccary # 4

  • It was proposed, for example, that the hair reported on Caddy might have a respiratory function (analogous to the hair-like growths seen on the frog Trichobatrachus), that the serpentine Cadborosaurus might somehow form a tuna-like body shape by bunching up the coils of its long body, that Caddy is viviparous and gives birth to large precocial babies, and that Caddy might be able to employ echolocation (Bousfield & LeBlond 1995).

    Archive 2006-09-01

  • Most large prey species living in big herds with precocial young (e.g. wildebeest, topi (Damaliscus lunatus) and buffalo (Syncerus caffer)) display highly synchronous birthing seasons.

    Serengeti volcanic grasslands


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  • Birds who are covered with down and capable of moving about when hatched. Used to describe wading birds and domestic fowl. Opposite of altricial.

    October 13, 2007