Bad Hair Days

In May, a pair of Cardinals built a nest in an evergreen tree only feet away from our front door.   It can be quite interesting and entertaining to watch baby birds grow.  Change happens very quickly.    In nature,  songbird chicks must mature very fast before predators are able to locate their nest.

Photographing songbird nestlings is quite tricky.  A long lens is a must and a photographer must always assess whether or not he/she is influencing any behaviors of the birds themselves, in particular the parents.   Chicks this age need to eat continuously or their growth and development will be impeded.   If the presence of the photographer keeps the parents away even for a short time, this can be detrimental to the growth rate and ultimate success of these chicks.  A ladder and a long lens put me in a position to not bother the birds at all.

(Below) These babies have just hatched.  They have  barely dried off.  There were five eggs,  but only three hatched.  All three chicks look quite healthy.


Hours old Cardinal chicks.   The fuzz on their tiny heads reminds me of when I am having a bad hair day…!


(Below) Three days old now and the chicks continue to be all mouth.    They are ravenous eaters and keep both parents very busy.


(Below) The chicks are five days old.   The feathers that will one day carry them on the wind are developing nicely.


Seven days old now and they have really changed…    I did not photograph them again until they were leaving the nest.   I wanted to be absolutely certain that my presence did not in any way send them out of the nest too early.


Here, two of the babies are entering the world outside of their nest for the first time.   As you can see…the bad hair days continue on…!


A brief flight onto the ground and then staying very still is a good strategy for survival.  This chick later flew up into a little bush for a bit and then was out in the wilds of the woods within that same afternoon.    Of the three little babies that originally hatched, only two fledged.  The third was small and weak and the parents abandoned it that afternoon.   He died very shortly thereafter.  This chick below is robust and healthy.


Here is their pretty Dad, bringing a tiny insect larvae to one of the chicks.  It is hard to believe that those gangling, brown fuzz-balls will one day be as pretty as he is…