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The Teenage Years

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The summer months don’t give us the greatest diversity of birds at our feeders but it can be very entertaining none the less. My favorite part of summer feeding is when the adults bring in their young ones.

Someone in my past once said that fledgling birds reminded them of poorly dressed teenagers (kind of ragged or out of sorts). I connected with that analogy and have used it ever since. Aside from being a cute way of looking at young birds, there is a lot of reality in it.

When you consider how quickly birds grow, they make “dog years” seem slow. Fourteen days from hatching to taking their first flight is about average for most of our songbirds. Throw in that they are about the same size as the adults within just a couple of weeks and your talking about an incredible growth rate. This means that when you see these “fuzzy” looking, open-mouthed, birds shadowing their parents at your feeders, they are pretty much “teenagers” in bird years.

I love watching bluebirds bring their young into a mealworm feeder. Even when the young are perfectly capable of picking up the mealworm themselves, they sit there and beg and beg and beg. Eventually they get the picture and get off the couch for their own bag of potato chips (oops, I mean mealworms).

Have you had the chance to watch these “teenagers” fly very much? The tail feathers are among the last to develop for young birds and that’s their rudder. No tail, no steering. Many times I have seen these young whipper snappers come crashing into a bush just hoping a branch will jump out there for them to land on (no parallel parking at this age).

The teenage years can be a tough time for everyone. The name of the game is survival. Don’t worry about the shaggy hair, learn to eat the right foods and, for goodness sakes, be careful behind the “wheel” and we can all survive the “teenage” period.

By Mark McKellar