Merganser Hatching


At the end of this entry is kind of a gross photo, if you are queasy about innards you might want to avoid scrolling too far down. It will be the sixth photo and I will give one more warning before we get there.

For those interested a certain Mr. N___ had a house full of naked chicks on Thursday:

These are freshly hatched black-capped chickadees in Mr. N___'s Gilbertson Bluebird Box. Believe it or not, in about 16 days these guys will be flitting around and learning the ropes at a bird feeder.

On to mergansers. First the bummer news. I spent quite a bit of time adjusting the NovaBird Camera to get the just the right angle to catch the merganser chicks coming out of the box. Alas, I failed notice the tiny branch in the lens's field of view and ended up with 333 photos of a tiny branch going from left to right. Ah well, win some lose some.

When I heard the female in the box giving her low barks, I stuck the digital camera inside the box and found this:

In my screen on my camera I noticed what looked like an extra bulge from her body. Between that and the barking, I knew the birds were hatching. Later when she left the box, I stuck the camera in and saw that hatching was well underway:

At this point, three of the eleven eggs were hatched with two more poking out. Since the hen was out, I opened the side to get a better view, at first the temptation was too much not to pick one up--they were so cute, however the aroma of warm, damp, fish eating birds made me think better of it.

"Lady, get that camera out of my face. I just hatched, I'm tired and I stink."

Interesting to note, that they were able to raise their down on their heads like little hackles.
When I checked the box this morning, the hen and chicks were gone. All but one of the eggs had hatched. Just a reminder, the photo after this one, is the gross photo.

All of the hard shell bits of egg were gone and only the inner shell membranes were left. I wonder if the female ate them if the chicks at them as their first sustenance. I shall have to research that. Warning, the next photo is the gross photo.

I have always been curious about eggs that don't open and what's on the inside and I never have opened one. When confronted with this one, I gave it some thought all day. What was a I afraid of? The smell of a rotten egg? After spending the day being barfed on by pelicans and cormorants last summer fear of bad aromas was no longer an issue. What could be causing my hesitation? The idea that I would open the egg and find a malformed zombie bird chick that would want to eat my brains? Yep, that was it. So I decided that after work tonight, I would open the egg. There was a hard outer shell and a tough inner shell. As I slowly opened it I half expected it to come alive in my hands a la Frankenstien, but it never did. Here are the contents:

The chick was mostly formed except that it hadn't absorbed the yolk sac (the bright orange thing with all the veins attached to the abdomen. At The Raptor Center we sometimes feed the birds day old chicks (that are already dead). We always have to take out the intestines before we do and when you cut open the chicks you see the yolk sac. I wonder if this was the last egg that was laid and didn't get the complete incubation or if it was addled some how in the last few days killing the chick inside. I was amazed with how large the webbed feet were in relation to the whole body. You can see the claws at the end of each toe to aid in climbing out of the nest box.

It's a bummer that this chick didn't survive to hatching, but on the upside ten chicks did. Birds play the odds during the breeding season. 75% of the birds hatched this spring, won't make it to next spring.