The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term altricial as the following:
adjective \al-ˈtri-shəl\: being hatched or born or having young that are hatched or born in a very immature and helpless condition so as to require care for some time <altricial birds>
The term altricial refers to young that are helpless or in need of extra care from the point of birth or hatching. Human babies and certain birds are a great example of altricial young! The amount of parental care/investment can be determined based the young’s status at birth. Altricial young require a lot of care to ensure survival when born or hatched (Freeman & Herron, 2007).
The Meadowlark (a thought provoking example)
The Meadowlark is an avian species that considers the grasslands its home habitat. Meadowlarks are ground dwelling animals that make nets out of available materials to protect their altricial young (Seattle Audubon Society). In the case of the Meadowlark, after approximately 12 days, the young leave the nest to start a life of their own. At this point, the Meadowlark cannot fly but are proficient at running. Their plumage provides camouflage as they move to various locations (Seattle Audubon Society).
To learn about the opposite of altricial - prococial please visit my other post.
Altricial. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved November 29, 2013, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/altricia
Freeman, S. & Herron, J. (2007). Evolutionary Analysis 4th Ed. Sexual Selection, pp 401-441.
Seattle Audubon Society. BirdWeb: Western Meadowlark. Accessed November 2013.