Forget about Dr. Spock and other parenting guides…. to see real attentive parenting in action, sit by the side of a lake and watch the loons with their chicks!
Loon parents are hyper-focused on raising their young during the first eleven or so weeks of life. The chicks take to water almost immediately upon hatching, unlike eagles and osprey who say in the nests until they can fly. Loons are swimmers, and the babies start swimming immediately.
To keep the chicks warm, and to give them a rest, the parent loons give them a ride… for a few weeks in summer, the sight of a pair of mature loons nurturing their young is common on many backwoods lakes up here.
While the babies are growing, the parents bring them food, usually minnows… see the adult loon above with a minnow heading for the voracious mouth of the chick….
Feeding time at the lake!
Loon babies soon learn to preen on the water, just like mom and dad… here’s the basic loon preening action….
and here’s the baby imitating dad…
When taking the kids out for the afternoon, the loon parents are contantly on patrol. One adult usually swims a few yards away from the one with the chicks, head turning side-to-side, always looking out for danger in the form of birds of prey, other predators in the water, and the dreaded humans in boats.
This one let out a famous loon call when a motorboat came too close to the family…
Loon families are usually just one to a lake. The males are very territorial, often returning to the same nest. They have just two chicks per season, so seeing them grow to adulthood — in about three months — is important. Once able to fish and fly on their own, the adults leave the young loons on their own.
Watching loon families tend to the very serious business of raising the young and surviving in the wilderness is one of my favorite parts of an Adirondack vacation!