tame birds

I have never encountered wildlife that are so inured to the threat of humans as I saw at Wood Lake Nature Center the other day.  Their innate responses to flee when approached by humans towering over them on a boardwalk seems to have been completely suppressed — amazingly.  The Barn Swallows featured on yesterday’s post were just one example.  Ducks and Grebes were equally unimpressed by our presence.

mallard hen and duckling

A Mallard hen and her one (remaining?) duckling were swimming by the boardwalk no more than 10 feet away.

mallard duckling

About half the size of his mom, this little one still has a lot of its natal fuzz. Mortality for ducklings is highest in their first two weeks of life — when about 70% of the total duckling mortality occurs.

wood duck hens

Wood Ducks were out in great numbers, casually sitting on logs next to shore or swimming quite close to the boardwalk. Most appeared to be hens or juveniles from this summer’s broods.  Female Wood Ducks are easily recognized by the large white patch of feathers behind the eye.

Male Wood Ducks molt out of their brilliant green, black, and brown breeding plumage in mid summer (June-July), but retain their bright red bill and eye, as well as some of the iridescent back feathers and white belly feathers.  During the time they exhibit this “eclipse” plumage, males molt a new set of wing feathers, and then finally begin the body molt back to breeding plumage in the fall just prior to migrating.

wood duck juvenile male

This bird had us confused, but looks like a juvenile male Wood Duck, with its white chin strap and throat coloration the same as the adult male. No red eye or bill coloration means it’s a juvenile though.

wood duck juvenile male

As he swam under the boardwalk, he created some interesting circular ripples in the water.  He is pretty now, but will be a striking when he molts into his full adult plumage.

juvenile pied-billed grebe

There were several juvenile Pied-billed Grebes foraging on the ponds. This one still has a tinge of its nestling plumage –black and white head feathers.

Once Pied-billed Grebes arrive in the spring from their wintering areas in southern South America, they tend to stay put and rarely fly.  They are adept swimmers and divers, snaring crustaceans, aquatic insects, and small fish for their large broods of chicks.  This marsh must have been great habitat for rearing Grebe chicks this year, because there were a lot of juveniles out on the water. Like loon chicks, young grebes ride around on their parents’ backs for the first couple of weeks of life — hanging on even during a dive.

pied-billed grebe adult

Next spring, juvenile birds will develop the silver and black-banding pattern for which the species is named.  

3 thoughts on “tame birds

  1. Wonderful shots, Sue. I especially liked seeing the grebes, a species with which I have little familiarity. (Of course, though, juvenile birds are all really cute, just like human babies.)

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