Keep those updates coming, Jane!
I'm fascinated by the whole subject of nest defense. When I was working
with Kestrel nestboxes in Mass. over the course of a few years, I was
surprised to see the great range in behavior in response to our climbing
up the ladder to check on and/or remove the babies for banding. Some
pairs were very aggressive, screaming loudly, dive-bombing us repeatedly
and sometimes bonking us on the head. Other pairs scrammed into hiding
as soon as we appeared and stayed away until we left. Another third
were somewhere in between, fluttering around in the vicinity and giving
distress calls, but not coming terribly close. Apparently, it would
seem there's no distinct genetic survival advantage for Kestrels between
trying to save your babies at some risk to yourself and saving yourself
first and hoping for the best.
Here in Shoreham, a pair of bluebirds and a pair of tree swallows
promptly took up residence in the two nestboxes I put up, and both
fledged nice crops of babies in early summer. The bluebirds made a
second nesting, the swallows, as is their habit, did not. But yet the
swallows and their many cousins still hanging around and hawking insects
overhead put up a vigorous defense of the bluebirds' nest when I or the
cat or a potentially murderous house sparrow came too close, while the
bluebird parents themselves ran away and let the swallows defend for
them. Swallows will readily defend others' nearby nests when they're
nesting themselves, but I hadn't realized they would continue to do it
long after they're done for the season. (They do it with such energy
that I'm hard put not to say that they almost seem to be doing it, like
crows with hawks, purely for the exercise and even entertainment factor...)
I'd be very interested in hearing others' anecdotal information on
variations in nest defense by other species and/or any formal studies
that have been done on the subject, etc.
Jane Schlossberg wrote:
> Well, I was hoping I would be able to get some shots of the 4-day old
> chicks, but Mama thrush will not let me get that close. She has dive bombed me with
> all her weight and might, and has made contact with my head and hair. So I
> am honoring her intensely fierce maternal instincts and staying away. I can get
> the closest photos of her, but, as small as she is relative to me, it's a
> bit intimidating to have a thrush strike my curls with her beak and feet...she
> also hovers with great skill, that is, until she flies full force at my face.
> She stays off the nest quite a bit now, but when she is not feeding the
> youngsters, she is perched close by on one of my hanging plants or wind chimes,
> quietly waiting to pounce on potential invaders such as myself.
> Will keep you updated. I have seen several other hermits with food nearby
> and I can only assume that there are quite a few other nests with chicks in the
> neighboring woods.
> Jane Schlossberg, Saint George
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