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Nest Box Diary 2009

Week 7 - 17th May

By midday on Sunday, three of the chicks had opened their eyes, the first one having done so around 10AM. Remarkably, once their eyes were open, instead of simply being being collapsed in a disorderly heap waiting for the next feed, they were reared up looking towards the entrance hole. The remainder had opened their eyes by the following morning. Comfortingly, both parents were feeding more caterpillars to the young, but still seemed to feed more sunflower hearts towards the evening. More often than not, after a chick had been fed, the chick upended and excreted a faecal sac, which is its waste wrapped in a gelatinous coating, and the adult then removed this from the nest - usually depositing it some distance away from the nest.

On Monday morning, the most noticeable change was that the tail feathers had roughly doubled in length during the last 24 hours and the spinal feather tract was darker and broader, with the contour feathers having grown significantly overnight. Worryingly, one of the chicks always appeared to be prostrate in the bottom of the nest cup, underneath the others and so probably missing out on feeds - our fingers were crossed, hoping there was nothing wrong!

The following evening (Tuesday), both parents were searching for insects among the cotoneaster near the house, but prior to this they had a spate of feeding sunflower hearts, seemingly to keep the chicks quiet! As for the chicks, there were now more feathers than naked flesh on their backs, the wing bar was quite evident and both the wing and tail flight feathers continued to grow at an amazing rate. The sixth chick was upright and feeding well, so maybe it was just a little bit behind the others.

As each day passed, the chicks looked more like Great Tits. On the Wednesday, there was only a narrow band of naked flesh either side of the spinal feather tract, but otherwise their bodies appeared fully feathered. They were stretching their wings frequently, as well as preening a lot. The tips of the wing feathers had unfurled but the sheath was still protecting the feather lower down and as a consequence the wing appeared to have regular gaps either side of the shaft and between the coverts and primary feather tips.

A day later and the young Great Tits were increasingly restless: much more wing stretching, preening and head scratching, but also wing flapping. Further, the adults sometimes only poked their heads through the hole and waited for one of the chicks to reach up for the food.

On Friday, it was business as usual with both parents back and forth. Around 7PM, Wriggly entered the nest box with some food, removed a faecal sac and then left. That night, the female did not roost with her nestlings. This would be quite normal for Blue Tits after about 10 days, but it is more normally about 15 days for Great Tits.

Saturday: after a few hours it became evident that Wriggly was no longer around, neither feeding her nestlings or around the gardens. Consequently, the male was now the only adult Great Tit present, but continued to tender to the chicks' needs.


Parent feeding chicks (17 May)

Chick presenting faecal sac to parent (17 May)

Bottom-right chick's eyes are open (17 May)

All eyes on the entrance hole (18 May)

Wriggly looks for insects (19 May)

Five of the six (19 May)

It's, oh, so quiet (20 May)

Zing boom (20 May)

Parent take faecal sac (20 May)

Wing stretching - shafts visible (20 May)

More wing stretching (21 May)

Wing flapping (21 May)

Wriggly snuggles down with her brood (21 May)

All alone - no mother tonight (22 May)

Last revision: 21 Feb 2015
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