the chick in my garden

When I was looking at places to live in Kaua’i,  I knew that I had to live in this neighborhood.  Albatrosses nest here, how could I live anywhere else?  I was giving up my volunteer work with the best group of chimpanzees outside of Africa, I needed to have a direct connection to wild animals.  I had no idea that I would be living amongst the closest thing to a chimp that I could have found in Kaua’i.  And I do not mean my human neighbors, either —  although they do have a kind of enthusiasm for life that does sometimes remind me a bit of Toto and his cohorts — but with a bit less pant-hooting.

I found birds that have distinct personalities, individuals that have unique ways of dealing with the world that they are forced to share with human beings.

And occasionally, a couple would choose my yard to nest in, what more could I wish for?

It usually takes several days for the chick to hatch and the parents do not help the physical process at all.  Wednesday morning, one of the chick’s grandmothers stopped by for the second time (that I know of), hoping her son would let her get a glimpse of his chick, but he clacked at her and she backed off.  Last year Grandma and her mate raised a chick at my neighbors’ house.  Even though they’re not nesting there this year they often meet up with each other there and sit quietly together for hours.  That is something many albatross experts will assure you that they don’t do, since it’s a drain on them to fly here, then back to the ocean for food, etc.  But albatrosses can’t read, so they don’t know any better.

This photo was taken around 1:45 last Wednesday.  I could hear the chick’s squeaky voice and I could see his bill moving.

blu230 with chick pipping

This is what the chick looked like about 3 hours after I took the previous photo  He was an exhausted lump of wet feathers and flesh, resting on Dad’s feet.  It had taken him 3 days to break out of his shell.

blu230 and wet chick

blu230 and wet chick

The next day the lump at his feet was dry and fluffy, but still exhausted.The chick finally began to sit up and practice what chicks are best at—looking cute.

blu320 and his 1-day old chick

blu320 and his 1-day old chick

By the following day, Mom was on the chick.  Even though Dad had been at his nest for about two weeks, he was able to feed the little one some delicious, fragrant fish oil.  When an albatross feeds at sea, digestion begins in an upper stomach.  It is broken down into a lower layer of compounds that continue down to the lower gut to be digested, and a lighter, oil layer, which floats on top.  That is the food that a parent stores to feed to a chick.  When Mom came back, she fed the chick some fresh oil.

Usually a parent stands up and bends over to feed the chick.  It may be more difficult to remain seated, as Mom is doing here; perhaps that is why there is so much grunting involved.

Sometimes oil falls onto the chick.  Grooming the chick is perhaps the most pleasurable part of the whole process, for both parent and chick.

blu230 and chick

KP393 and chick

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5 Responses to the chick in my garden

  1. Lisa Swett says:

    Thank you sooo much for sending this!! I’m definitely in love with these incredible creatures…

    Sent from my iPad

  2. tradewindsla says:

    You can’t avoid becoming attached to these birds, especially when you can look out your window and see a chick in your garden!

  3. Nick and Maria Austin says:

    Awesome pictures! We also want to thank you for sharing information with us about the birds. We look forward to seeing you at the nest. Your love of the albatross has been passed on and shared by many. Nick and Maria

  4. Brittni says:

    Hi! I have noticed the past few weeks when I walk by I never see the parents? Have they left the chick? I see the chick has gotten a lot bigger so it seems to get food somehow but I’m wondering what is going on!

    • tradewindsla says:

      We are in the middle of an El Nino weather condition. This results in warmer water, which kills some of the little organisms in the ocean that are eaten by the bigger ones. Albatross parents are probably having to fly further north to find food. They generally do not spend much time sitting at their nests anyway, but this year they are really just coming in, feeding the chicks and leaving to get more food. Even having a chick in my garden, I could easily miss seeing a parent.

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