By now, many breeding birds in Germany have seen their first clutch of the season fledge and grow to weaning age, a moment not all chicks are looking forward to. The many great tits born around my block from at least three different clutches are unwilling to embrace independence and claim it conspicuously. Parents can be seen escaping swarms of hungry juveniles, now master of flight, loudly and relentlessly gaping for food.
The young already know how to pick up food on their own but prefer it served on a
plate beak, so much that they sometimes beg great tits other than their parents and even blue tits!
Parents are now cutting loose from their demanding progeny, a well-deserved relief after a stressful and exhausting two months rearing the clutch.
While our eyes are all directed at the chicks, the parents deserve attention too. By the time their first clutch has fledged, some adult birds have a dreadful, burned out appearance from all the energy spent building the nest, foraging for the clutch (which can be numerous with up to 16 eggs for blue tits and 12 for great tits) and protecting the nest and then fledglings against fierce predators. Cavity nesters like great and blue tits damage their plumage by squeezing in and out of their nest’s small, rugged entry. Birds like hawfinches or fieldfares who use open nests tend to keep their shiny plumage a little longer—which doesn’t mean breeding was an easier task for them.
Blue tits look particularly awful. The blue tits on the above photos are probably the same bird: the left one was taken at my bird feeder in March and the right one in early June.
But there is worse: here are some scruffy blue tits recently posted on twitter.
— Wildlife Sightings 2 (@wildlife_uk2) 21 Mai 2015
— jessie gardner (@jessiegardner01) 26 Mai 2015
Nature sure is rough on the parents. Yet, no matter what, they never seem to give up and patiently attend their demanding progeny who, on their side, are doing their best to survive in their hazardous environment.
I cannot help feeling sorry for those who immediately carry on with a second clutch, like the great tit couple that nested in a lamp post across from my building. They are currently building a nest in another lamp post, which is directly exposed to the sun heat and jay predation.
At the end of the day, chicks may be cute, like these great tits that eagerly experience with food at my feeder. But they are, most of all, hungry little gremlins and we should always bear in mind how much effort was spent and risk taken by the parents to bring these fluffballs to independence and to our enthralled eyes.