Updates on the Olive-backed Sunbirds’ nesting – A casualty

posted in: Nesting, Nesting-failed, Sunbirds | 0

“I’ve decided to share on something that I witnessed yesterday morning at about 10.30 am.

“Just a little background on the pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds (Cinnyris jugularis) LINK. One of them was suspected to be part of the two birds that fledged on 8 April 2011. This time, the female laid her eggs on 9 Feb 2012 and perhaps 11 Feb 2012 (second egg not seen on 10 Feb, seen on 14 Feb, assuming 13- day incubation period). The eggs hatched on the 22 Feb and 24 Feb respectively. Nothing spectacular here. Only problem was the nest was deteriorating badly each time it rained. The third shower and coupled with strong wind resulted in the nest tilting to one side and hanging on a few threads of twine on the morning of 27 Feb.

27 Feb 2012, Drama on my balcony
“By the time I inspected the nest, the younger bird was living on the edge so to speak (top left). It was dangling down and later fell onto my old blanket below. (I predicted the nest might collapse since the first time it got partially destroyed by the rain, hence the blanket). I promptly used a disposable spoon to scoop the day-4 chick and placed it back to the nest (above right). I turned my back and went to get something to tie the nest back into its proper position. When I returned, I was greeted by an unexpected sight. Mother bird had returned and was frantic to see both chicks hanging by the opening of the nest. Older chick was making noise whilst younger chick was inauduble. She suddenly picked younger chick using her beak and partially used gravity to carry the chick, not onto my blanket but into a pot of plant below. Before I can react, she then picked up her chick from the potted plant and flew over to my neighbour’s balcony. Then I saw something dropped from about 2m high to the timbered floor.

“By this time, older chick was hanging by its pin feathers and beak. It had swallowed its fecal sac and the gooey substance sticking out from its gape partly helped it stay firm on the nest. I took a spoon for it to rest whilst I dislodged the tiny feathers from the nesting materials. I saw the fecal sac coming out from its beak and it did look like it was choking on it. Older chick was placed back into the nest after I plastered the nest with tape and tied a string to hold the nest. All this while, both parents were making a lot of unusual noises as they saw me repairing their nest. It took a while for both birds to gradually accept the look of their new nest. Papa bird perched on the nearby branch and twittered for a few minute before he gingerly fed the remaining chick. Mother bird resumed with brooding her day-6 chick as well as feeding it. And I was glad when I saw her sleeping in her new nest overnight.

“Naturally, younger chick passed on. I saw it below the plate of my neighbour’s potted plant struggling as ants started attacking it. I sprayed some water to remove the ants, but it succumbed to its injury within an hour or so. Both parents did not search for it at my neighbour’s balcony or within its vicinity.

“There were many questions ringing in my head. Why? Why did mother sunbird do that? Obviously, she didn’t know I would repair her nest. It seriously didn’t look useable. Perhaps it was sacrificing one chick to save the other one. Or perhaps it was on its way to bring the chick to another nest but she dropped it. But why didn’t she even search for it? Did she know by instinct that the day-4 chick cannot survive the fall? Or yet perhaps, she saw that I was a threat. After all, they all fly away as soon as they saw me watering the plants, mopping the floor or even just look out of the sliding door to see the bee-eaters, kingfisher and orioles nearby. Was she trying to save younger chick since she could carry it and not heavier, older chick?

“…A short video-clip to show mother bird feeding her remaining chick with what I believe is nectar.

“Let me end by saying, just when you think you know a bird well, that’s when you don’t know the bird at all.”

Janice Kuek
28th February 2012

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