Once a seabird has selected a mate and they have an egg the caring process begins! This is one of the most stressful times for all animals as they care for their young as well as looking after themselves.
For an egg to hatch itmust be kept warm, to do this an adult bird incubates the egg and therefore transfers its own heat to the egg. Both the male and female take it in turns to keep the egg warm so while one incubates the other forages for food. Gannets use their large feet to incubate their egg. During the breeding season they shunt
more blood to their feet to make them warmer and during winter they shunt less blood to their feet so they don’t lose heat.
When an egg hatches it is very important to give the chick as much energy as possible. They need a good supply of food to grow and survive. Most seabirds regurgitate fish to feed their young but as Puffins have a specially adapted beak they can carry multiple fish in it. This means pufflings can eat whole fish, a luxury for a seabird! When a Gannet Chick hatches it is small and defenceless. The adults must feed it up for it to become strong. In fact they feed it so much that when the chick fledges it is actually too fat to fly!! Instead they sort of jump/fall into the water and spend a short time learning to swim. In doing this they loose a bit of weight and become light enough to then fly to migrate and hunt.
After putting so much time and effort into caring for the young the time eventually comes when the chicks will fledge. We don’t know for sure if parental care still occurs at this point. Some believes it is just before the chicks fledge – adults will leave the nest forcing the young to fledge to hunt for themselves. Some believe the adults wait for the chicks on the water when they fledge to spend some time hunting with them before migrating. It may even be that families stay together into the migration. All we know is that when a puffling ventures towards the sea in darkness they appear to do it alone. Very brave for such a little bird!
I hope you have been keeping an eye on nestcam. Today we have spotted some broken eggshells this could mean we have the first of our shag chicks! Keep watching to find out more!
Thank you for joining us this term, we hope you have been enjoying the project!
Next term we will be passing over to Durrell in Jersey for 2 weeks on their Chough reintroduction project.
Have a lovely holiday!