Nestling Period Part 1
Yesterday was the first of two visits I'll make during the nestling period. This one comes as the chicks are estimated to be about 4 days old, if the eggs started hatching on June 3rd.
Chickadee young are altricial, which means when they hatch, they are naked, blind, and unable to maintain body temperature. At 4-5 days old, they have just the beginning signs of feathers, they have yet to open eyes, and still need to be brooded to stay warm.
I can count 4 live young and see one unhatched egg. That leaves one egg unaccounted for. It could be unhatched under the chicks, but no matter how I look at this mass of chickmanity, I can't see a 5th chick. Time will tell.
During the incubation period, I had seen mostly the mother in the area of the nestbox. Only the female incubates, though the male may feed the female in the box. But since the eggs hatched, both parents have been bringing food into the box.
Both parents are feeding the chicks, so what are the nestlings getting to eat? I've seen the adults eating the seed and nuts in the seed cylinders, eating suet and peanuts, and eating live mealworms. So the young are getting a regurgitated taste of many of the offerings in my yard!
It's easy to be deceived into thinking that a wing-quivering bird near the nest is a fledgling. But it takes 16 days in the nest before chickadee young are ready to fledge, so they won't be seen until around June 18-19. I saw this behavior today and know because of the timing that it is the female parent begging for food from the male.
Parents also have housekeeping duties in the nest since the babies do poop. The nestlings' feces are wrapped in a mucous membrane call a fecal sac. Parents of some bird species eat them; chickadee parents take them out of the nest and drop them away from the nest area.
My next check will be in 3-4 days to get an estimate of the number of young likely to fledge. It will be my last inside check since you don't want to open a nest box with fully feathered young since they could fledge prematurely if you do. Stay tuned for Chickadee Nesting Report #5!
Read Chickadee Nesting Report #3
Read Chickadee Nesting Report #2
Read Chickadee Nesting Report #1