How do you use a smartphone to help feed a chough chick?
Simple. We record the sound an adult bird makes when they call to the chicks. The chicks use this signal before their eyes are open. When the parent calls, the chicks beg for food – if hungry.
When we need to do any supplementary feeding (in this case, a smaller chick), we simply play back the call, and the chick begs for food.
We are giving the smaller two chicks in nest 3 some supplementary feeds for the next few days, just to help get their weights up to a similar level to the older chicks. As you can see, the older chicks are not particularly hungry.
The rattling and clanking, and whistles in the background come from Ali. She is in the front of the aviary keeping the adult birds distracted.
Here is the first picture of the first nest of this year’s chough chicks. (Nest three).
Three chough chicks just over 24 hours old
We have designed the nest boxes in the breeding aviaries with a small inspection hatch at the back. This allows us to monitor weights, give supplementary feeds, and occasionally medication.
While the birds are distracted by someone, usually Ali, going into the front of the aviary with food, I can use the opportunity to open the hatch to carry out my secret duties. The adult birds tend to hide in a small space on top of the nest box while this is going on.
We get the birds used to these intrusions before any eggs are hatched, by using positive reinforcement. The adult birds associate a person coming into the aviary as a good thing. Person equals food. This makes our disturbances much less stressful for all concerned, except for Ray and Ali.
The female in Nest 3 was seen sitting in her beautifully-built nest just after 5pm on 31st March. Over the next 20 minutes she sat, straining a bit as she produced the egg, and then recovered for a few minutes before going outside. The image above shows her mate coming into the nest to check out the egg, gently touching it with his bill.
The first chough egg for 2016 is laid in Nest 3.
In 2015 the first egg of the season was laid by the same pair at lunchtime on 1st April, so they are just about a day ahead this year.
We’re looking forward to lots more eggs, and then lots of early mornings and long days to provide food for the chough families.