Not a Chick in Sight

While looking for Avocet or Black-Necked Stilt chicks at Bear River, I remarked that I had never seen a White-Faced Ibis chick and wondered why. After reading on the refuge’s site that “ the Refuge now hosts the largest colony of White-faced ibis in North America.” I’m even more amazed that I’ve never seen a chick — or even a juvenile, for that matter.

For now, at least, I guess I will have to settle for glimpses of a remarkable bird

whose iridescent colors are a constant challenge

and a constant joy to photograph.

Judging from the few images I found on the net, the chicks are nearly as ugly as their parents are beautiful, and, as every birder knows, ugly is beautiful.

Juvenile American Avocets

As fun as it was to watch grebe chicks, I was a little disappointed not to see any Avocet chicks. We did, however, manage to see several juvenile Avocets. When this adult Avocet confronted us in the middle of the road,

I realized there must be a juvenile nearby and managed to grab this shot a juvenile and adult swimming away.

I’m not sure how old the juvenile might have been, but, seen next to a parent, he is obviously quite young.

The other juvenile Avocets we saw, seemed older and larger than this one. Though the plumage on this juvenile looks quite similar, it was a considerable distance away from any adults and seemed larger.

These two seemed even older, perhaps explaining why there wasn’t a parent in sight.

While researching on the internet to try to guesstimate how old these youngsters were, I found some interesting facts. First, the Cornell site stated that chicks leave the nest within 24 hours. That means Leslie and I were extremely lucky last year to get shots of chicks in the nest. It also explains why we’ve never seen that again. Second, the chicks feed themselves right after leaving the nest.

Enough is Enough

No matter how great of a parent you are,

there comes a breaking point when you decide enough is enough and you need a break from the kids

no matter how hard they cling to you.

Of course, separation is hard when you’re young

and it’s natural to want to be close to mom (or dad.)

But a good parent is firm in such moments.

and, at the very least, demands that the other parent

help out.

Even in the animal world, kids can turn to dad as a last resort.

I Seem to Learn Something New Every Outing

When I shot these photos, I thought the parent was feeding a small fish to its chicks. It wasn’t until I saw the shots on the computer I realized the parent was feeding the chicks a feather, not a fish.

Amazingly, both of the juveniles looked eager to get the feather.

When the parent dunked the feather, I thought it was making sure the catch was dead, a common behavior.

.

There seemed to be much jostling between the chicks, and some trash talking.

One chick seemed to be closest to the feather,

but the other chick ended up eating it after the first chick seemed to lose interest in it.

Not sure whether the chick was begging for another feather or complaining that he had been conned and had wasted all the effort trying to get a fish.

Since I got another shot of grebes feeding feathers to their chicks, I did some research on the internet and discovered that it is a common practice. Researchers seem to be unsure why feathers are consumed but suggest it might help to protect the bird from the bones of the fish they’ve swallowed whole. Having choked on more than a few salmon bones as a kid, that theory made sense to me.

Grebes Feeding Chicks

Although I originally went to Bear River Migratory Refuge to get shots of Avocet chicks, I now look forward to seeing Grebe chicks as much as seeing Avocet chicks. Although we managed to see grebes with chicks, we saw far fewer than we did either time we visited last year. Nevertheless, watching the parents carry the chicks and feed them was definitely a highlight of the trip.

Generally it seems that one parent will bring food back to the parent carrying the chicks, but as I was photographing this family the parent with the chick caught something and proceeded to feed it to the chicks.

As the parent held it in its beak both chicks seemed interested in it,

but one chick definitely seemed hungrier than the other one

and kept its eyes on the prize.

It wasn’t until I was at the computer that I noticed it seemed like both of the chicks may have been actually eating whatever the parent at caught.

The more I observed the grebes feeding chicks the more I wondered how a parent decided which chick to feed. Some chicks seemed larger than their siblings and seemed to eat more of the food. I never saw a parent actually turning and feeding a particular chick; they just seemed to hold the food out in front of them and the chicks tried to eat it.

Bear River’s Yellow-Headed Blackbirds

Long, long ago I might have driven all the way to Bear River to get shots of Yellow-Headed Blackbirds since I was thrilled the first time I saw one in Colorado, even further away. At this point, I doubt I would be able to capture a better shot than the ones I already have since they’re definitely not a shy bird. However, since I rarely see them, I can’t resist the temptation to photograph one when I do see them.

This time of year there were very few male Yellow-Headed Blackbirds classically posed on the top of reeds calling for female companions while challenging male rivals. Instead, they were on the ground gathering food.

It wasn’t too hard to see why they were out collecting food. This youngster wasn’t shy about letting mom know that it was hungry,

only stopping when she finally paid attention to it.

Immediately after she flew off, the juvenile made it clear that it needed food NOW.

Luckily, dad was hanging out nearby simply waiting for the annoying photographer to leave so it could return to its nest with this delicious tidbit.