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Zanna's Nature Notes: Baby birds

Discover the amazing natural world around you with Usborne author Zanna Davidson. This week is all about wrens (or nearly all about, as you’ll see). 

I’ve always loved wrens. They’re tiny, only weighing as much as a £1 coin (or less than a half dollar).

But for all their smallness, wrens are the jauntiest of birds, hopping about with their little round bodies and sticky-uppy tails. And they can belt out a rattling song. 

And then, three weeks ago, to my huge excitement, I found a wren’s nest in the garden. 

Here it is, under the decking:

The wren nest

Male wrens make their nests out of leaves, grass and moss. You can see the moss really clearly here. Male wrens actually make quite a few nests and the female chooses the one she likes best. Then she lines the nest with feathers.

The female wren probably laid her eggs at the end of April, but we didn’t know the nest was there until we began to hear a CHEEP! CHEEP! CHEEP! By then, her babies had hatched and were calling noisily for food.

After that, we watched and waited and saw the parent wrens, tirelessly flying in and out of the nest, bringing their babies insects and spiders in their long thin bills.

Here are mummy and daddy wren, each with a nice green caterpillar in their beaks. (I can’t tell which is which, as they’re very tricky to tell apart. Males are slightly bigger, but only slightly).

Wren

Wren

For the next two weeks, I kept going into the garden, to check the babies were still cheeping, and that the parents were still visiting. And then, two days ago, it finally happened… the babies left the nest. This is known as fledging.

Out they flew, three little warm-brown fluffy balls of life… only I never saw it happen! Baby birds usually fledge in the early morning, with lots of encouragement from their parents, as they’re very reluctant to leave the safety of the nest.

Now the fledgelings are hiding in the garden hedge. The parents are still feeding them, as they learn to fly properly and fend for themselves. But they’re so small, and so deep in the hedge, I can’t photograph them.

So no baby wren pictures! But when I told my neighbour the story of my wrens, and how sad I was that we didn’t manage to photograph them, she told me that in her garden she has a family of baby blue tits, who fledged last week, and she did catch them on camera. And very kindly, she sent me her photos so we could all feast our eyes on some fluffy baby birds. Here they are, brilliantly camouflaged among the leaves:

Baby blue tits
You can see how well these fledgelings are camouflaged against the green leaves

Even better, she got them on video. Aren’t they sweet!

Spotting baby birds

June is the month for seeing baby birds fledge. Can you spot one? Here are some tips:

  • Baby birds are about the same size as their parents, but their feathers are much fluffier and scruffier.
  • You might find baby birds on the ground or in low hedges, chirping noisily, still demanding food from their parents. Listen out for their cheeping!

There are just a few important rules to remember:

  • If you see a baby bird on the ground DO NOT TOUCH IT! It might look like it’s in trouble, but the parent bird is probably close by.
  • Watch from a safe distance so you don’t disturb the parents or babies, or distress them by getting too close.
  • Enjoy yourself. Seeing a baby bird is MAGICAL.

Photos by Peter Bradley and Helen Bennett

About Zanna Davidson

Zanna Davidson

My name is Zanna Davidson and I write children’s books for Usborne, including the Billy and the Mini Monsters series. When I’m not writing, my favourite thing is to go outside and be in nature. Sometimes that means birdwatching, sometimes that means looking at wild flowers and other times it just means sitting under a tree and not thinking about anything at all. 

I’m very lucky to live in the Surrey Hills, an area that is protected because it’s full of amazing nature - from smooth snakes and natterjack toads to rare birds and butterflies. 

But to find nature, you don’t need to live in the countryside. It’s everywhere! In a back garden or a front yard, in parks or creeping up through pavement cracks, and in the skies above you. Look down! Look up! Stop a while and peer closer, and closer still, and nature will come to you.

Tags: Zanna's nature notes


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