We know that human kids grow, mature, and gradually move towards a life that is independent of their parents’ home. The same is true for baby birds: they also have to decide when the time is right to leave the nest and start on their journey to independence. This seems to involve a balancing act between making sure they are big and healthy enough to survive independently, while leaving the nest quickly to avoid predators.
Our last post shared some pretty intense videos of predation events at nests. In both videos all of the chicks got eaten, and the parents either fled or did not approach the nest while the predator was there. The badger and the 13 lined ground squirrel weren’t challenged as they made off with nestlings. It’s not always like this, though. It turns out that bird parents respond differently depending on who is trying to eat their chicks.
It's been a little bit since we've peeked Into the Nest of grassland birds. But not because of a lack of interesting stuff to talk about! We are working on a run down of everyone's favorite topic: poop; you won't want to miss the upcoming post on fecal sacs.
In the meantime, feast your eyes on these awesome eggs. The size, shape, color pattern are all unique to the species they come from. Learn more about how grassland birds lay their clutch of beautiful eggs in our Into the Nest post from May 31: There is nothing so beautiful as a bird's egg.
Now that the chicks have hatched, they are in almost constant need of food. Grassland bird chicks generally fledge in about 10 days, and their growth rates are incredible. Parents must balance all of their chicks’ needs - food, thermoregulation, protection from predators, and shelter- to maximize their chances of survival.
Raising chicks in a grassland is challenging enough, but prairie storms take it to a whole new level. This grasshopper sparrow is trying to keep her chicks warm and dry despite the thunderstorm, but these rowdy young'uns keep bouncing her around. The chicks are 8 days old, and close to fledging. Sometimes at this stage, the adults will leave the chicks on their own and go catch some shut-eye somewhere nearby. (Sound familiar to anyone?) I don't blame them!