Under my wings...

     When I open the back door and search the marsh for signs of birds, the phrase “hotter than a firecracker on the fourth of July” comes to mind. The humid and hot blast of air tells me summer in the South is here to stay. This time of year there is not much activity on the Broward  so I do Bird Stewarding at Huguenot Beach. If you compare Chicago’s high crime statistics to that which I observed at the beach among the Royal Tern community, I would say they are close. The Laughing Gulls have turned their attention from raising chicks to robbing the Royals instead.

     Royal Tern life is fascinating to observe. I have never seen such parental dedication and collaboration among adults to give their downy chicks every chance available to survive. The parents take care to try and guard not only their chicks, but also those of other Royals from attack by predators. These communal groups of adults and chicks are termed a “crèche” (British term meaning “a nursery where babies and young children are cared for during the working day). Conversely, one can observe the Laughing Gulls behavior. After their chicks are half grown they are ignored and left to fend for themselves for the most part. The adults and juveniles then spend most of their efforts trying to rob the Royal Terns when they bring in food from the sea or steal it from the mouths of the downy chicks. It is not uncommon for one Royal Tern with a fish or squid in its mouth, to be seen followed by three or four Laughing Gulls all trying to steal the food. They are very adept at thievery. The Royals often shelter the chicks under their wings to keep the predators at bay. Although the Royal Tern parents take every precaution and fiercely fend off the predators, they are sometimes just overwhelmed by the sheer number of attacks from the thieving gulls.

     I wonder if the Laughing Gulls learned this behavior from watching man or vice versa? Why work for a meal when your neighbor is easy pickings. We are told “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy”. Hmm.., now I now why man invented the gun. (But that is another “hot topic” I am sure we will hear a lot about over the next few months.) In the meantime I will just take cover under the wings of my Maker, just like the birds. Blessings...Harry

"Well, we hatched our young ones..time for some easy pickings on those Royals over there!" Laughing Gulls prepare to steal food from the Royal Terns..

Thanks for the shrimp dinner there sucker!

Royal Tern with downy chick await another meal...

The loyal Royal Tern gets another fish for its chick..

How is that one for size? Royal Tern chick swallows it whole.

That was a good start but I want more! Get me more fish!

Got another one..now where is junior? 

Ops..wrong chick..sorry kid....Royal Terns will only feed their own chicks..

Feed me! I'm hungry...Royal Chick cries for food...more like demands it.

Here I come with more breakfast..Royal Tern winging in the food..

The fish head is a bit too large for junior to swallow!

You almost got it kid..swallow it. The gulls might attack!

It is just too big for junior and he spits it out..his cousin says "Hey let me try"...The parent intervenes.."No..stay away from my kids food!"

The Laughing Gulls take this opportunity to attack and steal the fish from the mouths of the Royal Chicks..

The Royal Tern laughs it off...I will just get junior another one..remember..he who laughs last, laughs best..

Calamari anyone? 

How about some fresh Mayport shrimp too? 

Royal Tern chick profile...it knows the parent will soon return with more..

This Royal Chick though seems to have an "attitude" though..after all, it is hot down here on the beach..

I call this one "Princess Charlotte", the Royal Tern Downy Chick

Hey, I'm over here...and hungry!

Hey, I'm over here...and hungry!

The parent Royal Tern returns with another meal..

Don't worry my child...Got you under my wings...

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