Baby Birds of Summer
Many species of birds have finished breeding and are starting south again. But some chicks are just hatching or are very young now. If you are talking a walk in the woods, now is a good time to be looking for baby turkeys, known as polts. Depending on where you are, wild baby turkeys are seen starting in late June, but can be found into August. Wild turkey families travel together and family groups are not difficult to see this time of year. Sitting quietly is a great way to watch these birds as they forage for food on the forest floor — and they are a lot of fun to watch! Noisy too!
Apart from some Robins who might be nesting again this season, baby songbirds for the most part are either fledged, or finishing several days on the ground being fed by their parents before they start flying. But American goldfinches are nesting now as the arrival of their chicks is timed to coincide with when thistle seeds become available. They nest very late in the summer season, and in early August, the north woods are filled with the sight of goldfinches on thistles eating the seeds.
At the beach, American Oystercatcher chicks are getting bigger and Skimmers are hatching. These birds have the same color feathers (black and white) and beaks (orange) and often share the same nesting areas, but are very different. (see our identification story below for how to tell them apart). Black skimmer chicks can be difficult to see until they are a couple of weeks old as they tend to lie on the sand which is the same color as their feathers. Oystercatcher chicks are feeding at the tideline with their parents now and are easy to see.
But the most unusual summer babies are Wood ducks. These tree nesting ducks, when they are ready to leave the nest, jump out one at a time and fall to the ground — sometimes 10 feet or so! Some are fortunate to have a nest over the water so they fall right in and start swimming. But the unlucky chicks whose nest is a distance from the water fall onto the forest floor and have to walk to the water.
Summer bird babies come in all species, shapes and sizes. What summer chicks are seen where you are? Whatever baby birds are around you, approach them with caution and keep a distance. Be quiet so the parents or the chicks don’t feel stressed from your presence. If the parents start making noise or hide the babies, that’s a signal for you to leave. Maybe step back a bit and use the binos. Just be respectful so the birds can feel comfortable to get on with the business of feeding and raising their chicks, and you can have more families to watch next year.