The Chirp

A 2015 encounter with a mother alligator and her babies in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge reminded me of the first time I heard that “chirp” in the wild…

Mother Alligator with baby alligators on her back in Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 12, 2015. © Download and use legally at

January, 1997 – ​A shallow, circular pond reflected the tall Longleaf Pines that lined its perimeter. A solitary, sluggish alligator floated on the waters, too cold to pull herself out to bask. The medium sized gator was a mother gator surrounded by several small babies.

​As we cautiously approached the edge of the water, within grabbing distance of one colorful black and yellow banded baby, we heard “the chirp”. I had only heard this cute little squeak on documentaries. It was something quite exciting to hear for the first time in the wild.

​As the babies continued their alarmed chirping, mom swam closer and elicited a deep, forceful hiss, ending her approach with a feigned lunge that backed us off. Had it been warmer, she may have more aggressively defended her brood and not allowed us such a close approach.

January 1997, My first encounter with a mother Alligator and a pod of babies. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia.
January 1997, My first encounter with a mother Alligator and a pod of babies. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia.

iNaturalist observations:

Published by William Wise

Hi, I’m conservation photographer and nature writer William Wise. Nature journaling and wildlife photography has been a favorite pastime since the ‘90s. I graduated from University of Georgia Warnell Forestry School's wildlife program in 1996. I'm currently an animal shelter manager/photographer and reside in Athens, Georgia, USA with my wife and two teenage daughters. My website is a wildlife and birding photo website documenting the beauty, design and wonder of creation. I have a deep love of the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. I became a devoted Christian in 1993 under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation. I am also a guest author at Lee's Birdwatching Adventures and The Creation Club. The theme of my blogging comes from The Message version of Psalms 104 -- "What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, You made earth overflow with your wonderful creations."

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