We are now seeing fledgling waterfowl in the ponds, sloughs and lakes of the Long Beach Peninsula. Canada geese are parading their young families for all to see. The newly hatched, fluffy, yellow goslings follow their mother, but Dad is never far behind. As they blossom into teenagers they begin to look more like their parents.
Canada goose parents keep their young near water so that their goslings have adequate food and can make use of the water if a predator comes near. By late summer after the adults have molted and the young are able to fly, the family will move to a more productive feeding area.
I am also seeing this behavior here in Calgary in my neighborhood green space. The Canada geese parents are busy with four goslings. They live in the water runoff ponds in a nearby ravine. The babies always seem to be racing around close to the reeds and the bulrushes as they search for goodies to eat. Occasionally, the family climbs up the bank onto the grassy path at the edge of the pond to feed and rest. I see them walking the babies along the path too, but the minute anyone comes near, either human or otherwise, they high tail it for the safety of the pond. The real world is not as safe or comfortable as the nest.
Grasses and sedges, including skunk cabbage leaves and eelgrass, are the favorite foods for our Peninsula families at this time of year. When fall arrives and winter dawns, the geese will switch to eating seeds and berries.
Another species that is out and about now with babies in tow is the mallard. Most of the families I am seeing in the ravine are very large. Their clutch can be anywhere from one to thirteen eggs. Mallard fledglings are almost ready to go out into the real world when they hatch. According to scientists, they only enjoy the comfort of the nest for about 13 to 16 hours.
Just imagine the work it must take to look after a full complement of young, and keep them safe from predators! It must be exhausting to look after 13 very active young. These dabbling youngsters race all over the water tipping up or dabbling as it is called to grab delicious morsels for their meals from the below the surface of the water. In addition, they swim into the reeds seemingly to vanish from sight! If you listen and look carefully, momma will quack every once in a while, giving a signal to her young to come running or should I say to come swimming. Many of these hard-working mommas will have two broods during the breeding season. Aren’t you glad that you aren’t a mallard momma?
It won’t be long before we will see young American robins with their speckled breasts parading around our lawns and parks searching for their favorite delicacies or bathing in bird baths. Black-capped and chestnut-backed chickadees will often bring their young family to the bird bath. This happened last summer. I couldn’t help but think that the parents were showing off their young to us, as we sat on the deck cameras in hand taking photos of the chickadees frolicking in the bird bath.
Bird’s nests are usually very comfortable for the babies. Generally, they are lined with materials like soft hair, down, feathers or grasses. The nest, as such, seems like a far better place to be in than out in the real world! If I were a bird, I would stay in the nest forever! Wouldn’t you?
”Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula,” by Kalbach and Stauffer, is available from the Chinook Observer, Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau.