08.17/Baby birds

Featured for August: Photographing baby birds

Bird photography in late spring and summer can provide an observant photographer opportunities for "family" photos. 

For instance, tracking a bird carrying a worm or insect can lead to shots of babies being fed in the nest. Or ignoring a parent bird hovering over your head can lead to shots of fledglings testing their independence.

The photos in this gallery show a variety of fledglings shot in parks in Central Ohio. In some cases - bluebirds and robins, for instance - it is obvious the birds are fledglings from their markings. But Red-winged Blackbird fledglings look a lot like female blackbirds. And fledgling American Goldfinches look somewhat similar to female goldfinches.

There are some cases that the fledgling looks so little like the adult that I have to rely on the experts at BirdForum.net to provide an identification. That’s how I identified a fledgling Eastern Phoebe and the immature Red-headed Woodpecker.

Then there’s the Brown-headed Cowbird, whose young look nothing like the birds seen feeding them. That’s because female cowbirds don’t build nests, even though they produce more than three dozen eggs a summer. They lay eggs in nests of other birds that get stuck raising them. I have a photo in this collection of a male Common Yellowthroat feeding a much larger immature cowbird, but I’ve seen sparrows and other birds stuck in the same scenario. The fledgling cowbird is often much larger than the adult stuck feeding it, and it is the source of a seemingly never-ending “feed me” cry. The stress on the adult bird is obvious.

I once spent time watching an adult Song Sparrow try to escape from a fledgling cowbird. The sparrow would fly suddenly from tree to tree, entering one side before quickly leaving the other and ducking into the underbrush of a field. The cowbird followed every move.

I'm definitely not an expert. I'm not even a bird watcher. I photograph birds because it's a challenge.

But I have to admit it's a treat when I get a photo of something a bit different. And I count photos of fledglings as something a bit different.

I add a new featured gallery the first of each month. The numbers in the gallery title represent the month and year it was featured. Last month’s featured gallery, showing photos taken around the water, has been moved to my featured gallery archives.

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