If you’re a mom or dad, chances are that at some point you fantasized about the day your little one would be able to assemble his/her own breakfast, thus scaling back your kitchen duties (and buying you a few more moments of shuteye). Well, if you were a Red-throated Loon, like the pair in Clare K.’s photo who blissfully have no idea what’s in store for them, nature would be on your side. Recent research published in The Auk suggests that these chicks fledge early just so they can get their own grub.

Scientists spent long days in the Arctic studying the growth of Red-throated Loon chicks in hopes of better understanding how their energy needs match up to their size. (Along the way, they braved sleepless nights and sleeping bears.) Their work found that young loons fledge before they reach their final adult weight. This helps spare parents the aggravation and exhaustion of ferrying fish from the ocean to the fishless lakes where the chicks are raised.

What are the takeaways? (Pun half-intended.) Evolution often helps ingeniously solve puzzles, and more research is perhaps in order to see if birds from other species follow similar patterns. And for me, it’s a reminder that I need to pick up a copy of the (soooo NSFW) You Have to F–king Eat.

Written by Meredith Mann
The lowly Red-winged Blackbirds in suburban New York triggered Meredith Mann's interest in birds. Five years later, she's explored some of the the USA's coolest hotspots, from Plum Island in Massachusetts to the Magic Hedge in Chicago to the deserts of Fallon, Nevada. She recently migrated from the Windy City (where she proudly served as a Chicago Bird Collision Monitor, rescuing migrants from skyscrapers and sidewalks) to Philadelphia, where she plans to find new editing and writing gigs; keep up her cool-finds chronicle, Blog5B; and discover which cheesesteak really is the best. And she will accept any and all invitations to bird Cape May, NJ.