25 Jul Brimming over with Fledglings
The rookery is over-flowing with wading bird fledglings! Fledglings are young birds leaving the nest after acquiring the feathers necessary for flight or independent activity. They are gawky-looking teenagers with spiky feathers, gangly legs, and ungraceful moves. Wading birds are semi-altricial (mostly helpless) at hatch, but within about six weeks most fledglings are exploring other regions of the rookery, though still dependent on their parents to return with food. Snowy egrets fledge the quickest at around four weeks of age. An endangered Wood stork chick fledges at nine weeks, then lingers on for three to four more weeks expecting food from the adults.
This year’s fledglings will go through their first molt at six months, then will remain juveniles until they reach sexual maturity during their third year of life. If they can make it through the first year, which holds the highest rate of mortality, then a wading bird can live an average of ten years. On rare occasions, one can survive for almost twenty years.