Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Bringing Up Baby

I don’t usually bird very much in July but this year poor weather in May and June and some family travels left many holes in my year list.  In the past three weeks I have made day trips to Water Valley, Banff, Waterton and some local sloughs. 
While the birding is definitely better in June there are still lots of interesting birds to be seen in the summer.  Juvenile birds – particularly the water birds – are easy to spot and sometimes come in quite different plumages than their parents.
Pied-Billed Grebe juvenile
Pied-Billed Grebe adult
This Pied-Billed Grebe juvenile got separated from its parents and the adult could be heard calling for its young.  Eventually the two were reunited.  At the same slough east of Calgary, this American Coot had three lovely chicks following it around.
American Coot with three young
Eared Grebes (Black-necked Grebes to my European friends) have a strategy to keep the young one nearby – the juvenile rides on the back of the adult.  Pretty soon the young bird is too big and has to swim on its own.

Eared Grebe with young on back
Eared Grebe with young
Sometimes the young do look like one of the parents as evidenced by this female Ruddy Duck and six ducklings.
Ruddy Duck female with ducklings
It always amazes me how fast the young grow and that they can be larger than their parents.  These two young dippers in Waterton created quite a racket anytime the parent came near.  Notice how much smaller the adult (in the water) looks.
American Dipper juveniles pestering their parent
Feeding the young seems to be a full-time job (at least for one parent).  Here are a couple of birds carrying food back to their young.  The young tern then went for a short flight after being fed.
Cliff Swallow
Black Tern
Black Tern feeding young
Black Tern juvenile
There comes a time when the young have to fend for themselves though they will often chase the parent around begging to be fed.  This young male Yellow-headed Blackbird is now independent whether he likes it or not.
Yellow-headed Blackbird juvenile male
Surprisingly, there was still a reasonable amount of song activity … perhaps the males were hoping to start a second brood or perhaps they were still looking for their first love.  Lazuli Bunting in Waterton and Tennessee Warbler in Water Valley were two species still singing.
Lazuli Bunting
Tennessee Warbler
Despite the parenting theme to this blog, I could resist including a photo of a dark-phased Swainson’s Hawk (perhaps it was looking for food to feed its young?).  The white undertail coverts are the quickest way to differentiate this bird from the Red-tailed Hawk - our other common hawk.
Swainson's Hawk
I hope these photos encourage you to get out and do some birding this summer.


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