Baya Weavers teaching fledglings to fly

posted in: Fledgling-Fledging | 1

“From afar, a male Baya Weaver (Ploceus philippinus) was spotted flying off from a tree only to make an about-turn to return to the same perch after a short flight of about 50 metres. This was repeated several times. Curious, I moved nearer to discover a family of four Baya Weavers perching on a tree (left). I could distinguish the adult male by its prominent yellow crown; displayed only during breeding. Two were identified as fledglings from their classic begging behaviour. The remaining bird must be the adult female.

“The parents were giving flying lessons to their offspring. They were showing the ropes: demonstrating, urging and encouraging the fledglings to fly. The pilot trainers (parents) took turns to perform ‘air shows’, showing the trainee pilots (fledglings) the mechanics of flying. The fledglings were learning by watching and imprinting the flight data into their young minds. In time to come, they will use these data stored to replicate the flight actions: taking off, flapping of wings, use of tail as rudder, landing etc. For survival, they will have to acquire their pilot licence quickly. Mastering flight will make them more mobile and increase their odds of evading predators.

“The mother, who was perched lowest, demonstrated by flying off. After mum took off, the fledgling that was perched lowest jumped (took a short flight?) to perch nearer the father, probably seeking comfort and security (above left). All eyes were then on the mother in flight (above centre). Next, dad took off, leaving the two fledglings behind. Both fledglings watched intently as their parents flew past (above right).

“After a brief flight, dad returned to perch next to the fledglings, followed by mum, who preferred to perch further away. Dad then took off again, followed almost immediately by mum. This prompted one of the fledglings to take off after them, flying above the trees, and leaving the remaining fledgling on its perch (below left).

“Later, dad returned to the lone fledgling (above centre) and landed for less than half a second (above right) before taking off again. After some hesitation, the lone fledgling finally picked up its courage to take off in flight. Soon, it was similarly out of sight above the foliage of trees.

“All these happened in less than three minutes.

“The first flights of freshly fledged chicks will, inevitably, be difficult and fraught with emotions as the fledglings fight to overcome their fears and uncertainties. Gradually, with practice, these will be conquered and they will grow in confidence. Their flights will become longer, stronger, and steadier. Without doubt, the parents will keep on guiding them until they attain the flying skills required to become full fledged pilots.”

Kwong Wai Chong
Singapore
25th May 2010

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