One of the questions I am asked most frequently is, “How often are the chicks fed?” There is no easy answer to this. Each parent is on a different schedule, and their feeding times vary from week to week. And of course, unless someone is watching them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, nobody will see all of the feedings. I was once awakened very early in the morning by the sounds of Kirwan, the chick in my yard, begging for food, and I could hear him being fed. I would not shine a flashlight on the birds so I do not know who was there, Mom or Dad.
A few days ago, Roger, Kirwan’s mother, returned to feed him. Kirwan had moved around the corner from the nest he had hatched in. He was now in my backyard, sitting on a stump. A stump is actually a pretty nice thing to sit on. It gives you a slightly elevated view of the world, and you are less likely to end up sitting in mud when it rains. Kirwan often sits in the rain. With waterproof feathers, that is not a problem.
Roger circled around a few times, much to the delight and anticipation of Kirwan, and landed not far from him. She vocalized as she walked within inches of him, but she did not even turn to look at her chick. She walked around the corner to the original nest, as Kirwan frantically tried to keep up behind her, and she would not acknowledge his presence until she had reached the old nest.
Roger and Hanai will only feed Kirwan at the original nest site. On Midway, where the nests are crowded together, this might be a survival technique. The parent wants to be certain that the chick getting the food is his. Every meal is important to these chicks, they cannot afford to miss a meal, and the parent cannot easily find replacement food. Very little time is wasted, too. The parents come and go so quickly now, every minute counts.
Not all of the parents of chicks in Princeville feed their chicks at the original nest. In some cases the chicks have not moved very far from home, and there are no other chicks nearby so he is clearly visible. I would hesitate to make a statement like, “They always” or “They never,” because I actually see very few feedings.
When I edited a little film showing Kirwan’s latest feeding, I noticed something that I did not see when I was taping it. At the end of this film you will see a tentacle in Mom’s mouth. Kirwan has grabbed it and is trying to pull it out, but Roger sucks it back in. Maybe it was a little something she was saving for herself.
Roger stayed just 15 minutes to feed her chick, then she walked briskly down the street towards a favorite takeoff point on an ocean bluff. Kirwan returned to his stump, watching his mother as she walked away.
The parents are coming and going so quickly now that I rarely get to see them.
And I think their chicks would say the same.