Monday, June 07, 2010

Nest Watching

On Thursday I was disappointed when I thought that the Red-shouldered Hawk chicks had flown from their nest on Louetta. However, when I checked on Friday, I was delighted to see that both chicks are still in the nest.

While I was there, an adult arrived with food ...

and quickly flew off again, leaving the chicks to feed themselves.

Earlier on Friday I spent half-an-hour watching the Western Kingbird nest on the LSC-CyFair campus. As far as I could see, there are only two chicks in the nest. (Last year this pair of Kingbirds raised four young. I wonder if they will raise fewer this year because construction work on the campus has reduced the number of insects available to the birds.)

Two chicks are just visible

The parents
were busy bringing bugs to the nest every 2-3 minutes. In between times, the adults would perch on nearby trees or on the floodlights around the adjacent tennis courts.

I noticed that the parent
s are accompanied by a third Kingbird, presumably one of the young they raised last year. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell whether the third bird was helping out with feeding this year's chicks or was just providing moral support.

Sometimes both parents would arrive with food at the same time, so one had to wait perched above the nest until the o
ther had fed the chicks and flown off.

Some days ago I mentioned that the adults were carrying eggshell fragments out of the nest. On Friday I realized that this was not the case. What they were really doing
was carrying away fecal sacs: the chicks' droppings. I had forgotten that many small birds keep their nests clean by collecting their chicks' poop and carrying it away from the nest.

Kingbird carrying away a fecal sac

This is very different from the approach favored by large birds. As I pointed out in an earlier blog post, Red-shouldered Hawk babies quickly learn to poop over the side of their nest to keep the latter clean.

Red-shouldered Hawk chick pooping over the side of its nest

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