Some babies make their parents look quite small | WHIDBEY BIRDING

Last week’s full moon pulled me outside around 10. While absorbing the warmish evening and shimmering light across Possession Sound, I heard the hooting of a Great Horned Owl. Interrupting those soft, melodious hoots was the squawking, demanding call of a juvenile owl begging for food.

Last week’s full moon pulled me outside around 10. While absorbing the warmish evening and shimmering light across Possession Sound, I heard the hooting of a Great Horned Owl. Interrupting those soft, melodious hoots was the squawking, demanding call of a juvenile owl begging for food.

Since owls lay eggs as early as January, that pestering owl was likely hatched last February. During the intervening months it has been learning to feed itself. Soon that young owl will have to be self-sufficient. For now it is content to accept a tasty rodent dinner supplied by a parent.

A couple days later I heard similar begging from a juvenile, this time a young Bald Eagle. The full-sized, mottled brown bird sat in a fir tree above the beach at Possession Point State Park calling loudly for its next meal.

Within minutes an adult eagle flew in with a large piece of prey, which it jabbed into the juvenile’s mouth.

On another occasion,

I was aboard the passenger deck of the new Chetzemoka awaiting departure from the Coupeville dock.

I looked out at one of the dolphins, those tall, wooden stacks that guide the ferry into the dock. It held a nest of two gray, juvenile Glaucous-winged Gulls. One juvenile begged persistently for food from an adult standing nearby. The adult stood impassively, as if snoozing in the sunshine.

The young gull, just as large as the adult, assumed a horizontal pose: back level, head forward, with tail and bill straight out. It seemed to say, “I’m so sweet, please feed me.”

All three of these youngsters, the owl, eagle and gull, were as large, if not slightly larger than the adult. They all had more mottled or plain plumage. And they all were still dependent on their parents for food.

Typically we think of baby birds as those fresh, yellow fluff balls that paddle along after mother Mallard. Or featherless baby robins tucked into a nest. These young grow quickly after hatching and within a couple months are feeding independently.

The smallest passerine birds (thrushes, wrens, warblers, swallows and sparrows) mature even more quickly. Once they leave the nest, the young are practically independent.

In some species, the adults jump right back into producing a second batch of babies. An example is the Barn Swallow pair tending their second brood on my back deck.

Larger birds like raptors and gulls tend to have young that take two, three or even four years to mature into adulthood. During that time they change plumage several times, only gradually taking on their adult coloring.

Birders use many terms to describe the stages of transition from hatching to adult. Baby birds still in the nest are called chicks or nestlings.

As the young of larger birds begin to leave the nest and crawl around the nearby branches, we say the birds are “branching.”

Fledglings are any young bird that has recently left the nest. Two and three-year-old eagles and gulls who are nearing the adult plumage are called sub-adults.

Observing adult-juvenile interaction is another joy of birding here on Whidbey. The show goes on most months of the year. It begins in March with the first baby ducks and continues into September and beyond with begging teenagers. Then in October we begin to hear the owls’ mating calls and the breeding cycles begin again.

Frances Wood has launched a new website called “41 Whidbey Places: Our island, our stories.” The site describes special places on Whidbey and the personal stories they hold. Visit 41whidbeyplaces.com to read the growing collection of stories.

More in Life

Congolese Festival is a chance to celebrate, educate

Last event before Northwest Cultural Center relocates

Mucking about for clams

‘Digging for Dinner’ a popular Sound Water activity

Scorch is a play about gender identification showing at Outcast’s black box theater on the Island County fairgrounds June 13-17. It’s a one-person play, performed by Carmen Berkeley. Director and co-producer Ty Molbak went to middle school in Langley was was active in Whidbey Children’s Theater. Both will be seniors at Rutgers University in the fall. One scene in the play “Scorch” portrays the main character looking into mirrors and wondering what others see.
‘Scorch’ looks at first love and ‘gender fraud’

Irish play revolves around one character’s confusion

Whidbey Island Garden Tour highlights five homes

Tickets still available for Saturday event

Jordan Shelley, 18, stands outside his home in Greenbank. He recently received the Sydney S. McIntyre Jr Scholarship from Skagit Valley College to go toward his tuition at the University of Washington. Shelley will pursue his childhood dream of becoming a doctor. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group
SVC grad earns full 2-year scholarship to UW

A lot has changed since Jordan Shelley was 7 years old and… Continue reading

Couple creates Whidbey’s first commercial cidery

Driftwood Hard Cider taps into growing market

‘Slowgirl’ explores the human condition in intimate setting

Even with significant professional credentials, the latest offering from Whidbey’s Outcast Theatre… Continue reading

Homegrown ‘Frijole Friday’

Fundraiser features student crops, cooking

Scott Swenson, a National Park Service carpenter, puts the final pieces in on a ramp on the newly restored Pratt Sheep Barn. The 1930s barn will serve as a classroom one it officially opens in July. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group
Historic sheep barn repurposed

Tucked away on the Pratt Loop Trail, a formerly dilapidated 1930s sheep… Continue reading

‘Art with a Message’

Students worldview a kaleidoscope of visions

Hometown Hero: Lewis Pope

Once every year a South Whidbey senior is chosen by the South… Continue reading

Shhh…it’s a surprise party for old-timer Bill Lanning

Friends, customers invited to celebrate former owner of Bill’s Feed Tack