Tag Archives: chick

Best Laid Plans

It’s only been a few days, but life moves fast when you weigh less than a slice of wheat bread! Ultimately, Mama Chickadee had 6 eggs and on May 6th, 4 tiny little Black-capped Chickadee babies hatched out.

Like with the flickers, at least one of the egg shells was eaten by the female. Birds probably eat egg shells to obtain minerals like calcium. Waste not, want not! Eating leftover egg shells also helps clean up the nest, which is important when space is at a premium, as it is in any cavity.

Both mom and dad chickadee are working hard to feed their new family with sometimes both parents in the box at the same time. At times, the male feeds the female as well. She solicits food by making a high-pitched chattering and shivering her wings. It’s hard to tell what they’re all eating, but it looks like soft-bodied insects, possibly larvae or caterpillars.

The chickadee chicks are a lot quieter than the flicker chicks. Sometimes they don’t perk up for a feeding until the parent makes a soft “dee dee” call.

Sometime late on May 6th or maybe early in the morning on May 7th, a 5th chick hatched. Sadly, the chick didn’t even last a full 24 hours. Sensing something wrong, Mama Chickadee managed to pick the chick’s body up and flew away with it somewhere. She probably dropped the body somewhere a good distance from the nest to keep predators away from her doorstep.

As of today, there’s still one unhatched egg in the nest. I suspect it’s infertile and won’t hatch. I’ll be watching to see when the parents remove it. It might take awhile though; the unhatched flicker egg stayed in the nest up until fairly close to fledging.

 

 

 

Oh, Baby

Although the Red-breasted Nuthatches never nested in my yard, I’m happy to report that it appears they fledged two little ones. They must have found a good nest site somewhere in the neighborhood because over the last 2 weeks, the male nuthatch has been bringing his chicks to my feeder.

The male Red-breasted Nuthatch getting ready to raid the feeder for food for his chicks. Photo by Jamie Simo.

The fledglings are duller than their dad, more like their mom with washed-out red breasts and pale grey upper parts. They also have that typical fleshy gape indicative of young birds. Theirs is bright orange.

At first, the young nuthatches were staying in the aspen in the corner of my yard while the male took them seed, but today the little ones were flying to the feeder themselves and eating. They were even brave enough to perch on the pole while I refilled the feeder!

The male Red-breasted Nuthatch feeds one of his fledglings. Photo by Jamie Simo.

I haven’t seen the female nuthatch at all. I know male Northern Cardinals are the ones that feed the fledglings from the first brood while the female begins the second nesting attempt, but Red-breasted Nuthatches typically only have 1 brood a year, so that’s probably not the case here. I’ve also read that both male and female Red-breasted Nuthatches feed their fledglings, so I’m not sure if something happened to the female or if maybe there’s a “divide and conquer” strategy going on (i.e. the male takes care of 2 of the young and the female takes care of the rest). Maybe next year they’ll nest in my yard so I can find out more.

Bye Bye, Birdie

I am an empty nester. This past Monday, all 5 Northern Flicker chicks fledged. As I mentioned in my previous post, fledging means being fully feathered and having enough musculature built up for sustained flight. It’s not in the definition, but I suspect a part of fledging is also about attitude.

fight
Tensions were high on the day of fledging with a fight for dominance of the entry hole.

In the final few days, and certainly on the day of fledging, it seemed tensions were high between the chicks. There was a lot more pecking and wing buffeting and it seemed to be growing in intensity as they fought to monopolize the entry hole. As a sibling, I can understand wanting to have your own space after so much time being cooped up together in the same room!

Things finally came to a head when, after a scuffle with another chick, the first chick took the leap of faith out of the nestbox at 1:04pm MST. The other chicks were very quiet after that. Were they stunned that they were now 4 instead of 5?

About an hour and a half later, just a few minutes after I got home and sat down outside to watch, the second chick to fledge flew out of the box and a third chick took pride of place at the entrance. I didn’t witness much of the fledging of the first 2 chicks, but it was clear the third chick was debating the merits of staying in the box versus leaving. For an hour and a half I watched as the third chick stuck its head out of the box, occasionally bracing a foot on the little ledge as if to push off, only to retreat back into the box. This was punctuated by thin “kleers,” a miniature version of the adult Northern Flicker’s call.

untitled-0750
The female Northern Flicker feeds her chick one last time before it fledges. Photo by Jamie Simo.

I’ve read that birds hold off on feeding their young near fledging to encourage them to leave the nest, but this didn’t really appear to be the case here. The chick’s cries eventually caused both parents to arrive with food, which it gobbled down. It then continued trying to decide whether to leave until its siblings began calling from nearby in the neighbors’ yard. I could almost see it drawing confidence from them because shortly after 4:00pm MST, and not long after they began calling, it too leapt out of the box, flapping for freedom.

untitled-0848
The third Northern Flicker chick to fledge. Photo by Jamie Simo.

It didn’t take nearly as long for chick #4 to leave the box. Instead of an hour and a half, it took roughly 40 minutes for it to decide to leave too. And that left one chick, most likely the youngest, though they were all about the same size by then and it was difficult to say who had hatched in what order. It seemed startled to suddenly be alone and began calling. Then, just 2 minutes after his/her sibling fledged, it too hopped to the entry hole and flew off.

When I cleaned out the box, I found a lot of poop and dust, but surprisingly no egg. Sometime in the last few days one of the parents must have carted it off. So, in a way, it too must’ve “fledged.”

While I’ll miss “my” chicks, I’ll always remember this summer fondly. I hope you enjoyed reading and/or watching their antics as much as I did.  Thus ends the Northern Flicker Saga.

 

Nipping it in the Butt

The Northern Flicker family appears to be doing well. The first 3 chicks hatched out on June 1, the 4th on June 2, and the 5th on June 3. So far the 6th egg hasn’t hatched and I suspect it won’t since it’s been 14 days since it was laid and the parents don’t even seem to be incubating it much at all anymore. It’s probably a good thing, since it would be at a serious disadvantage against its much bigger siblings in trying to get food.

In watching these chicks I’ve come to the realization that song birds grow fast! At 6 days old, the 3 oldest chicks are easy 3 times the size they were when they hatched out. Of course, they have to grow fast since many birds migrate and they only have a short amount of time to put on weight and build strong enough feathers to help them on their journey. While Northern Flickers aren’t migratory, at least not where I live, they also have a short window to mature and become independent before the winter months.

Mom and dad have been sharing feeding and brooding duties over the last week. While it’s difficult to tell what’s on the menu, a Northern Flicker’s diet is primarily made up of ants (that’s one good reason to leave that ant colony in your backyard alone instead of dousing it with toxic chemicals). As soon as mom or dad’s shadow appears at the nestbox’s entry hole, the chicks perk up and start loudly chittering. It’s been said that this chittering sound is meant to imitate the sound of a hive of bees in order to deter predators from raiding the cavity.

Nipping it in the butt
The female Northern Flicker nips at the cloaca of one of her chicks to prod the chick to defecate. Photo by Jamie Simo.

One interesting thing I had never seen before setting up this bird cam occurs shortly after the chicks have been fed. The parent pokes or nips at the chicks, especially their hindquarters. It took me a bit to realize that this nipping was meant to prod the chicks to defecate. Because Northern Flickers and other cavity nesters live in an enclosed space and the chicks can’t easily relieve themselves over the side of the nest, the cavity would soon be overwhelmed by feces if there wasn’t a way to dispose of them. Therefore, the parents will solicit the chicks’ feces and then either consume the fecal packet or fly it away from the nest.

That’s one way of nipping the cleanliness problem in the butt…er, bud!

 

Oh Baby!

When I tuned into the Northern Flicker stream this morning, I was in for a big surprise: the first chick had just hatched not an hour before. Two more chicks hatched in quick succession and now there are 3 squirming pink, rubbery babies in the box!

Feedingtime
The female Northern Flicker feeds her chicks. Note the white egg tooth on the chick she is currently feeding. Photo by Jamie Simo.

It seems a little early for the chicks to have hatched given that the last egg was laid on May 23rd and, on average, it takes 11-12 days to incubate, but that IS an average after all. I was expecting the first chick on Friday, but what a way to get through the middle of the week!

The most prominent feature of the new chicks is the big white egg tooth on their beaks. The egg tooth is a hard structure that allows the chick to break through the shell of its egg since its beak and claws are pretty weak and ineffectual at this stage. Most birds and reptiles have an egg tooth, but it falls off or is reabsorbed by the animal soon after hatching.

There are still 3 eggs left to hatch in the nest, but I thought I saw a tiny hole or “pip” in one of them so there may be another chick already on the way!