N is for Nestlings (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Sat, 06 Jun 2020

N is for Nestlings

A pair of mountain chickadees have a nest in the nest box I set up outside the bedroom window.

[Mountain chickadee] I first saw them bringing food to the nest almost a month ago, May 10, though I'm not sure if they were bringing food to a nest-sitting parent, or if they were feeding chicks that had already hatched.

Chickadees at a nest are quick-moving: they flit up to the hole and immediately enter, not lingering on the threshold like ash-throated flycatchers or Bewick's wrens, both of which have used this nestbox in past years. So it's not easy to get photos of chickadees at the nest box. So instead, here's a photo of a mountain chickadee from several years ago.

Since May 10 there's been plenty of activity, chickadees flying in and out, bringing food and carrying away fecal sacs.

[Bewick's wren at nest box] A lot of cavity-nesting birds are neat that way; rather than fouling the nest, the young have evolved to produce neat sacs that the parent can carry away. I've heard that bluebirds nest, they make an incredible disgusing mess. I've never had bluebirds nesting here, though there are flocks of western bluebirds around and the nest boxes are designed as bluebird nests. The ash-throated flycatchers and Bewick's wrens have been fairly neat tenants, and it looks like mountain chickadees are as well. (Here's a Bewick's wren at the same nest box last year.)

A couple of times I've come into the bedroom during the day to hear loud noises of agitated chickadees. Usually a crow or jay was showing interest in the nest box, and I opened the door to the deck which scared the invaders away.

On the morning of June 1, there was a lot of chickadee excitement: not the constant agitated cries they gave for corvid invaders but something different. I watched the box to see if anyone would fly in or out; I saw one bird fly in and three fly out, and scanning the trees with binoculars, there were at least three chickadees in the trees, and two looked fuzzier and less boldly striped than a mountain chickadee normally looks. Apaprently the youngsters had finally fledged. Hooray!

Except that the chickadees continue to tend the nest. It's been five days now since the apparent fledging, and every morning, there are chickadees calling outside the window, and flying into and out of the nest.

So what's going on? Did two chickadees fledge but there's still one (or more?) slowpoke still in the nest? Do chickadee fledgelings fly a little, then return to the nest and wait days before they actually strike out on their own?

I found a page on black-capped or Carolina chickadees that showed six babies in a nest. AllAboutBirds says 5-9 eggs for the mountain chickadee! I've been thinking about how crowded it must be inside that nest box with both parents and two or three chicks; but six? But that might explain widely-spaced fledging times, and some chicks still in the nest five days after the first few have fledged, though that page says a black-capped brood normally all fledges within 24 hours.

Anyway, I don't know how many eggs there were total (I saw one comment from someone about using an endoscope; I may have to invest in one for inspecting future nests!) but I hope whatever nestlings are still in there are able to fledge successfully. I'll update this page if I see any evidence of it.

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[ 11:07 Jun 06, 2020    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]