Naturalist’s Notebook: Baby Pictures | Tennessee Aquarium

Everyone loves baby pictures. Lately I’ve been taking a lot of baby pictures because it seems I’m surrounded by lots of babies: baby birds.

It all started with a nest on my front porch. My wife Candy first noticed it on April 1st. When she told me there was a bunch of leaves and stuff packed into an antique Pepsi six-pack carrier, at first I thought it was some sort of April Fool’s joke.

I checked and sure enough, Carolina Wrens had built a nest there. You probably read about them in a Naturalist’s Notebook blog a couple of weeks back. I finished that story with two youngsters still rocketing around our screened-in porch, while one had found its way outside.

Another baby wren had found the way out and that left one little wren still on the porch. When it flew up and perched on the porch door, I opened the door, and it flew outside to freedom.

I was able to get one last baby picture when it perched nearby. It was a pretty little thing, with a cute stubby tail!

I also wrote about an Eastern Phoebe (pronounced FEE-BEE) nest on a floodlight under my house eaves. It is less than 20 feet from my front door, and it was built around the same time as the wren nest.

One of the great things about a daily nature journal is that you can make notes as you watch baby animals grow. As a young scientist, good observation skills are a very important thing to practice.

I have been going out every day or two and taking photos of the Phoebe nest. Cell phones make this easy. If you find a nest, please don’t bother the parents and chicks too much. One or two photos each day would not keep parents away from their babies for long periods of time.

The same morning we said goodbye to our last baby wren, I noticed a little bump showing over the rim of the Phoebe nest. I took a photo, and you can barely make out some fuzzy baby heads.

The next day was April 20. In the photo from that day you can count three young Phoebes, but they are still small enough to be mostly hidden.

Eastern Phoebes are flycatchers, and they are good at catching insects on the wing. Mom and dad were very busy at this point. They would fly up with an insect in their beak, quickly land at the nest, stuff a bug down the throat of a baby, and fly away. They were so fast. It was almost impossible to get a photo, but I included an out-of-focus shot of an adult at the nest taken on April 25th.

By April 27th the chicks were getting much larger, and they were looking very crowded! The photo clearly shows three chicks, with one pointing its beak straight up. Their feathers were growing in, and they were getting closer to leaving the nest.

I checked my garden that evening to see if collard seeds had sprouted, and I met another baby. A young American Robin had fluttered down into my garden. I had noticed the parents were staying close to the garden earlier in the day. Now I knew why. Their chicks had left the nest, and the adults were still watching and feeding this little guy. I took a few quick photos of the young Robin and left the garden, so the parents could continue watching over it.

If you should discover a baby bird in your yard, here is what to do: LEAVE IT ALONE. Don’t try to put it back in the nest. Don’t move it some other place. Don’t take it in your house or to a wildlife rehabilitator. And most of all, don’t worry. The parents are close by, and they will make sure the little birds continue getting food.

Be on the lookout around your house. There are babies everywhere right now.

Mr. Bill

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