If we go by the saying “the early bird catches the worm”, these chicks must have gotten up at the crack of dawn, as they’re catching big juicy worms – as well as insects – in their hungry little beaks. However, they’re not getting these snacks from the ground, of course, but courtesy of their dedicated and ever-busy parents. So, in actual fact it’s mom and dad that are the real early birds – no doubt driven by the chirping of the many hungry mouths they have to feed!
As we can see from this first image, the mother garden warbler (Sylvia borin) has five hungry mouths demanding attention – and food – and what big mouths too! Somehow, each gaping red mouth seems to be almost as big as the rest of the baby bird.
This mother robin has a tasty treat for her chick. Only one, we wonder? Maybe the others aren’t awake yet or have fallen out of the nest, as unfortunately is occasionally known to happen.
What an aww-inspiring capture! Both parent robins are with their young – the mother providing a bit of bodily warmth while the father offers the three chicks the treat of a big, slimy earthworm. Family bliss! Well, it’s a moment’s rest for mom and dad, at least.
Feeding constantly hungry chicks is clearly a difficult job, but what comes to the aid of parents birds is the fact that around 95% of all birds are socially monogamous, meaning they’ll stick with the same partner at least for the breeding season – and possibly longer. Thus, the burden of caring for the young – of which feeding takes up a large chunk of the work – is shared more or less equally between the parents.
This mother grey fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa) has found what looks like a big, juicy fly to feed one of the mouths of her hydra-headed brood. Notice how the little bird furthest from the food has its little beak closed: looks like it’s out of the running for getting a bite to eat.
If you’re wondering which birds require the most feeding and parental care, the answer is the young of the great frigatebird. The chicks need six months to fledge and are then brought food by their parents for a further 14 months. That’s a long time to be dependent for a bird!
This eager mother bird has found a particularly juicy insect for her two ravenous young ones. Wait – there may even be a third little head in that expertly crafted nest. A mother’s work is never done!
In this next case, the fastest bird seems to have gotten the worm. It’s a long morsel, though, so maybe each of these three adorable fluffy chicks will get a bite. In any case, it’s back to scouting for more food for the parents. It’s a tough task – with no thanks, we suspect!
The next image is not only a beautiful capture of an olive-backed sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) approaching its amazing nest to feed its young but also proof of what flying aces parent birds have to be. Human parents can find it tough enough getting a spoonful of food into the mouths of their constantly moving babies, so imaging doing this while in flight!
“Give me my food now!” this demanding eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) chick seems to be saying to the mother bird, which has managed to dig up a nice, juicy worm.
Looking at these images of birds dutifully stuffing food into the beaks of their young ones, one can’t help but feel for the parents, which have got to be constantly on the wing.
Here, we have a parent bird balancing on a branch while feeding three hungry mouths. We just love the composition of the image, with the nest perfectly placed in the fork of the tree and foliage draped almost decoratively around. Monet couldn’t have painted this any better!
These baby barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) don’t just look hungry but positively angry, too! Maybe the food took too long to arrive! In any case, the chicks are leaning forward so much to get their goodies that they almost seem to be falling out of the nest. Watch out there, mom or dad!
Speaking of tender parental attention, this mother Caribbean flamingo ( Phoenicopterus ruber ) is taking special care to make sure the bite she’s got lands safely in her fluffy chick’s mouth. Aww – nothing like a bit of spoon-feeding!
It does look as though feeding is a tad easier when bigger beaks are involved. Somehow it just seems to make sense that the bigger the target, the easier it should be to feed. But we could be wrong. A parent bird like this mother great blue heron (Ardea herodias) is probably better placed to clear up the question than most!
This photograph of a mother streak-breasted scimitar-babbler (Pomatorhinus ruficollis) feeding its young in flight is a true action shot! The photo was taken just a split second too early to capture the food changing beaks, but then we might have missed the sight of the chick’s wide-open mouth.
Our favorite shot of the lot! Look how eager this parent tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) is to feed its young! Or overeager, we should say, as its head has literally disappeared into the chick’s mouth!
Not yet ready to leave this amazing topic, we’ve got a bonus pic. This tiny parent reed warbler (Acrocephalus) is feeding a humongous baby that has outgrown its nest. Except it’s not its real offspring, of course, but a common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) chick, whose mother laid its egg in the warbler’s nest so that the young bird could be fed at the expense of the unsuspecting warbler’s own chicks. This behavior is called brood parasitism and is not uncommon among birds.