Beyond the BackyardLake Apopka

Baby Pied-billed Grebes! at Lake Apopka

I’ve wanted to see baby Pied-billed Grebes for years.  A friend posted some from Viera Wetlands about five years ago and I thought they were the cutest little babies ever.  Then I looked for them at Lake Apopka last year but couldn’t find them.  Well, I found some this year!  At their nest!  Such cuteness!

I first spotted this little family as they were returning to their nest mound.  Both babies promptly hopped under Mom’s wing.  Dad, however, had one more morsel to give out before letting the babies take their nap.  You can see one of the babies stick his little head out to finish his breakfast.

Pied-billed Grebe Babies at Nest with Both Parents
Pied-billed Grebe Babies at Nest with Both Parents

The next few minutes were kind of boring.  Dad went off by himself, leaving the babies to nap under Mom.  Mom sat there quietly while her feathers trembled periodically.  Baby bird naps always seem to last too long.  But then the older/stronger of the two chicks decided that he was tired of sleeping…

Pied-billed Grebe Mom and Baby
Pied-billed Grebe Mom and Baby

Look at his colors!  The dark stripes and orange accents are what made me want to see the babies so badly.  It’s amazing how different the babies are from their parents.  Whoever would have thought that bright orange spots are part of nature’s camouflage?

Pied-billed Grebe Babies on Mom's Back
Pied-billed Grebe Babies on Mom’s Back

Naptime over!  The second baby popped his head out through Mom’s wing.  How cool!  I love watching baby birds on the nest.  This nest was kind of far out, and I was parked behind some vegetation, so the birds didn’t notice me at all.  That’s the great thing about a Beast and a 2x teleconverter – you can join in on moments like these without bothering your subjects. :)

Pied-billed Grebe Babies
Baby Pied-billed Grebe eating…a feather?

You could tell that one baby was a little stronger than the second.  He stayed out longer, he begged for more attention, and he was more active.  Baby #2 settled back in under Mom while the older one wiggled over to the other side of the nest mound.  If you look carefully at the shot above, Mom was actually giving him a small feather to eat. Or play with.  I couldn’t quite tell which.

Mom, what big feet I have!
Mom, what big feet I have!

These babies have big feet! and they like to stretch them.  In the shot above, the right-most baby seems to be saying to Mom, “Look at what big feet I have!”

Pied-billed Grebe Mother Leaving the Nest
Pied-billed Grebe Mother Leaving the Nest

Mom has big feet, too, and she showed them to me as she left the nest to swim for a minute.  This was fine with me – it let me get a really good look at the babies!

Pied-billed Grebe Babies on Nest
Pied-billed Grebe Babies on Nest

The babies didn’t mind being left alone.  The smaller one stretched his legs while the older one practiced some wing flaps.  It surprised me to see how much they lie on their tummies on the nest.  Their feet go behind them, not under them.  These birds are truly designed for underwater diving, not being on land.

Pied-billed Grebe Mother and Baby Preening Together
Pied-billed Grebe Mother and Baby Preening Together

Mom returned to the nest after a few minutes.  She proceeded to preen her feathers while her oldest offspring stretched his feet and tried to help.  Mom was so patient.  She didn’t seem to mind being poked and prodded.

Pied-billed Grebe Baby Yawn
Pied-billed Grebe Baby Yawn

The older baby was ready for a nap.  Look at that yawn!  But Mom had other plans.  She decided it was time to take the babies for a swim. She stepped into the water again, then urged them to follow her.  It didn’t take long for them to go beyond the range of my camera.  But they did stop to wave goodbye… :)

Pied-billed Grebe Mom and Babies Out for a Swim
Pied-billed Grebe Mom and Babies Out for a Swim

I had a huge grin on my face for the rest of the day.  It was so special to spend a few minutes with this family.  If you want to see more (and I know you do!), check out this little video.

7 thoughts on “Baby Pied-billed Grebes! at Lake Apopka

  1. Great images Jess!! I found a second nest there today but didn’t see any chicks. I’m pretty sure mom was on eggs. Maybe we’ll get another chance for some youngsters.

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