Sunday, May 18, 2008

CSI: My Eggy

Everything seemed to be going fine with the Chickadees. The mama was spending her days in the nesting box. The daddy watched from nearby and brought mama food when she needed it. He would fly over and land on the front of the box. She would stick her head out and take the food from his beak.

Before we thought mama was sitting on her eggs, we took a peek inside of the nesting box. She had added lots of soft fur. Some of it may even have been Clarence's fur that we set out after brushing him one day. There was also an egg. Only one that I could see. But there could have been more. Chickadees will sometimes cover over the eggs before leaving the nest and they're very tiny eggs at that.

April 26, we opened the box to find an egg in the nest.

I did happen to see a tussle of birds around the nest box on May 10. It was over very quickly and the participants few away quickly. It was hard to tell what happened.

A few days passed and I hadn't seen the chickadees around. They're much less conspicuous than the bluebirds were, but I did usually see them at least once during the day. Then I heard first and then saw a wren. They have a very distinctive song. The wren went into the chickadee box. I ran outside and the wren flew away yelling at me as he went. I went over to the the nesting box and listened. I didn't hear anything. I scratched at the box lightly... nothing. I knocked a little louder... not a peep. I went inside and tried to go back to work. But I just couldn't get it out of my head that something was wrong. I got my dentist mirror and went back out to the box. Poked the mirror inside and all I saw was an empty nest. No mama. No eggs. No babies either. Disappointment.

When Hubby came home, we went out, opened the nesting box together, and investigated the crime scene. We confirmed what I already knew. The wren's had tossed out the chickadees. I found egg shells on the ground. One was mostly still intact, with the wren's peck mark still apparent.

May 13, egg shells on the ground, with the telltale wren peck hole.

Wren's are aggressive, territorial birds. They are native birds and it is illegal to hurt them. Click here to read more about wrens. They are extremely prolific birds. They do not peck the other birds eggs out of necessity. More likely is that they have a nest somewhere in the vicinity and it is their way to claim all nesting sites for themselves whether or not they use it. Many times, they build "dummy nests", piles of sticks that fill a nesting cavity so as to keep out other would be occupants.

I opened the nesting box door and left it open. Since no one is nesting there now, I will leave the door open for a while. This will keep the wrens from using the box or filling it with a dummy nest.

Days like this make me wonder, why does nature have to be this way? It's not easy being a bird, that's for sure.

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