We Have Chicks!!

One week ago I visited my favourite Great Blue Heron nest fully expecting to see little chicks just a couple of days old. That day started out bright and sunny but by the time I visited heavy clouds loomed over a nest still waiting for little birds to scratch their way out of their pretty blue shells. While there were other nests with chicks by now, the whole wetland seemed to be generally in waiting. A good day just to wander and enjoy the cool breeze…and I never did mind clouds with a little mood!  But, today was sunny and bright through and through and everything hoped for last weekend came to pass. The chicks cannot be more than one week old but are likely close to that. You can see already they have distinct bills with the darker top and yellow lower similar  to the adults. The yellow eyes mimic their parents as well and even the colors though soft show the more rust coloration of the neck and blue/grays for the back feathers. Already tiny little quills are present like little tubules from which feathers will emerge.  The nest clearly had two chicks but there was a third you could see if you watched closely. Even a week old, it is clear which is the dominant chick. Generally, first hatched is first fed, and henceforth strongest with best access to parents arriving with a fresh meal. Previous posts will show that not all will survive either by direct attack by siblings or simply will starve due to the dominance of stronger nest mates.  I hope you enjoy these views of barely week old Great Blue Heron chicks!! It will get easier to photograph them as these little guys disappear readily inside the walls woven so digently by their parents.

Week Old GBH Chick_3456-s

Portrait of a Week Old Great Blue Heron in its nest. It is not alone though; its parent is hovering nearby with its legs blending with the branches on the right.

Great Blue Heron Parent and Chicks_3463-s

Great Blue Heron is in the process of feeding its week old chicks with fish already in its gullet being partially digested.

GBH with Chick_3458-s

Fish Meal for Chick_3459-s

Even at a week old, the chick seems quite able to manage quite a big bite. The parents do partially digest the food but seem to produce large sections still for the chicks to work on.

Dominant Chick_3467-s

Definitely the Dominant Nestling! And he already knows it!!

A Good Scratch - Chick looks on_3496-s

Mom or Dad enjoys a good scratch while the kids look on! You will not see nestlings alone in the nest until they are older. Great Blue Heron chicks can fledge at around 2 months though they will generally stay close to the nest for at least three months.

GBH with Egg Shell_3505-s

At first I did not notice the broken birds egg shell. But once I did I could not stop seeing it and wondering about the discarded remnant which so recently housed one of those baby birds!!

Enjoy the endless wonder of renewal demonstrated by the continuing nesting cycles of the Great Blue Heron!


~ by Judy on January 27, 2013.

16 Responses to “We Have Chicks!!”

  1. Lovely story on the new chicks and the relationships between siblings, and with parents.

  2. Great job, Judy! GBH nests are usually pretty deep in the wetlands, so most people don’t get to see mom and pop and the kids like this. Your photos open up a window into nature for us. Keep up the good work!

    • I do thank you for such a nice comment!! I know you are such an enthusiast about bird photography. If you have not visited the rookery at Wakodahatchee, please do go and visit. Arrive at 4pm and stay through sunset and you will be able to capture lovely images of the nesting birds. Now through April is wonderful!

      • I suspected that shot was from Wakodahatchee – and I think I even know the GB Heron family in question. I go there from time to time – people watching, ya know. As in elbow to elbow during the weekends. I’m all in favor of that! Not only is Wakodahatchee a welcome oasis and safe zone for the critters; it is also a marvelous “school” to introduce people to the wonders of Florida’s ecology.

      • I agree completely! It is one of the few places that inspired me to write a more lengthy post!! In case you are interested it is HERE!
        I do feel experience is the best educator and that it is hard to care about things you’ve not experienced. Maybe we will run into each other there some time as I want to watch these babes grow up.

      • One of the things I really like at Wako is the ad-hoc classroom atmosphere. Knots of people gather around a person dressed up like a Nat’l Geographic photographer, and pepper him/her with questions about What he/she is looking at. And the photog answers with detail and enthusiasm. Heck, sometimes people even ask ME questions (although they usually ask me if my nurse / parole officer / social worker knows where I am). Best of all, you run into families where the child is explaining to the parents about what they are seeing. Priceless!
        Of course, I prefer to visit my favorite birds out in the wild; but even I have to go to a place like Wako to get an up close view of a GBH nest. In the wild, they *never* build a nest in an accessible location. At Wako, you can look at the GBH nest – and then look a few feet away and see the Anhinga fledgelings! And the Cormorant nest at the top of the tree! Etc.

  3. Reading the discussion here, it’s clear that I have to get over to Lake Martin to see the nesting egrets and spoonbills. It’s so hard to pull away, but if I work really, really hard I may be able to open up some time.

    These photos are priceless. I love seeing the parents in such an unusual way. Most of the time, they simply are standing around – the interaction with the chicks is wonderful.

    A friend and I were talking about a mutual friend who lost her pet dog recently. She pointed out that, in the wild, animals which are injured, ill or aged simply die. People who refuse to allow pets to go aren’t doing them any favors. It’s the same thing here. It’s sad to think of nestlings that don’t make it, but as I often say of the mallard babies, if their mortality rate wasn’t around 50 or 60 per cent, we’d be up to our hips in ducks, and things really would be out of balance. Nature knows what she’s doing – and sometimes we just need to butt out!

    • It might be worth your while to go and see how closely you can observe the nesting activity. The time between mating, nest building, and raising the nestlings is probably the most intense time of activity with birds, especially the large ones. Like the food getting, everything is magnified in urgency. Plus, the adults have the lovely mating color and plumage. Just a beautiful time to watch them.

      I agree too on nature being allowed to take its own course. There is a big difference between unnatural intervention and natural processes.

  4. WOW!! You got some amazing close-ups of these guys!!

    I visited one day last week, and was thrilled to see little tufts popping out of two nests. Alas, my images cannot compare to your beautiful details! So wonderful.

    Go babies! Go underdogs!

    • It will get easier as they grow and are more visible standing up on the nest. The trick is to watch for feeding activity when even the little guys are stretching for all they are worth to get fed and so move up a bit. And when they do keep focusing right on the face of the bird as there might not be too much time for composition as they move a lot and curl back up out of sight. Keep the shutter speed as high as the light will let you and go to 400 ISO if you have to. An open f stop helps with the sharpness of just the chick with a blurred background if you nail the focus inspite the movement. Easier on a bright day too. You probably do this already but that is what I do.

  5. these are INCREDIBLE and made me smile like a doting grandmother! last year i had a friend’s kayak and cold paddle to the rookeries at high ebb. this year i’m without and am sorely missing the immersion in that section of the river…. we have ibis, frigates, snowy egrets, cattle egrets, great egrets.. it’s absolutely amazing.. in another area are cormorants, frigates and pelicans… in the mangroves closest to the house are yellow-crowned night herons. today i watched a vulture swoop round and round/down and down trying to dive bomb the nests of the yellow-crowned herons… he was unsuccessful, thank goodness!

    thank you so much for pointing me here.. i have been painting and traveling and it’s raining a lot, so i am way behind on reading posts. thank you thank you thiank you, i love this post!!!


    • My pleasure to show them off. I look forward to watching them grow up and fly off on there own. Then in three years or so maybe they will nest in the same area! Currenlty we have the Great Blue Herons, Cormorants, Anhingas and White Egrets too nesting. Generally the Great blue babies are pretty big by the time the Louisiana Herons , Cattle Egrets, and Green Herons are at it!! Seems to be a stepped pattern to the various species.

  6. […] I was following earlier in the season had fared with the pair’s second clutch. See previous posts here and here about the loss of the first chicks when they were about a week […]

  7. Your photos are simply to die for… thank you!

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