Thursday, November 11, 2010

They grow up fast

Once upon a time, I was an Acadian flycatcher nest-finder.

A few nests (out of around 150) were really low and easy to photograph. These were fun to follow, and made you realize how amazingly fast birds grow up: from egg to fully feathered fledgling in about 14 days. (This is actually nothing compared with grasshopper sparrows and their grass-dwelling ilk, which fledge in only 8-9 days!)

Here is one Acadian flycatcher nest I documented (almost) daily...

Day 0 - Hatch day. Tiny, fuzzy, and blind.

Day 0 - Later in the day. Last egg hatched, but looks a little runty.

Day 1 - Skin has gotten a little less orange and more pink. Little Runty's fuzz has dried, but he is still noticeably smaller.

Day 2 - Tiny pin feather pins visible beneath skin on back and head. Little Runty is not looking too good.

Day 3 - Pin feathers have broken the skin. Little Runty looks larger, but is dead or nearing death.

Day 4 - Pin feathers nicely developed. Little Runty seems to have died (he's visible underneath bottom nestling).

Day 5 - Feather plumes beginning to emerge from pin feather sheaths. Little Runty appears to be gone - removed by parents?

Day 6 - Feathers covering up much of the skin between feather tracts.

Day 7 - Looking rather furry. Just a little skin visible.
Day 8 - No skin visible. All feathered, but still a little pin-feathery looking. And more golden colored than gray (due to feather tips).

Day 10 - Fully feathered, gray plumage with cream-colored wing bars. Alert and getting wary of visitors. Only 4 days left until fledging, and 2 days before they can jump ship if disturbed. Sadly these guys were eaten by predators later this day or overnight.

Day 11 - Here is another nest with 3 nestlings, 11 days old. Getting pretty crowded! Only three more days left like this.

I don't have any photos of older nests because they get pretty skittish after 10 days. But here are some of adults to complete the cycle:

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