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Read by Dave

Do you remember our questions for the food chain and life cycles topics? If not click here. The answers to the first three questions came back in the food chain week, look out for the rest of the answers this week.

All life starts with the birth and infant stage, and all seabirds are excellent parents. Both adults will attend the nest, with one adult incubating the egg or sitting with the chick and the other adult out hunting. Neither role is dominated by male or female birds as they regularly switch duties on the nest and at sea.

A pair of gannets reaffirming their bond whilst switching incubation

A pair of gannets reaffirming their bond whilst switching incubation

However, all seabirds are different when it comes to how long they are on the nest:

Species Incubation (days) Fledging (days)
Puffin 36-43 34-44
Storm petrel 38-50 56-73
Gannet 42-46 84-97
Fulmar 52-53 46-51
Shag 30-31 48-58
Lesser black-backed gull 24-27 30-40
Ringed plover 23-25 23-25

All seabirds lay eggs, for the chicks to hatch they have an ‘egg-tooth’ on the top of their beak.

An egg-tooth on the tip of a gannet chicks beak whilst hatching

An egg-tooth on the tip of a gannet chicks beak whilst hatching

Using this they can break the egg shell from the inside and hatch. The egg-tooth gradually disappears as the chick grows up, but they develop ‘down’ feathers to keep them warm. As they get even older the down feathers begin to moult and the flight feathers come through.

Gannet chick fully covered in down feathers

Gannet chick fully covered in down feathers

A common tern chick still has some down feathers to moult on its head

A common tern chick still has some down feathers to moult on its head

Once an infant has grown all its flight feathers it is ready to fledge, that is to fly away from the nest for the first time. But fledging is not simple as these chicks have never flown before and live on cliff faces. Razorbill and guillemot chicks can be seen tumbling to the water from their cliff ledges, but they are hardy little birds and a few bumps aren’t a problem.

A razorbill chick in the middle of moulting; when old enough it will fledge

A razorbill chick in the middle of moulting; when old enough it will fledge

ECOLOGIST'S UPDATE

Coincidentally with today's topic, our first ecology update is on fledging as the ringed plovers have already successfully raised two chicks. Both were seen fully grown on the 28th of May and by the following day one had fledged. The second one remained a bit longer but soon followed its sibling.

A fully grown chick

A chick ready to fledge

As the adults were such good parents they do have time to try and raise a second clutch of eggs. If they do we will be sure to let you know how they get on.

An adult leading the way for its fully grown chick

An adult leading the way for its fully grown chick

Unfortunately our peregrines have not been so lucky. On a visit to Burhou on the 27th of May we discovered that the nest was empty, with no signs of the chick or egg that we had last seen. Unfortunately it would seem they didn't survive the wet weather we had during that week, but fingers crossed the adults try again soon.

Don't worry, I will soon update you all on the puffin colony - on Wednesday in fact. But for now enjoy this short clip of another bird on our live cameras, the linnet. Can you see its bright red plumage?

Linnets