Sunday afternoon I went to the park to check up on the White-tailed Kite nests. The remaining solo chick in the original nest remained in place and appeared to have food. I saw it make the kind of ripping and head-bobbing motions that indicate feeding.
While I was watching the activity up high, a couple of crows made a racket near me on the ground. I looked and saw a kite chick on the asphalt, with the crows harassing it. The crows chased the chick on the ground this way and that, and finally the chick panicked and fluttered some thirty yards east and landed in the middle of Marina Boulevard. It would have got run over there shortly. I managed to get my vest over it, and carried it, protesting much of the way, to the nest tree, where I released it in the crook of the first branch. The chick clawed its way up the branch a bit, fighting the wind, and then dropped back to the ground.
Then a surprising thing happened. A second chick appeared out of a nearby tree and hopped, on the ground, to join the first chick. The two of them huddled together for a while, as several bird watchers gathered and looked on at a distance. Then one of the chicks set off alone across the hotel parking lot, with no apparent destination, hopping this way and that. Crows followed it. One crow circled it repeatedly and jumped on the chick’s back. The chick didn’t resist. A man in a plumber’s truck saw the chick and got out to take photos; he told me that he tried to call the Audubon Society to come help the chick. When the truck left, the crow came back, and the chick hopped for cover under a dense pine tree, a smart move. It climbed up higher in the tree, while a family with multiple kids arrived to watch and take photos.
Meanwhile the other chick also took off, in the opposite direction, landing in a patch of high weeds near the road. Photographer Evleen from San Francisco tried to follow it. After some time, as the daylight dimmed, it emerged again, hopping on the asphalt with crows in pursuit. Suddenly it found its wings and made a clean level flight of about twenty yards into the foliage of a small deciduous tree. That was a good hiding place and if it stayed there, it would be safe from crows.
Monday morning I returned and found the solo chick still up in the original nest, quiet but apparently unharmed. After a while of searching and listening, I heard one chick’s cry at the base of the pine tree where I had left it the previous night. As I watched, it hopped on the ground out of its shelter onto the asphalt, and two crows promptly harassed it and jumped on its back. Eventually the chick returned to shelter at the base of the pine tree. Then I heard and saw the chick in the deciduous tree come out and spread its wings. It too had survived the night.
I walked my round in the park and returned about an hour later. A hotel employee who had seen my interest in the birds told me that he had captured one of the chicks and put it in a cage, and that the second one was in the bushes and he would get it also. He felt the crows would kill the chicks or they would starve. He had called Berkeley Animal Control. I saw the one chick in the cage. Soon an Animal Control truck pulled up, and an Animal Control officer transferred the chick from the cage to a cardboard box and put it in a truck. Efforts began to capture the second chick, which was nearby. Then the AC officer called Lindsay Hospital, and got the advice to leave the chick in place. He advised the hotel employee to back off the second chick, but drove off with the first one, bound for Lindsay. A bit later the officer telephoned me and said that Lindsay bands the chicks that are brought in, and that the chick he had in the box was not banded.
I saw one of the parent kites up on a tree, able to see the crows harassing the chicks on the ground, but not intervening. I saw one of the parents bring food to the original nest where the one chick remained. The chicks on the ground are not old enough to hunt and must be hungry. It doesn’t look like the parents will or can feed the chicks on the ground. The crows repeatedly jumped on the back of the chicks on the ground, possibly hoping to injure their wings. It may well be the crows’ strategy to keep the chicks on the ground, prevent them from flying back to the nest, and watch them starve to death.
The new, second nest looked unoccupied at the time I observed it. No parent brooding, no visible hatchlings.