into the nest

Into the Nest: Defending the Nest

Into the Nest: Defending the Nest

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.

Into the Nest: Badgers gotta eat too!

Into the Nest: Badgers gotta eat too!

While adult birds and eggs are vulnerable during incubation, they are at even greater risk after chicks hatch. Most of our grassland birds are altricial as chicks, and need to stay in the nest long enough to be reasonably mobile when they fledge. However, chicks are also very vulnerable in the nest: they stay in one place, and the noise and activity surrounding the nest can attract predators. These birds need to balance the benefits of staying in the nest until they are able to fly to forage and escape predators with the potential risks of being found by predators while still in the nest.

Into the Nest: #Momlife

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!

Into the Nest: An egg is just the beginning

Into the Nest: An egg is just the beginning

The grassland birds that we’ve been following this summer have completed the arduous journey back to Wisconsin, set up territories, and found mates. They have built a nest and laid a clutch of breathtakingly beautiful eggs. Now they need to ensure the eggs survive until hatching-- no small feat.