Howard Banwell sent in this piece on 16th June 2009 as he was curious about the presence of two, yet-to-be-fledged Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) chicks perching on a branch of a tree.
“Hearing some quiet and unrecognisable cries near to where I was walking in Changi Business Park yesterday, I investigated and finally spotted these two chicks in the lower branches of a modest-sized tree. I watched them until an adult flew in to the top branches, sounding an alarm call, KAR, KAW – very much like a crow. At which point I moved away. They looked so young and fluffy that they ought still to be in their nest. And, assuming they can’t fly without tail feathers (or can they?), how did they get here when there was no nest to be seen in the tree? It is possible there was one, I suppose, since the mid-levels of the tree were quite dense.
“I returned to the same tree the next evening. One chick was perched close to the previous day’s position. There was no sign of a second chick. I searched the tree with binoculars from every angle, and while I cannot definitively say there was no nest, I certainly could not see one. The following day I returned a third time. There was no sign of either chick in the tree. Then I heard one calling, and discovered it high up (about 8m?) in a rain tree about 10m away. Between the original tree and the rain tree were two smaller trees, not quite touching.
“It is possible that the chick in the rain tree was the offspring of a different oriole nesting here, but that would seem a big coincidence, and I certainly did not hear a chick calling from this tree on the previous two days.
So, if it was one of the same chicks, I imagine it must be able to fly/glide very short distances between the trees, even without tail feathers, and then make its way up into the higher branches.
If so, quite a high degree of mobility.”
It has been reported that nestlings of the Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) begin to preen and exercise their wings at about 10-12 days old. This is about when most of their down feathers start to be replaced with adult feathers. A few days later, when they are still not ready to fledge, they may start to leave the nest, perching on nearby branches or sometimes even on the ground. They fledge only when they are around 16-20 days old.
The Black-naped Oriole chicks may well be also wandering away from their nest…
Walther, B. A. & P. J. Jones, 2008. Family Oriolidae (Orioles). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & D. A. Christie (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 13. Penduline-tits to Shrikes. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 692-731.