Trials of Being a Baby Bird

It’s a new Rufito!

At the time of the photo, this bitty baby Rufous-tailed hummingbird had hatched ten days before and endures a tighter and tighter squeeze each and every day in that tiny nest as mother tirelessly feeds this immobile yet very hungry little chick.

Baby birds (not just hummingbirds) have a hard go of it, even before they’ve hatched out of that delicate, vulnerable eggshell. When it comes to nature, if your defenses are down (or non-existent, as is the case with most of our nestbound babies), there is no mercy should a predator happen by.

Stripe-throated Hermit nest

And there are many predators in the rainforest that consider an inhabited nest a free-for-all dinner plate! So what can baby birds do about it? Well, nothing. So instead, they must depend upon their parents to have evolved and obtained the necessary considerations and instincts required for where and how they build their nest.

And camoflage is KEY.

This nest, containing our impossibly adorable rufous-tailed hummingbird chick is made out of silky fibers from plants and spider webs and then plastered with bits of dead leaves and lichen to help the tiny cup nest from being detected among the branches by wandering eyes. Nevertheless, no matter how much effort is put in to the building of the nest and making it appear camouflaged, the immense importance of the nest *location* is also very key.

At this point, I’m almost convinced that if we humans can find a nest, then predators are seeing it too and that was practically confirmed as I watched a total of 5 hummingbird nests fail this year, some of which were hatchlings between a couple days old to more than a week. Prime predator for our defenseless little birds? Snakes. Another surprising predator we found were ants, which could reach some of the far spots on the branches that were too precarious for a serpent to reach.

Weather comes into play as well in the survival of an exposed chick, and with the occasional nighttime rains we’ve had of late. So we can only hope the momma hummer stays put and keeps that chick dry while it very slowly grows in those essential, water resisting, protective feathers!

Stripe-throated Hermit nestling

Baby hummingbirds hatch completely devoid of feathers and only a few wisps of down and thus are actually considered cold-blooded during this time, meaning they have no control of their body temperature which is thus subject to the surrounding conditions. If a hummingbird chick gets wet, it is unable to stabilize its body temperature and thus is in grave danger of dying without any protective insulation layer of feathers over their skin.

So baby hummers, and baby birds in general, have a lot at stake during the most vulnerable point in their lives. Should you come across a bird nest in your nature wanderings, it’s best to leave it be and let the parents do their job. Make sure you are far enough away that a worried parent bird can return without fear to carry out raising that precious little bit of life and carry on the next generation.

September 2012 VENT Trip Report

Jeri M. Langham was the leader for VENT on their September 2012 Panama: Bocas del Toro Archipelago trip. He is a retired professor of biological sciences at California State University in Sacramento.

Jeri’s passion for teaching and his natural teaching abilities quickly become apparent as his tour participants enjoy learning more about the biological world around them.  On this tour, he educated all of us (tour participants, Tranquilo Bay staff and the kids) on the differences between fruits and vegetables as well as finer details associated with carrots.

You can learn about his group’s trip in September 2012 here: http://www.ventbird.com/news/2012/10/03/panama-bocas-del-toro-archipelago

As the March 2012 trip is full, you can learn about the itinerary and travel dates for the future trips here: http://ventbird.com/birding-tour/2013/09/06/panama-bocas-del-toro-archipelago Bird lists for both of the trips are also available on this page.

We hope to see you with Jeri on one of his future trips.

March 2012 VENT Trip Report

Jeri M. Langham was the leader for VENT on their March 2012 Panama: Bocas del Toro Archipelago trip.  He and his wife and a group of big guns came down for a week to prepare for the future trips down to Bocas.

Jeri is a retired professor of biological sciences at California State University in Sacramento. He has ardently birded all over North America, as well as Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands, Peru, Argentina, Kenya, Borneo, and Australia. Born and raised in Venezuela, he speaks fluent Spanish. Known for his enthusiasm and boundless energy, Jeri thoroughly enjoys searching for birds and sharing them with others. His passion for teaching and his natural teaching abilities soon become apparent as his tour participants enjoy learning more about the biological world around them. He is a former member of the Bausch and Lomb Birding Council and the California Bird Records Committee. He is a Director for the Neotropical Grassland Conservancy.

You can learn about his group’s trip in March 2012 here:  http://ventbird.com/news/2012/05/17/panama-bocas-del-toro-archipelago.

You can learn about the itinerary and travel dates for the future trips here:  http://ventbird.com/birding-tour/2012/08/31/panama-bocas-del-toro-archipelago

We hope to see you with Jeri on one of his future trips.