It’s been less than a week since the Herring Gull chicks hatched, and they are growing! The nest is already too small to easily accommodate all three chicks comfortably. When the adult is off the nest and the chicks are resting in the nest, it can be very difficult to spot the youngsters. Their natural camouflage makes them disappear into the nesting material, helping to keep them safe from aerial predators.
You may see one chick “left out” – that is third chick, and the third bird typically hatches later than the other two. The third will have a harder time getting food and will usually grow more slowly. Don’t worry too much – in 2013, all three Herring Gull chicks fledged, and it is entirely possible that they are still about in Ravelin Park….
But they still have a lot of growing to do so the parents will be busily foraging for food for the brood. The chicks will “cheep” for food – as they grow up, the “cheeping” will become much louder, so be prepared! It’s their way of saying to their parents “I’m hungry! Feed me!” You may also see the chicks pecking at the adult’s bill – the adults have a pink-ish spot on their lower beaks, and that’s the spot they peck. Scientists believe that the pecking helps with the regurgitation. Yes, it seems rather unpleasant to us humans, but Herring Gulls feed their young via regurgitation, just like penguins do.
Speaking of “unpleasantness”, the chicks will not defecate in their nest. The will go to the edge of the nest, turn around, drop their heads, raise their bums, and squirt! Some people find this hilarious! Soon, you’ll be able to see a lot of white streaks!
While the chicks are cute, it’s still a dangerous time for them. They are small enough to be predated by other birds such as Great Black-Backed Gulls, Magpies, or Carrion Crows, to name a few. As the youngsters grow, the adults will spend less time at the nest. Even if you don’t see them, the parents are probably on top of the library building keeping a very close eye on their young and alert to threats.
In less than a month, we should see the youngsters training up their flight muscles in preparation for fledging. But for now, you can see them stretching those little muscles!
PS – for those of you leaving Portsmouth this weekend, we’ll keep an eye on the chicks and periodically post more photos.
by your Library Twitcher