Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Chuck on a nest

Every now again we accidentally stumble upon a nesting Chuck-will's-widow.  These nests are difficult to come by in Ohio because it is a rare bird in the state.  But the numbers of these birds have been increasing since the 1930's.  On May 24, 2018, I flushed a female Chuck, which flew about 30 feet and landed on a branch, swinging its wings to keep my attention.  From her lift-off spot I found 2 mottled eggs, placed directly on the ground since Chuck's do not build any kind of nest. 
Female Chuck-will's-widow swinging it's wings after leaving the nest to draw my attention to her.
Chuck-will's-widow eggs on the ground.
Since it has been a few years since I have found a Chuck nest, I thought this would be a fun place to set up a game camera.  I went back the next day, took a couple pictures of the Chuck-will's-widow now back on the eggs, then set up a camera facing the bird.
Cell phone picture of a Chuck-will's-widow through a spotting scope.
If all goes well, I should be able to watch these videos and see how long this bird sits on the eggs, how she or he tends to the eggs, when the chicks hatch, and how long they stick around after hatching.  I have now watched the hundreds of videos the camera captured, and am surprised how few interactions occurred with the Chuck on the ground and other animals.  There was one video of an adult and baby Eastern cottontail rabbit hopping by one night, and only one other interaction. An odd event happened with another bird.  Watch the video below of a wild turkey that enters the scene on May 27th, while the Chuck was still sitting on eggs.  The turkey obviously knows the Chuck-will's-widow is there.  

The wild turkey circled the motionless Chuck for 10 minutes and was not threatened by the bird on the ground.  I believe it was trying to make the adult Chuck flush.  Who knows what would have happened next.  Would a wild turkey eat those Chuck eggs??
I set up the camera on the 25th of May.  Turkey visited on the 27th.
On May 30th, there were no videos taken, and the first chicks were viewed on the 31st, so I believe they hatched out on May 30th.  This was 7 days after the eggs were discovered. 
Over the next 7 days, the chicks are fed in evening after dark, and early morning before the sun comes up.  Interestingly, both male and female Chuck's tend to the chicks.  This video below shows interactions of both adults and the tiny chicks on the ground.  Most of the video is in the dark, but if you watch the middle of the video, you can see the small chicks feeding from the adults

June 7th reveals last video of a chick hopping away, and there are no more videos of the birds.  The birds were still in the vicinity when I picked up the camera on June 11th.  The adult was making a guttural call which gave away the location of the birds. 
So the female sits on the eggs for at least 7 days, and the male and female feed the chicks for another 7 days before walking away from the nest (if you want to call it a nest). 
Two days after the birds left, I started getting videos of raccoons and squirrels walking by.  Odd that I never saw them enter the scene while the bird was on chicks, but it is possible the adult flew away from the chicks while a potential predator was approaching to lure it away, just as it did when I first approached.
Posted by: Mark Zloba