For the Birds: Watching the babies grow

Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several New England newspapers.

Photo by Chris Bosak An adult male downy woodpecker, left, feeds an immature male downy woodpecker near a birdfeeder in New England, summer 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An adult male downy woodpecker, left, feeds an immature male downy woodpecker near a birdfeeder in New England, summer 2018.

They grow up so fast.

I was working at my computer at home, tending to the order of the day, when a flash of brown darted across the window and caught my attention. I followed the bird as it made its way through the thick cluster of branches in the front yard. It settled on a branch near the base of one of the many dying hemlocks.

It was a female rose-breasted grosbeak. Good sighting, I thought, especially considering the suddenness of the whole thing. It got better, though.

A few seconds later another flash — this one black, white and red — burst upon the scene. The male rose-breasted grosbeak flew from branch to branch and finally settled a few inches away from the first bird. The original bird tilted back its head, opened its beak and fluttered its wings. The male, who had been collecting worms from the various branches it had previously landed on, fed the youngster and went about looking for more food.

That scene made me question my original thought of it being a female rose-breasted grosbeak. Clearly, it was a youngster and born only a few weeks prior. From the distance and angle, I couldn’t tell if it was a male or female youngster Continue reading

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