On Tuesday we removed 2 young from their nest box and left one – the heaviest – in it. Nancy fed the two that were removed and got them to a point that they were lifting their heads and begging whenever they heard the call of an adult (from her ipod). One of the birds was very light. The next day, Wednesday, we had to remove the bird in the nestbox as it was unresponsive. Nancy took on feeding that one too and soon had it up and around and begging energetically. But, during the night the lightest bird passed on….it just didn’t have enough energy to continue despite Nancy’s heroic efforts.
So yesterday, Thursday, we had a decision to make. young martins have to learn how to feed on the wing. For the past week we have watched family forays in which adults, often with food in their mouths, fly around with young birds chasing them trying to get the food. Initially these flights were restricted to the immediate area of the nest boxes but they soon branched out, eventually reaching as far (at least) as the river. We would not be able to teach our two remaining youngsters the skills they would need to survive – we would need to return them to the nest and hope that their parents would find them and take on the task of feeding them.
Nancy gave them a couple of good feedings and then, in the late morning, returned them to the nest. It wasn’t long before the adults refound their nestlings and not long after Nancy witnessed them feeding the youngsters. I checked on them last night and also saw the young birds being fed. They sat right by the opening with their bills ready. As soon as a bird, any bird, came close they opened their mouths vigorously and made begging calls. Sometimes they were rewarded.
This afternoon Nancy reports that they are both alive and appear well – however, they are not putting on weight; on the other hand, they aren’t losing it either. It’s touch and go….keep your fingers crossed.