Bird Family Vignettes from Lake Apopka

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I headed to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive in late May with the hopes of finding some Black-necked Stilt babies. The wildlife drive is full of life at this time of the year, and I found not just the stilts, but several special families! Come meet them with me…

Black-necked Stilt Family #1

This Black-necked Stilt family nested very close to the road. Take a look at the first photo and count birds – how many do you see?

Black-necked Stilt Family
Black-necked Stilt Family

When I asked Rich to count babies, he first said “Two!” Then, “Three!”

I sat there grinning at him as he searched. Finally he spotted the extra pair of legs under Mom.

The little mound behind her is the nest. Mom and Dad kept a careful eye on the people as their four little adventurers wandered around unconcerned.

Baby Black-necked Stilt
Baby Black-necked Stilt
Baby Black-necked Stilt
Baby Black-necked Stilt
Baby Black-necked Stilts
Baby Black-necked Stilts – look at that wing stretch!

Least Bittern Family

Further down the drive, I spotted a Least Bittern flying near the edge of the reeds. I focused in and saw not one, but two Least Bitterns. It was an adult attempting to leave and a juvenile who flapped his wings as he begged for food from his parent. After Dad escaped, the juvenile bird was left alone to yawn. Then he was bored, and still hungry, so he decided to go fishing himself. It turned out that he was fully capable of feeding himself! :)

Least Bittern Parent and Chick
Least Bittern Parent and Chick
Juvenile Least Bittern Sticking his Tongue Out
Juvenile Least Bittern Sticking his Tongue Out
Juvenile Least Bittern Fishing
Juvenile Least Bittern Fishing

Black-necked Stilt Family #2

This next family has stopped traffic on recent weekends because the adults kept bringing the babies up on the drive. I was glad to see them further out in the fields. The two parents were super-vigilant, chasing off every moorhen and other bird that wandered near the babies. The babies were pretty autonomous, just roaming around in the vegetation that was taller than them.

Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt Parent – Do you see the baby in the background? They blend in!
Black-necked Stilt Chick
Black-necked Stilt Chick

A little further down the road, I checked another nest that I had seen on a previous visit. The nest was gone. The stilts nest at the edge of the water, and if the water level rises, the eggs get submerged. I wonder if that’s what happened here. Nearby I saw two pairs of Black-necked Stilts that each appeared to starting a new nest. Looks like we might have a second batch of cuteness planned this summer!

Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt Nest Under Construction

Other Birds

The stilts and bitterns were the primary stars of this particular visit, but they weren’t the only fun birds on the drive. All over the trails, tiny Common Gallinule babies were being fed. Even though they are common birds, I never get tired of photographing the little “aliens!”

Common Gallinule Feeding Chick
Common Gallinule Feeding Chick

I spotted a Green Heron with bright red legs. I’m not sure I’ve seen one in full breeding plumage before. I begged the bird to come closer, but he got distracted by another Green Heron. They headed off into the reeds. Maybe I’ll see him with his children later in the summer!

Green Heron in Breeding Colors (Red Legs!)
Green Heron in Breeding Colors (Red Legs!)

All over the trails, the male Red-Winged Blackbirds sit high in the bushes, standing guard over their nests below. Now the little babies are starting to emerge from those nests. I found this juvenile hopping from branch to branch as he waited for his dad to bring him breakfast. The little baby couldn’t believe it when I told him he’d grow up to look just like his dad! ;-)

Red-winged Blackbird Baby
Red-winged Blackbird Baby

Want to learn more about nature photography at Lake Apopka?

Check out my Lake Apopka page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!

Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!

4 thoughts on “Bird Family Vignettes from Lake Apopka

  1. What a wonderful post! As spring migration wanes, it’s satisfying to find all our resident birds busy with courtship and nest building. Not to mention seeing all those adorable youngsters!

    Thank you for sharing these special images, Jess!

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