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Sungrebe: Baby on Board

Dad’s wing pockets protect the young until they can swim

Birds have developed many strategies for protecting their young. But only one species can tuck its chicks into pouches under its wings, then fly the young to safety. It’s the Sungrebe of Central and South America. Despite the name, they are not closely related to grebes. Sungrebes swim and dive on quiet freshwater streams. Both sexes incubate the eggs in a nest on branches just above the water. But when the young hatch, naked and helpless, the male takes them under his wing. He’ll swim — and fly if he needs to — with chicks on board until they’re able to swim.

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Transcript: 

BirdNote®

The Sungrebe - Baby on Board

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

With roughly 10,000 bird species in the world, birds have evolved many strategies for protecting their young. But only one species can literally tuck its chicks into pouches under its wings, then fly the young to safety. It's the Sungrebe of Central and South America. [Sungrebe call, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/190827, 0.07-.11]

Sungrebes are duck-sized water birds with pointed bills. Despite the name, they are not closely related to grebes. Shy and difficult to observe, Sungrebes swim and dive on quiet freshwater streams. Both sexes incubate the eggs in a nest on branches just above the water. But when the young hatch, naked and helpless, the male takes them under his wing. Literally. Because only the male has those little skin pouches I mentioned. He'll swim — and fly if he needs to — with chicks on board until they're able to swim for themselves. The tropical water birds called jacanas also may carry chicks under their wings. [Northern Jacana call, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/2913, 1.07-1.11] But, lacking pouches, they pin the chicks against their bodies with their wings and trot off across the lily pads, the chicks’ legs dangling below. Only the male Sungrebe has evolved chick-carrying bags under its wings.

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Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Sungrebe [190827] recorded by Paul K Donahue. Northern Jacana recorded by Walter A Thurber
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org  June 2015  Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#  SUNG-01-2015-06-16 SUNG-01  

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