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August 29, 2014

Word of the Day

  • precocial
  • audio pronunciation
  • \prih-KOH-shul\
  • DEFINITION

adjective

: capable of a high degree of independent activity from birth

  • EXAMPLE

The mallard is a type of precocial bird that can often fly independently just 24 hours after hatching.

"Hares are like deer, horses and cattle in the sense that their offspring are precocial. They still have multiple offspring per pregnancy, but they are born fully furred with their eyes open." — Bill Danielson, The Recorder (Greenfield, Massachusetts), June 26, 2014

  • DID YOU KNOW?

Precocial and its partner altricial are really for the birds. Well, at least they are often used to describe the young of our feathered friends. The chicks of precocial birds can see as soon as they hatch and generally have strong legs and a body covered with fine down. Those are attributes you would expect in birds described by the word precocial, which traces to the Latin precox, a term that means "precocious" or "early ripening" (yes, that root also gave us the word "precocious"). Ducks, geese, ostriches, pheasants, and quail are among the birds that hatch precocial offspring. Altricial chicks, on the other hand, are basically featherless and helpless at birth and require days or weeks of parental care before becoming independent.

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