There’s chaos in the White-tailed Kite nursery, and the American Crows are again the villains. There was only one chick in the nest when I arrived this morning, and another chick was in the caring hands of Anthony DeCicco, Coordinator of the nearby Shorebird Nature Center. Chicks No. 3 and 4 were unaccounted for, lost at the end of a tangled tale.
As I wrote earlier (Kite Cam 3), the oldest and strongest chick had found temporary refuge in a tall tree some 100 yards from the nest tree. The second-largest chick had also fallen and got injured. Bird lover Rosemary and I had managed to put it in a box, and Rosemary had taken it to Lindsay Hospital in Walnut Creek. Order seemed restorable at that point.
But as is its regular practice, Lindsay returned to the scene the next afternoon and, having determined that the chick’s injury was not serious, placed the chick at the bottom of the nest tree where it came from.
Rosemary, who witnessed this, says that the chick readily climbed up the tree as if it were a squirrel, regained the nest, danced around happily for a while, and then again leaped off the edge, flapping its wings, and promptly fell to the ground where a dozen or more crows immediately pounced on it and drove it into the bushes.
The No. 1 chick was then also flushed from its hiding place, and the crows pursued both of them, relentlessly pecking and body-slamming them, while Rosemary and a couple of helpful bystanders tried to chase the crows away, with little luck. After about an hour of this, Rosemary was overcome with fatigue and despair, and left the scene.
Result, this morning chicks No. 1 and 2 are AWOL. We’ve walked the area to some extent and neither saw nor heard sign of them. DeCicco picked this one chick up in the bushes and after lengthy discussion, his friend and colleague Clay took it to Lindsay. Lindsay will very likely bring it back the next day and the problem will recur.
The good news is that one of the kite parents came to the nest while I watched, and fed the remaining chick. That’s documented in the video above. That chick appears depressed and shows a low level of activity. Possibly its subdued activity will save its life. The more vigorous and more advanced chicks left the nest before they were ready to fly at the level of strength and expert maneuvering necessary to defy the crows. Possibly this chick, the runt of the litter, will delay its departure until it’s sufficiently developed to survive in this tough neighborhood.
The other good news is that there is definitely a second kite nest in a tall tree about 200 yards from the first. One of the kite parents, probably the Mom, was sitting in it, very likely brooding on a new clutch of eggs. The word from a birdwatcher knowledgeable about such things is that kites fairly commonly lay two clutches of eggs in a season.
However, for this useful bird to have a chance at reproduction, something has to be done about the crows. There are too many of them. According to DeCicco’s friend Clay, a nature educator, the fault lies with human practices. People leave too much garbage available. Landscaping measures that maximize mowed spaces and reduce underbrush greatly assist the crows to feed and gather. Tighter sanitation and a more natural landscaping design would significantly reduce the crow population, or cause them to move elsewhere, and give other bird populations a chance to thrive.