Tag Archives: baby birds

Common Loons © Peter Christoph

Take 5: Loon-back Rides

Known far and wide for their haunting, eerie calls, Common Loons are true water birds, venturing ashore only to mate and incubate eggs. In monogamous pairs, they raise broods of just 1–2 chicks per year, with a long fledging period of about 12 weeks.

Although loon chicks are capable of diving and swimming within a couple of days of birth, they are easy prey for predators like mink, eagles, snapping turtles, or even other loons. To increase their chances of survival, they often take shelter on their parents’ backs, going for rides around the lake until they are big and strong enough to survive on their own.

Here are five adorable photos from our annual photo contest of loon chicks hitching a “loon-back ride” with one of their parents. The 2020 contest is now open, so submit your beautiful nature photography today!

Common Loons © Peter Christoph
Common Loons © Peter Christoph
Common Loons © Brad Dinerman
Common Loons © Brad Dinerman
Common Loons © Michael Phillips
Common Loons © Michael Phillips
Common Loons © Michael Goodman
Common Loons © Michael Goodman
Common Loons © Michael Goodman
Common Loons © Michael Goodman
Canada Goose Goslings © Matt Filosa

Take 5: Goslings on the Go

It’s springtime, which means the parade of cute, fluffy baby animals is about to really take off! This week, we’ve got five adorable photos of Canada Goose babies, or goslings as they’re properly called.

The Canada Goose (not Canadian Goose!) is the only species of goose that breeds in Massachusetts, although a few others may be spotted passing through outside the breeding season. They don’t typically migrate, either, instead moving to areas where the water isn’t frozen as the temperatures drop in winter.

The female Canada Goose selects the nest site, usually a slightly elevated spot near the water. The nest is a shallow depression made with plant material and lined with down. She lays a total of 4–7 eggs—only one per day—and does not begin to incubate full-time until the clutch is complete. 

The male stands guard and may show aggression if the nest is threatened, so be sure to maintain a respectful distance. The goslings hatch after 25–28 days and are born precocial, meaning that they are able to walk, swim, and feed themselves almost immediately after hatching. The young stay with their parents through the first year of life.

Enjoy these five photos of fuzzy little yellow goslings from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest and remember: geese are perfectly adapted to winters in New England on their own, so please don’t feed the geese!

Let us know in the comments if you’ve spotted any goslings in your neighborhood this spring!

Canada Goose Gosling © Kathy Diamontopoulos
Canada Goose Gosling © Kathy Diamontopoulos
Canada Goose Goslings © Matt Filosa
Canada Goose Goslings © Matt Filosa
Canada Goose Goslings © Riju Kumar
Canada Goose Goslings © Riju Kumar
Canada Goose Goslings © Kathy Hale
Canada Goose Goslings © Kathy Hale
Canada Goose Gosling © Ben Murphy
Canada Goose Gosling © Ben Murphy

What to Do if You Find a Baby Bird

If there’s one question people ask us the most this time of year, it’s some variation of “I found a baby bird—what should I do?”

And we get it. When you come across a helpless-looking baby bird out of its nest, it’s hard to resist the overpowering urge to come to the rescue. But if you really want to do your part, it’s usually best to leave it be. How do you know when to take action and when not to? For that, you need to know the growth stages that many baby birds pass through.

The Stages
This time of year, a baby bird falls into one of three categories:

  • Hatchling. It hasn’t yet opened its eyes, and may have wisps of down on its body. It’s definitely not ready to leave the nest.
  • Nestling. It’s older than a hatchling. Its eyes are open, and its wing feathers may look like tubes because they’ve yet to break through their protective sheaths. Nestlings are also not ready to leave the nest.
  • Fledgling. Young bird that is fully feathered. Its wings and tail may be short, and it may not be a great flyer, but it can walk, hop, or flutter. It has left the nest, though its parents may be nearby.

Helping Hatchlings and Nestlings
If you find a hatchling or a nestling on the ground and you can see its nest, you should try to safely return it. Contrary to popular belief, the parents will not abandon a young bird that smells like people. If there’s no nest, you can make one by fastening a wicker basket to a branch.

It’s never a good idea to bring a baby bird home and try to raise it. In fact, federal law prohibits anyone from having wild birds in their possession. Law aside, a baby bird, cared for by untrained people, once released, most likely won’t survive as well in the wild. It has missed key lessons from its avian family, like how to locate food and avoid predators.

Giving Fledglings Room to Grow
For fledgling encounters, the best course of action is to leave it be. There’s only one exception: if it’s obviously injured.

As awkward as a fledgling bird may look, this is natural stage, and the parents are most likely nearby, hunting for food and keeping watch. If the bird’s in immediate danger, you can put it in a nearby bush or tree.

When in doubt, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Photo via b0jangles/flickr